Saturday, April 10, 2010

DNA envy and the dinner conversation

We recently went to a friend's house for dinner. They were celebrating their 10 year wedding anniversary, although they lived together for a further 5 years.

Invited that evening were another 3 couples, all being doctors and doctors wives (2 of those wives were also doctors).

The couple celebrating their anniversary are a very loving couple, he being a surgeon and she being a stay at home mother. They are very compatible, although quite different in many respects. Their ongoing adoration of each other is quite palpable, and quite refreshing to experience.

During dinner, the conversation naturally turned to the other relationships in the room, and eventually to mine.

I was asked what it was that attracted me to my wife originally, and I responded in what is probably a typical male fashion, stuck for words but then falling back on the typical qualities such as sense of humour, looks, emotional connection and a sense of compatibility.

Well, then it was my wife's turn, and I could hear the whole room quiten down as she was asked what she found most appealing about me when we first met, and what it was that made her consider marriage with me.

Naive me, I thought she would say that she thought we were compatible, that I was caring and loving to her needs, that I was a good provider and responsible, and maybe, just maybe that she felt that she loved me.

Instead, my wife responded by saying:

"I liked the fact that he was left-handed, and that he had blue eyes and blonde hair. We Chinese admire those physical traits"

When further prompted about the qualities in me that she liked, she continued:

"I liked the fact that he was a doctor. I knew that all my friends and extended family would be jealous of me if I married a doctor."

Everyone at the dinner table smiled, out of politeness I think, but I think my poor wife simply didn't realise that she she was being asked for human qualities, not pragmatic ones.

I tried to interrupt and hopefully change the topic, but I was gently brushed aside, in a helpful and supportive way, by one of the wives sitting beside me, who said to my wife:

"Love, what we mean is did you marry him because you thought he would support you through thick or thin, or did you maybe think he would make a great father to your child?"

My wife seemed like she understood, she took a deep breath, smiled and then said:

"I thought about what my child would look like if I had a child with him. I wanted my child to have light coloured hair and eyes, and to be a doctor too. I liked him for, how do you say, for his DNA?"

Everyone laughed, I guess because no other response was appropriate, and we simply moved on to other topics.

I felt somewhat embarrassed by my wife's response, truth be told, but there was a huge language and cultural barrier that made it difficult for her to talk in those terms, so I simply put it aside and tried to forget it.

At work however, I still get a jibe from my colleagues, who while diagnosing a condition for the ocassional chinese female patient, ask me whether I think they have DNA envy, and then they smile and wink.

Yes, its funny, and simply part and parcel of a cross-cultural relationship.

What do you like/dislike most about Chinese women?