Friday, October 31, 2008

Rice and the Trailing Male

I spent yesterday afternoon with Phillipe walking around Mui Wo and eating some good squid. I am so happy and grateful to be able to see him here in Hong Kong.

During our long walk and talk, he mentioned that there is a label for the existence that I've found myself in.

What is that label?


I was a little surprised that there was a name like this, but also a little pleased at how clever the description was in describing my and other people's situation.

The fact is, I am in Hong Kong because my wife's career has brought us here. My VISA clearly states this reality.

But, this hasn't affected my life in quite the same way that it may have other men's.


My career was already quite non-traditional to begin with, and hence, it hasn't been derailed or disrupted in the same way that it might have been had I had a more traditional suit job.

And aside from the fact that I miss some aspects of my life back in NY, I think I've adjusted rather well to life here and to my existence as a 'trailing male.'

I'm managing to earn a few bucks doing Korean-to-English translations, am writing my third novel, and have begun making short films and keeping this blog. In addition, I've managed to learn enough Cantonese to get by and carry on simple conversations with Cantonese people who speak little or no English.

That said, do I feel lonely and isolated sometimes?


Do I feel completely emasculated?

Not really.

The truth is I really don't think it's as big a deal as some other people do.

Of course, there are plenty of people out there who do think it is quite quite a big deal.

For instance, last Sunday, I went to JUSCO and bought three bags of Japanese rice before heading to my Cantonese class, which is in Wanchai and subsidized by the HK government. The class is actually quite terrific with an amazing instructor and about 500% better than the Cantonese class I took at the Tsim Sha Tsoy YMCA, which was a complete waste of time with an instructor who was excellent only at being inept.

Anyway, I was a little late to the class, and hence, ended up making an entrance, lugging the bags of rice, in front of the 25 or so other students.

The instructor saw my entrance and made a comment about how HK society had changed so much in recent years and the status of men had depreciated so much that men were now reduced to shopping for rice and lugging it home for their wives and families.

It was a semi-humorous and completely innocuous comment, especially given the fact that the class is usually conducted in a very casual, fun atmosphere with jokes exchanged in good spirit.

But then, during the rest of the class (breaks and the end of class), about half a dozen of my classmates (mostly Indians and a few Filipinos) went out of their way to tell me what a good husband I was for buying rice for my wife and how rare this was. Basically, they made such a big fuss that I couldn't help but become a little startled.

My buying rice seemed to be something completely foreign to them, when to me, I had simply bought the rice because it was convenient to do so then. I'd simply consolidated my going to class with doing an errand.

Anyway, I used to do grocery shopping all the time back in the U.S. without anyone making a big deal out of it. And here in HK, I do most of the grocery shopping and the cooking and cleaning for my wife and myself. I work from home, so I try to keep the place clean. It's just not that big a deal for me.

The point is, this business with the rice brought home two things:

1) As modern as HK and other parts of ASIA seem to be at times, the grip of tradition still lingers strong, especially when it comes to conventional gender roles. Call me naive, but the U.S. seems much more progressive on this front.

2) You can't let other people dictate how you live. That only makes people miserable.

That's my three cents for today.

Having said that, I do truly hope and pray that those 3.5 people out there who read this blog do not start to think less of me for being a.....

...trailing male.


gweipo said...

no its great. and makes a difference from the usual expat wive whining (of which I am also guilty). My husband is superb with taking his share of the domestic chores and childcare, he doesn't see it as a duty, but just as part of life. We've never had a discussion on whose turn it is. As a result he has a great relationship with me and a fabulous relationship with his children.
They in turn learn that there are not men and woman's jobs, just things that need to be done by whoever has the time and energy to do them.
Sounds like you'll be a good dad as well one day if you decide to go that route.

mao365 said...

Thanks for your kind words. It means a lot. It sounds like you and your hubbie are true partners. Very cool.

grover said...

Fellow American guy here... also heard the same thing from time to time.

If you think that's bad, wait til they hear that you're the primary cook in the household! It's not something that would ever occur to me as strange - after all, how would I fend for myself?