Last Valentine's Day, I did absolutely nothing. My ex was long gone and there was no one new on the horizon. Valentine's Day can be cruel to single people, but living in China makes it easier. I don't know what the official statistics are, but it seems like there are a lot more single people here. Americans are more obsessed with being paired off. And also, in general, the Chinese are not especially romantic people. That will probably offend somebody, but just compare the poetry.
by Liu Yong
While I lean against the banister of a tall tower
The breeze gently blows
As I look into the distance
The end of Spring arouses melancholy in my mind
Surrounded by dewy grass at sunset
I wonder who is able to understand my longing
I would rather drink to intoxication
One should sing when one has wine in hand
But drinking to escape offers no reprieve
I do not mind that my clothes are getting looser
My lover is worthy of desire
i carry your heart with me
by ee cummings
i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)
This year, I have someone to spend Valentine's Day with. I'm not ready to call him my boyfriend, but we're spending a lot of time together. He made reservations at some restaurant that he wants to keep secret, so I definitely have a date Tuesday night.
We also just got back from our first trip together. We didn't actually go together. I went to Tel Aviv for a couple of weeks and he came for the last few days. That was also a surprise. Had I known he was coming, I could have gotten him a room at my hotel. He wanted to keep it a secret, so he had to stay at the Sheraton on the beach. It's a great location, but I thought the hotel looked like any other generic business hotel. One of the things I like about my hotel is that it has character. It never feels like walking into one of a million cogs in a giant corporation.
There are a lot of great things about Tel Aviv, but one of its virtues is how Mthandeni and I could walk down the Promenade hand in hand and absolutely no one stared at us. If you're a foreigner in China, people will stare at you. Mthandeni is stared at wherever he goes. It has nothing to do with whatever he's doing or wearing at any given time and everything to do with how he looks nothing like a Chinese person. People stare at me often, but it's not as constant. Unless we are together. Then we can expect every single Chinese person who passes us on the street to stare. That's not considered at all rude in Chinese culture. We have started to wave at people when they stare at us in restaurants. This only embarrasses them, which is strange. If you're not embarrassed to stare at someone, why would you be embarrassed when they notice you?
But I'm not knocking China. Everyone will stare, but absolutely no one will go beyond that. In parts of the United States, we could get shot. Or at least have horrible people say ugly things to us. In China, they do not hate us for how foreign we look. We are simply a curiosity.
In Tel Aviv, no one gives a shit. It might be the only city in the world where a man in a tallit and a man in a thawb can walk hand in hand making goo goo eyes at each other and no one would care. I vividly remember the first time I saw a demonstrably gay couple in Tel Aviv. I was shocked. Not because they were wearing short shorts and tank tops, which is not a good look for any man, but because no one else seemed to notice them. In China, they would have been the center of attention. In America, they would have been in danger.