Being a “Lightbulb”

Jessica discovered this funny bit of slang from her teacher this week. In English we might say things like, “Three’s a crowd” or call someone a “third wheel” whenever a friend hangs out with a couple that would otherwise be romantically engaged. In Tianjin, they call this person a “lightbulb” (电灯泡儿); couples like to be alone in the dark, and having a third friend tag along is like turning on the lights!

Pop quiz: If every unmarried person under 30 lives in a tiny apartment with their parents, where do they go to kiss and cuddle with their 男朋友 or 女朋友? Right out in public, of course! You would not believe how much kissy-gooey-Hello-Kitty-cutesy PDA goes on around here! During the summer if you went for a walk in the park at night (note: everyone and their dog – literally – goes for a walk in the park at night here), every single bench – almost literally – along the canal would have some young couple snogging on it – only it’s not so much actual kissing as it is just being gooey-kissy-poo with one another… I don’t know how else to describe it. Even now that it’s cold at night, it doesn’t stop a lot of people. It’s kind of like living on a college campus full of freshmen.

In Tianjin, sexuality is still not really up for public discussion. But apparently this actually gives people freedom to make-out in public because the chances of ever having to actually talk about it are slim. Bright Future is trying to change that by developing a self-reproducing sexual health and values program for Tianjin universities. Their college intern, Chuck, and I were pretty much like lightbulbs the other night when we went out to get photos of couples for one of the upcoming lessons. There weren’t that many people out (it’s getting too cold), and it’s kind of hard to be discreet about it when you’re using a flash. Still, I hope they got what they wanted; they’re going to use the photos as a fun way to start one of the class discussions.

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