Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Being a Manly Man in China

Getting your hands dirty tinkering under the hood? Highly unlikely. Getting buck wild at a rowdy rock concert? Virtually nonexistent. Watching the big game while wolfing down nachos and beer with your pals? Fuggedaboudit. Getting banged up and bruised playing contact sports or taming the rugged outdoors? Negative. Losing your temper while attempting home repairs/renovations? Sorry Charlie.

Most of the things we equate with manliness in America are largely absent from the Middle Kingdom. In China, if something breaks, call a repairman or buy a new one, because services are speedy and cheap, and most things are replaceable anyway. If you're lucky enough to have a car, it's usually a late model European brand, and those don't break anyway. Abusing your body in the name of sport or athletic challenge is a waste of time and health, and scars are meant to be hidden, not bragged about.

In China, flexing one's manly muscles usually boils down to three things: money, women, and social status. Of course these are essential manliness indicators in every country and culture but here in China, these are usually your best options.

Money: the more you got, the more man you are. If you own a wedding portrait studio, you are perceived as being more manly than someone who repairs cars for a living, because you are the boss, and boss=manly. And of course, with money comes the next two items on the list, so money is the crown of manliness.

Women: like money, the more you got, the more man you are. It is virtually unthinkable for a man of high status and wealth to have only one woman in his life. If you are a manly man, you've got enough dough to spread around on mistresses, KTV girls, and hookers. That's not to say that all Chinese guys indulge these appetites, but it really is an integral part of the culture and most men jump right in if they have the means. Of course, the women are usually not cool with it, but they often tolerate it because their philandering man is their lifeline. As women become more economically independent, this trend will hopefully decline.

Social status: this is where the rubber meets the road. How your friends perceive you is the barometer of your life, so it is essential that they regard you in high esteem. Smoking and excessive drinking are staples of manly behavior, and treating your friends and colleagues to expensive dinners and excursions are necessary to gain their favor.

I don't consider myself to be a real macho guy, but I enjoyed getting down and dirty back in the States. I enjoyed weekend sports games with the guys, camping, hiking, getting my mosh on at local music venues, coaxing every bit of life and power out of my 1982 diesel Volkswagen Rabbit, doing odd jobs around the house, etc. When I came to China, my manly outlets seemed rather limited. Like most foreigners fresh off the boat, I got caught up in the whirlwind of clubbing and chasing girls. After a few years though, the novelty of that wore off, and I turned to more "serious" manly pursuits, like getting married, buying an apartment, and more recently trying to establish myself in a career in teaching.

To be honest, my fascination with tattoos has also been an outlet of testosterone, getting an adrenaline rush from the "delicious pain." All things considered, though, I miss the chest-thumping King-Kong moments that makes a man really feel like a man. But I guess in the end, a true man is someone who cares for his family and takes responsibility for himself and his actions. Anything beyond that is just showing off.

Bruce Lee- now there's a guy who was a manly man, no matter what culture you're from.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Our First Wedding Anniversary and First Ultrasound

This is the first sneak-peek at the little anklebiter on the way. This is at almost 3 months, so it's too early to tell if it's a boy or a girl. Either one is fine with me, though if it's a girl I'd probably get high blood pressure because we all know how crazy people are for mixed-blood beauties in China :-/. Actually Chinese people are crazy for any babies, especially those who aren't Chinese, so I'll have to brush up on my kung fu defensive tactics to keep away the vultures.

Tina and I celebrated our one-year wedding anniversary on February 12th at Gu Lang Yu Island, which is a quaint historic island a few minutes off the coast of Xiamen island (about a seven minute ferry ride). It was fun taking a one-night vacation and still be able to see our building from across the bay :-). Our New Year's celebration was pretty low-key because Xiamen bans fireworks so the whole town basically becomes a ghost town for the weekend (instead of a war zone, which is the usual transformation most cities undergo during Spring Festival). We also lost precious hours of our life watching the Spring Festival broadcast on CCTV1, which everyone in China agrees was ultra-lame. I don't expect much but at least in the past the shows have been a bit of a spectacle, but this year's production was straight out of local variety show television. It was an epic fail.

I haven't gotten any new tattoo work done in over six months, and I think I'm gonna hang up the needle for awhile, probably until after the baby is born. Between mortgage, American debt (>:-/) and impending baby, I won't have too much spare cash to inject under my skin. But this isn't the end of the tattoo saga my friends, oh no...

I hope the new year finds you happy and healthy. Change is good, sometimes fun, never boring, and should be embraced.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Chinese Tattoos in the NBA - The Good, The Bad, and The Whack

Since I broke the news about Yao Ming's rock n' roll tattoo a few months back, I've been paying more attention to NBA players' tattoos. Of course it doesn't take too much effort to spot them, since several players feature more ink than a member of the Japanese yakuza. And since the NBA is all about trends, dozens of players feature Chinese character tattoos. And as we shall see, some are good, some are bad, and some are just plain whack.

Allen Iverson - 76ers

Small, reasonably well-done tattoo meaning "loyalty." Nothing special, a very common tattoo in the West.

Jeff McInnis - Bobcats

Two tattoos- right arm is the Chinese translation for "Jeff" and the left arm means "a state of bliss." Bland calligraphy, but otherwise correct.

Marcus Camby - Nuggets

A very large and well-written Chinese phrase meaning "strive for the clan." However, according to Hanzismatter, Camby's "clan" is not real. I think "family" would have been a better choice of words.

Chris Andersen - Hornets

The "Birdman" is famous for his impressive array of tattoos, considering he looks like a stockbroker trying to recapture his punk-rock youth. Buried in the tattoo mess are two Chinese characters on his arms- left arm reads "Good" and right arm says "Bad." However, Andersen's choice for "bad" also means "nausea". I think a simple 好/不好 interplay would have been more appropriate, but maybe not the kind of "bad" Andersen was looking for. Although "nausea" is apparently what he gives many sportswriters who take issue with his abundant ink.

Marquis Daniels - Pacers

Chalk this up to "WTF?" He says it's his initials in Chinese characters, but the more clued-in among us know that there's no such thing as a Chinese alphabet. As far as I can tell, his characters are 康, which means "health," 文 or 女, meaning "knowledge" or "woman," respectively, and the last character isn't even real. It's the cap found on characters such as 宝 or 安, but by itself, it means nothing. Fail.

Shawn Marion - Mavericks

Shawn "The Matrix" Marion thought it would be cool to get his nickname in Chinese on his leg. What he got instead means "Demon Bird Mothballs." *cue spittake*

So what did we learn today kids? When in doubt, ask Yao Ming.