You would think that since I have lived in China for about 2 years they would be use to seeing me.. I mean I am in a small town and most people have seen me almost everyday. I am sure there are not a lot of Black-American women that are a size 14/16… around here. I am the face of the school and I am at all the advertising and marketing events. I am even the token foreigner that passes out the flyers in front of the primary , elementary and High Schools. Everyone has seen me… twice even.
However, that does not stop them from staring and pointing at me when I walk down the street. I have been to most of the little shops in my fair city.. and have seen familiar faces from shop owners, taxi driver to even Rickshaw drivers… however… although they know all about me… they still continue to stare. Get over it already!
I have been told over and over again my by students that it is because they are curious, they have not seen a foreigner, or they are excited to see you. However, I tell them over and over again… bullshit…. (smile)… I gave them a scenerio…. If a Chinese person stared and pointed at another Chinese person… would you guys think it was okay? Of course I get a resounding No… it is rude… then I asked them…It that is so.. why would you think that foreigners would think it is okay? … (that gets blank stares everytime)
Other foreigners that I have encountered have the same kinds of feeling regarding the staring and pointing…. But what can you do?
I am stared at on the street, in the bus, at the bank, in the restaurant, at the train station and wherever else I go. I have even have the honor of causing some car accidents as drivers take their eyes off the road and strain their necks to look at me. It does not matter what your mother taught you about staring at other people;if you look different in China you will be noticed and observed.
I sat in front of my school to try to catch a few rays of sunshine… and my co-workers and boss came out to join me. A gentleman in a car was hanging half way out side the car.. staring at me and smiling all big…My boss asked me… do you know that guy? I said .. no… then he asked why is he staring and smiling at you that way? I was like how should I know .. it is your country…
So, people are going to stare at me; it is just part of the culture. But I can stare back! I do this frequently. Usually, the ‘offending’ starer drops the gaze and turns red. Sometimes.. I will just look right back at them and say…. WHAT? Don’t worry I won’t eat you. However, I do draw the line at people who want to take random pictures of me. I do not take pictures of people in China without asking for their permission. I should be shown the same courtesy. If someone attempts to take an unsolicited picture, I will do everything in my power to make sure the photo does not turn out well.
On the rare occasion that someone asks me for a picture.. I will pose with them… however, this can get out of hand… one person sees you posing for a photo and several other will want to join in. Then a crowd forms.. and you are trapped there for at least 30 minutes trying to get away.
You would think I would be use to it by now…. the staring and pointing… Some days.. I am feeling good and I just wave at the staring folks or smile at them… But some days… I just want to get my soap in a sock… and slap the piss out of them ….(well you know what I mean).
Although my foreign friends try to console me and say they know how I feel… I explain to them it is worse for me… because….. MY HUSBAND IS CHINESE…..ohhhh yeah… My husband and I were walking out of our apartment building and he was telling me that he would meet up with me later on that afternoon… and as we were parting.. he kissed me good bye. A small peck on the lips..nothing crazy…but .. when I turned around to head into the direction that I was going… I looked up and .. an entire bus load of people on the city bus was staring at me. Mouths open and eyes wide…. it looked kind of like the they were all in some kind of state of shock.
Last night, my husband and I went out to get some fresh fruit at the outside fruit stand… I could not even move to look at the fruit because some old woman was in my way staring at me… she could not even move.. she just stood there… staring… finally my husband had to say something to her to make her move. I just wanted to say to her… Yes.. foreigners eat fruit……now move your old ass.
Unbelieveable…. I try to joke about it.. and tell the ones that are brave enough to talk to me.. that I am Obama’s cousin…. or Beyonce’s older sister… even Oprah’s little sister… it gets the laughs.. but after awhile it just gets old and irritating.
What cracks me up is how the educated Chinese try to clarify the reasoning for the stares.. I get things like…. your skin is just so beautiful….. they just think you are too fat…. they think you are a superstar….Then in the same breath.. i get...Maybe you should lighten your skin a little… Maybe you should lose some weight.. …it would be easier for you here…. These things irritate me… I am who I am .. and their approval is not necessary.
Sometimes, I see my husband’s face when they stare at us. He holds it in but I know it pisses him off…. and every Chinese person he meets always asks him .. why did you marry a foreigner?… his answer is always.. because I love her. (smile)
Ahhhh.. China… it seems I will always have this love and hate conflict going on in my mind. My new adopted country is not going to change because of me…… and the traditional thinking will not change in my lifetime… So how do you cope with it? How do you keep from getting angry… when people stare at you in the supermarket to see what the foreigners buy…actually go through your bags….?… What do you do when when you have to sit away from the windows in restaurants because it will draw a crowd? What do you do when you have to wear big sunglasses to cover your eyes so you irritation does not show?
I know.. I know… it is Chinese way…. but sometimes… i just want to scream at them……“Just Stop Staring at us”.……fact that I am stared at like a caged animal at the zoo, and it is enough to make any sane person feel as though they weren’t.
until next time…