Living an anomalous life in China makes for endless conversations about the same 3 topics, and I have yet to get used to someone passing me in the street, rubbernecking for about 15 seconds and staring real close up into my face, and asking me random questions as we wait at a red light together.
I’ll take Personal Questions for 200, please.
“How old are you?”
I prefer not to answer the Chinese way since passing the 4-0 mark.
I will stick to rounding down, not up, as long as possible.
Sometimes I just smile demurely and pretend not to understand or speak Chinese.
The person with profound cultural insight (not me) will always remember that they are asking just to understand how to address me: as aunty, older sister, or little miss.
That was easy.
Personal Questions for 400.
“How much money do you make?”
The question usually comes a split second after they have finished counting the number kids surrounding me, and they start calculating school fees, after class tutor fees, grocery expenses, and high end electronics x 4, and whatever else is deemed essential for survival in modern China.
This is never never never a safe question to answer.
I have decided, based on the fluctuating exchange rate, and many other factors, to not ever truly know, and I make sure they know that it’s my husband’s role, not mine to take care of finances.
The easy answer is: Enough to meet our family’s needs.
How about PQ for 600, then.
“Are they all your children?”
Here is where I am sorely tempted to be flippant.
Sometimes I give in, like the time we were about 10 kids of African, European, American, Filipino and Chinese parentage, with at least one parent of each in tow.
The fruit seller yelled out the question to nobody in particular as our crowd passed by, and I yelled out just as loudly, “Sure we are!”
My UK friend and mother of 2 was shocked at my impropriety.
Ok, then, the DOOZIE for $1000.
To set the stage, I got on a crowded bus with merely 3 children this time, and a well dressed retired looking man asked the first question, “Are they all yours.”
Since I was in a certain mood I said “Yes, and I have one more daughter still at home.”
A brief pause, then came the big whammie: “So don’t you guys use birth control???”
As I am processing that I was indeed just asked this rather personal question by a perfect stranger, I concluded from the very loud snickering all around me that indeed it was so.
And the old grannies are all eagerly looking at me to see how I would answer this one.
I was reminded of my friend who has adopted 3 children from China that people will always and forever ask weird, rude or inappropriate questions, and the key for our children is how we respond to those questions.
So I decided to bypass the myriad of obnoxious answers and take the high road.
Real matter of fact, I cheerfully said, “In fact we planned to have a large family with 3 or 4 kids ever since we got married, maybe even more.”
And for good measure I said a bit louder, “and we know that every single one of them is a special gift from God.”
The guy muttered something and slunk away.
I wonder what HIS profession was…
The grannies all grinned broadly and gave me a huge thumbs up.
(image source: http://www.reddit.com/user/meancloth)