Writer's Block

The USA is the place I was born. Canada is the place I was raised. Taiwan is the place in my heart.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Recently many of my single girlfriends and I have been complaining about the lack of quality single men here in Taiwan. This problem of course is nothing new, but ever so frustrating. The general consensus is that it’s especially challenging for North American raised and educated women to find suitable interesting men to date. Lately, I’ve been thinking that it’s been so long that I’ve almost forgotten what it’s like to be asked out on a date. But I guess I can’t say that anymore…

It was Monday morning and only the second week of classes. As I neared the classroom I saw that the instructor had gone a little over time and was trying to wrap up his class. It was already 5-10 minutes into my class time, so I promptly entered to give him “a not so subtle hint” and started chatting with a few of the students before starting class.

After class the instructor passed by the classroom and as a friendly gesture, introduced himself as “P”. Apparently having heard my perfect North American English accent, his curiosity had gotten the better of him and he just had to ask me where I was from. I told him that I was born in the U.S.- that I was raised in Canada up until high school and that I went to the U.S. for my college degrees.

He was Taiwanese, in fact very “Taiwanese looking.” He was thin, had longish wavy hair with orange-red highlights, and as he introduced himself I just couldn’t help notice the bolo tie he was wearing over his tie and magenta purple shirt. I don’t know when was the last time I’ve seen a man wear a bolo tie- it was just so quirky. He had studied at a university in California.

A few Mondays later, as I was closing the door to the classroom, “P” walked by; that day he had on a cobalt blue shirt and a different bolo tie. We exchanged some friendly banter and then came the innocent, innocuous, inquisitive questions. He asked me what I had planned for the mid-autumn moon festival. I told him that I’d probably just spend time with my family and that we didn’t have anything special planned. He asked me how well I spoke and read Chinese. So I told him that I can speak Chinese okay although I speak Taiwanese better, and that I was still working on learning how to read Chinese characters.

When he asked me how long I’ve been in Taiwan and I answered, "Three years." I felt a twinge of insecurity and guilt. It is a little bit of a sore point for me personally because I often feel a little inadequate in that department. All I could feel was his incredulity and disbelief, but that of course is my own issue to deal with.

“I never went to Chinese school or studied Chinese full time,” I explained.

An uncomfortable silence… and then as if to diffuse the uncomfortable situation… “P” said in Taiwanese:

“Li jin sui (you are very beautiful).”

And then he was out of sight, before I could even respond, leaving me stunned and standing there.

Today as I was picking up my things and getting ready to leave the classroom, “P” walked in sporting yet another requisite bolo tie and asked me if I had any plans for lunch.

“Oh. No, but I brought my lunch today. I usually bring my lunch to school. It’s just easier and heathier.”

“Really?”

“Yes, it’s just easier, I don’t have to go anywhere, it saves time…” I explained

“Oh, well I was going to ask you to go to McDonald’s for lunch.”

Just as I was thinking that that last piece of information actually made the offer even less tempting than it already was… I found myself saying “Oh thank you, maybe if you gave me some advance notice or something, then we could have lunch together or something some other time.” It was an involuntary reaction- perhaps to hide my disapproval. I was baffled, but sensed his sincerity and I felt so embarrassed and caught off guard that I overcompensated.

I rarely eat fast food, unless I have no choice, like when I’m road tripping … so I actually felt relieved that I had refused when I heard that he wanted to take me to McDonald’s.

I think that we are definitely on a different page here. I really don’t get Taiwanese men and dating in Taiwan. This was my strangest experience yet. Perhaps I’m missing something?

When I told one of my friends in Taipei- she said, “Oh McDonald’s is such a date place.”

Oh great, and I thought that maybe it was just an inept attempt to ask me on a date. Turns out that intention _was_ quite sincere.

At what age would McDonald’s ever be considered a “date place?” Perhaps in our single digits, when a happy meal was all it took to make our day, eating there was a novelty and the closest thing to a date was when boys pulled girls’ pigtails and called them names.

Okay, perhaps for most Taiwanese (especially those below the age of 20-25), being invited to go to McDonald’s for lunch wouldn’t be met with such distain.

I feel like I’ve stumbled into some alternate reality. Somebody please explain this to me!

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