Monday, 2 July 2012

From time to time, when letting off steam about being constantly stared at, someone (it’s usually a man) will say: -

“Well waddya expect.  You’ve got PINK hair.  Hullo??”

Which shows that some, at least, of the Westerners I meet in China, think I have pink hair because I WANT people to look at me. These are, once again, usually men.

Because any foreign woman in China understands how it feels to be scrutinized,  from head to toe and all places in between, by elderly men, young kids, curious contemporaries, and Uncle Tom Cobbley and All. It’s very, very difficult to try not to feel somehow violated. Women seem to react to  being stared at in a completely different way to men.

 Though everyone has their tolerance point, men seem either not to notice the staring, or to bask, somewhat, in it. Then when it gets uncomfortably intrusive they tend to get angry.  It’s probably this, coupled with the fact that foreign men are, on the whole, bigger, hairier and more unpredictable than their female counterparts, which results in them not having to go through the same experiences as women.

So I dyed my hair bright, shocking, neon pink not long after I arrived because I couldn’t shake my seemingly irrational conditioning that this behavior signaled something bad.

I don’t think I’ve ever been in a country, however, where people stare so blatantly, extendedly and so imperviously as they do in China.  My conditioning led me to think that being stared at in public was what happens in those nightmares when you turn up for some event with no clothes on. Or you were behaving, or looking, in some way not socially acceptable. 

So, try as I may, I could not rid myself of the idea that there was something wrong with me: did I have parsley in my teeth? Was my skirt tucked into the back of my knickers? (oddly enough, the day I actually paraded through the city in that state I found that no-one affords it even a flicker of a glance. Which means not one soul took pity on me as I sashayed through a city of 8 million people displaying my g-string and, consequently, bottom cheeks to a goodly percentage of that 8 million).

So finally, when I realized I was actually becoming reclusive, I marched in to the village hairdresser with a neon ribbon in my hand, pointed to it and to my hair a few times and he got the message.

From the minute I walked out of the hairdressers, I stopped fearing people were staring at the parsley, or my knickers. Or my bum-cheeks.  Now, every time I was surrounded by a ring of impassive faces silently staring, I would know exactly why – they would be staring at my hair. There was a reason for their behavior which didn’t involve the idea that I was, in some way that everybody but I knew about, transgressing in some way.  Nah.  They’re just staring at the hair.

 End of reclusive period.

But the thing is that now, over time, I have come actually to be, for the first time ever, perfectly happy with my hair.  Not that I ever give it much thought until I see the roots are growing out again. Pink has just come to be the colour of my hair – the same way ‘mouse’ used to. (“Mouse” was what my father actually wrote when he filled in a box marked “Colour of Eyes” in my first passport application).

Not that it stayed mouse for very long. I’ve always had a need – doubtless due to my father – to change the colour of my hair frequently.

By now however, and for most of the past half a dozen years, it’s pink.

Now in China the fact that I have pink hair does not actually outweigh the other thing about me that causes people (quite literally!) to walk into lampposts: I’m a foreigner.  Foreigners are strange.  Middle-aged foreign women are the strangest species of all.

 Foreigners aren’t judged on their differences; assumptions aren’t made about them based on the way they look.

So it gives me great pause to wonder: what’s it going to be like going back to where I’ll be part of the majority and no longer a seldom-spotted species about whom or what nothing is really known?

Is the way different people will see me, in a culture that makes a snap judgement within the first few seconds of seeing a person, going to effect me? Marginalize me? Label me in some way?

Will it matter?

I've just read the preceding post. Wow! Didn't that turn into a whole heap of old cobblers, then?

THOUGHT: - but it IS proof that I do think about my friends.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Coming Back

Have been doing a lot of thinking lately - after all, we DO have 2 New Years celebrations under our belts here in China. Double the chance to feel the remorse.

So that's why I'm doing this again, guys, remorse plain and simple. But equal parts love, affection and and a sincere need to let all the people who have touched my life know just how much I think of them and how grateful I am to have had the chance to have met them - whether for an afternoon or for an eon. And also, if you had not already realised this, that I am almost pathologically unable to keep up a correspondence. (Hang in there: - the point, I promise you, is going to come along any time now.)

Now I also chucked a tantie this afternoon which, I further promise, is still well on the way towards coming to the point. Chucking a tanty, (spelled it both ways as I've no idea which is correct) for those with furrowed brow, means throwing one's toys out of the cot; having a dummy-spit; making an exhibition of oneself; having a fit; or anything else approximating the act of having hysterics. (I can just hear Chazza in Oz saying to herself "Being a Drama Queen, you mean.")

Well yeah, so under various names, I was indulging in the odd spot of tears, jumbled mumbling about throwing myself underneath the 707 bus (I HATE one of the drivers), and littering snotty, wet tissues. On the river bank, yet.

So I rang my Firstborn. Who, having been brought up wisely and sagaciously, said to me wisely and sagaciously that I was a bit of a tool. Well, not in so many words; and not until he had listened to my woes and metaphorically blown my nose for me and wiped my face. But he did make me realise that instead of bawling on river banks I should be talking to the people I love, or at least hold in affection. Or regard. Whatever:- the people I don't want to lose touch with. Ever.

But hey, you guys all know me. I write one day out of the blue and then not again for 3 years. Or I start writing regularly and, just when we're in the middle of something, I disappear. I've probably started the slide down into one of my Troughs of Despond. And I tell myself that no-one wants to hear the maudlin ramblings of a self-pitying boor. And then I get right down in there and wallow around in the bottom of the trough for a while and know for certain that the conversations I come up with down there will be despised by all.

So by the time I'm back on top again I feel ashamed that I've dropped out of touch with so many of you. Then I cunningly put it off until I'm really going to be Miss Ray of Sunshine and dazzle everyone with the sheer wit and brilliance of my golden tongue....and then whoops! It starts all over again. So by the time I'm really leveled out again so much time has gone by - new babies have been born, facchrissake. People have had birthdays and got married and graduated and moved to other countries...and we've lost all sight of what's happening in each other's lives.

Right, now: - almost - but not quite - at the point here:- See the thing is that, though I stop writing TO people (or ringing them; or Skyping them; or texting them; or returning their calls; or Windows Messaging them....sigh...yeah, I know) I never stop writing, as nearly everyone of you will know. Oh, its crap. But at least it proves - even to me - that a) I'm still alive and b) I'm still (moderately) sentient.

And Now...The bit you've all been waiting for....(bugger! If I could figure out how to do a drum-roll soundtrack I'd slot it in right ...HERE>>>) THE POINT>(fife and piccolo?)

Rather than continue to take up disc space in My Notebook I'm going to continue to do all that stuff here. And I'm going to inflict it on you! Yep, now in the comfort of your very own Cyber-cafe, Starbucks or room, I'm going to keep in touch.

And the great thing is that you can touch me back: because if you want to interject with a timely update on Aunty Nora's heelspur you can do it. And if you just want to say "Hi" or start to talk about stuff we can. Yeah, I know, you'll say that FaceBook and QQ and Forums(and hey, what about that slick new invention email?) and all that stuff clog the airwaves (actually, does this medium make use of airwaves? ), this is just going to be us and not someone I went to school for one term with in the Third Grade. Or who sits in one of the little offices down the corridor at work. This is just going to be interesting mates and me.

BUT WAIT....There's more.....BONUS POINT>>>>> Have you ever wished you could maintain a correspondence without all the pesky bother of actually corresponding? You can, with # MHOTS. Ever wondered what that strange woman with the pink hair is up to, but just don't have the time to actually ask her? Well, wonder no more with #MHOTS. With #MHOTS I will actually (if I can figure out how to do it, that is) actually.... alert YOU when I have a Thought!!!!

The beauty of the new, improved #MHOTS system is that all my news, doleful drivel and communicative antennae will be beamed your way whenever I post.....AND YOU DON"T HAVE TO EVEN READ IT ! Yes, that's right, folks. This is a no obligation deal.!!! YOU call the SHOTS!!!

(Bloody 'ell, that's too tiring.) So yeah. What all that's about is that I've now made two resolutions to revive this Blog but in the hope that it'll provide the space for a running conversation. Also, even if you never read it, each time I post you'll know I'm thinking of you and, if ever the urge takes you, you can scan a few lines if you have any desire to share the minutiae of my life - or if you get a sudden phone call to say I'm coming to visit and you want to quickly bone up on where I'm living and what I've been doing so we can skip the "So. What have YOU been doing with yourself?"s and get right into things.

But, more importantly, I really do want you to use this space to talk back to me because, even when the black dog is chowing down on my frontal lobe (or wherever Bi-polarism is located) I'll still come here to write.

So don't say "She never writes" again. This'll be where I'll write.

# MHOTS is not a registered trademark and any relationship between the title of this blog and anything Mao Zedung said is not to be wondered at.

PS And yes, am going to Edit the "About You" stuff. Sound like a wanker.