“Never marry a Chinese woman. They’re steel rods swathed in flowers.” is a quotation from well known Australian born Hong Kong Journalist Richard Hughes, who was happily married for many years, til death did them part, to a Chinese wife.
Perhaps no truer words were ever spoken, at least about some Chinese women. In fact, to my mind, Chinese ladies seem to come in two basic varieties. Either they are very strong willed or extremely docile. Since I’ve never had any desire for a docile woman, I am discussing here that other type – “the steel rod swathed in flowers”. This woman will care for you, cook for you, keep a great home for you and shower you with love and affection, and she will smote your enemies with the strength of God – so long as you don’t cross her. But when you cross her, you immediately become your own worst enemy, and brother, then she will smote you.
The big problem is that you don’t necessarily know what will be seen as having crossed her. In your innocent Western thinking you naively believe that so long as you are faithful and true, so long as you bring home the bacon, so long as you are polite and courteous and so long as you refrain from anything drastic like not coming home for two nights, or physically striking her, you should be pretty safe. Well surprise!!!
You cross your Chinese Lady when you cause her to lose face, and there are roughly a million ways to cause her to lose face, each one of which you must learn by trial and error. I've learned a few, but it does little good to list them for you, because “a little knowledge is a bad thing”. It will just make you comfortable when you should least be comfortable. But I will give you an example of how I caused my Chinese wife (as she then was) to lose face.
We owned a small bar in China at the time which we took turns managing, and which we kept open as long as there was a paying customer to serve. One night she went home at 1 AM but I hung in there with some friends of mine (because they were spending a great deal of money) until about 4 AM, then headed home when they did. We had both done this many times in the past, and she knew exactly where I was and who I was with, so I felt quite secure. Wrong!!
Unbeknownst to me, she and a friend had been talking earlier in the evening, and the friend had indicated that her husband never stayed out past 1 AM. The friend was very proud of that. So on that particular evening I caused my wife to lose face by not coming home with her at 1 AM. I'd caused her great shame in the eyes of her friend (how the friend knew I had stayed out late was never explained). This was no small loss of face, if you can judge by the near bloodletting I suffered for my crime. And yet, the next time I stayed out late, in the same circumstances except for the intervening friend, all was well. Go figure!
The good news is that unlike Western Women, who will make you pay for days (or years) for your crimes, Chinese women tend to let you off as soon as you’ve appropriately groveled (this must take place in your home) for an hour or two, you’ve told her you're sorry, and lastly, you’ve bought her a gift (do not forget about the ever important relationship saving gift). But if you want to get off without dismemberment, don't act as if you don’t understand what you did wrong (even though you inevitably do not understand). Suck it up, admit your guilt, and promise never to do it again (whatever "it" was), and life will be back to normal in short order.
And the really good news is that this “steel rod swathed in flowers”, when you haven’t just caused her to lose face, is like your own private bodyguard. Your little Chinese woman will be the greatest ally you could ever hope for. She will kill for you at the slightest provocation by someone else that may cause you to lose face – unless her Mother is the source of the threat to your dignity, in which case you probably just committed another “face” crime yourself.
There, have you got it all figured out? No? Don’t worry, Chinese women can be as frustrating as trying to figure the stock market, but it’s their very unpredictability that is one of their greatest charms. I wouldn’t spend the rest of my life with anybody else.