On Dating Abroad: The Fetish and Green Card Conundrum

on dating abroadThis past weekend, I attended a going away party for one of my friends. It was a lovely event, featuring a large spread of Chinese food accompanied by a good amount of beer. About an hour into the party, I found myself in the Men’s Room at the same time as my friend Micky. While I took a leak in one of the stalls, Micky used a urinal and talked to me through the stall door.

“I tell you,” he said, “you and Fang Deng are just so good together. I mean, the way you two interact…you’re perfect for each other. Now, I know there are a lot of skeptical people that think she’s only in it for a green card, but if anyone pays attention to the way she looks at you, they’d be able to tell she really loves you.”

I thanked Micky for his kind, if somewhat jarring, words. Zipping up my fly, I found it hard to focus on the part about Fang Deng and I being a perfect couple or whatever he said. Instead, I kept thinking about the other part. The part about the green card.

“What fuckers are saying she’s only in it for a green card?” I wanted to ask. I fought against doing so. That would only make me look petty and lacking in confidence. Still, I imagined pushing Micky up against the urinal and yelling, “Tell me! I want names!”

When I first moved to Asia, I found that the foreign men here fell into one of two camps: those who were eager to date the local women, and those that had basically no interest at all in dating the local women. There wasn’t much of a middle ground. This was in stark contrast to the foreign women who move to Asia. They seem somewhat uncertain about dating in general, and are just as likely to date a local man as they would another foreigner. But the men aren’t like that. Some of them are totally on the prowl, while the others watch in disgust.

Truth be told, I guess I was in the former category. Moving to South Korea in 2010, I definitely wanted to date a Korean woman. I’d like to think that was more out of curiosity than because of some fetish, but who knows what subconscious things were working in my head. My first girlfriend, in high school, just happened to be Cambodian, and, before that, the first Playboy magazine I ever owned featured a centerfold named Venice Kong who was part Chinese. She is mildly famous in the history of Playboy for being the last centerfold to have a staple going through her body.

I think about these things sometimes. I think about how some of my friends in Korea and then later in China probably viewed me as a sleazy white guy with ‘yellow fever,’ a phrase that is only inoffensive when put in comparison with the far more candid ‘jungle fever.’ They probably questioned my motivations. Was I out for love, as I claimed? I’m sure they would say ‘no.’ I was out for Venice Kong look-a-likes.

This is the reality of being in an interracial relationship while living in Asia. The white male is viewed as having a fetish and being driven by sex, and the Asian woman is viewed as only wanting a green card. I’m sure the people Micky alluded to believe this, because sometimes, even Fang Deng and I start to think that.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Fang Deng told me one time when we were discussing the green card question. “I’m 31 years old. Do you really think I couldn’t find an American to marry me when I was in my 20s? I studied in Holland. Do you think it was impossible for me to convince any of the men in Europe to marry me and get me out of China? Are you nuts? If I was just marrying to go live in the west, well, I would’ve done that already.”

And really this little bit of reassurance is all I need. Of anything she’s ever said on the subject, I’ve found this particular argument to be the most convincing. Maybe to be able to shake off the green card question, one has to really believe that love is hard to find, while manipulation of men is pretty easy. There are tons of suckers everywhere, right? I have no doubt that Fang Deng could have worked a mark without any difficulty if that’s what she wanted to do. Had she chose to, I completely believe that Fang Deng could’ve gotten some dude wrapped around her little finger. Could’ve had him begging her for her hand in marriage. Could’ve had him buy her a home in Texas, with a bunch of dogs running through the backyard and a bed with a dozen pillows.

Love, on the other hand, is elusive. That’s something that evades you until you’re in your early thirties (or late thirties, in my case). Finding someone you care about is a bit trickier than finding a guy with an American passport or any random girl who can satisfy a sexual compulsion. Sketchy motivations aren’t hard to satisfy. That’s what dating apps are for.

Fang Deng and I authentically care about each other, although some people can’t see that. Micky could, which is why he gave me that little talk in the urinal. Micky could see the truth. Micky knew.

But of course he did. Micky has an Asian wife.