MIck Jagger once said this of rock stardom: ” A good thing never ends.” As late as 2007, at age 63, Jagger was still performing at rock concerts with his legendary band The Rolling Stones.
Now he’s 68 and still elicits screams, panty scrunching and propositions.
And it seems so do I – in China.
To be frank, campus life is sedate. I spread out in my apartment and write prose, ride my bicycle to the teaching building where all my classes are and soak in the manmade lake, curved bridges and pagoda structures.
I assumed I’d glide through, be unnoticed, because I look like everybody else. That has been an adjustment in itself – living in a country where literally everyone resembles me to some degree.
But not so – strange occurrences began to happen. It started with students early in the semester. Girls or boys standing up in front of an entire class gushing about my hair, eyes or overall beauty.
Emails from students dinged my inbox. My favorite to date: “Teacher Jeannie, I am very glad to be in your class, to learn all the English and yes – you are pretty.”
I was then asked to train faculty – help improve their communication skills. During the first class, two adult women shyly introduced themselves and then called me so beautiful before sitting down slightly embarrassed. It wasn’t just beautiful, but so beautiful.
Last week I gave a special lecture on the importance of culture – showing some photos of my travels, relaying the lessons I’ve learned. It seemed a success – people asked questions and I received a few complimentary emails afterwards.
As students and faculty dispersed the lecture hall – a small crowd stormed me. One set of girls asked me to head their Internet club (perhaps code for English club), while two boys and a girl discussed me as an oddity.
“She gives such a good lecture. And isn’t she beautiful? Pretty? Oh and so sexy.” One of the meatier boys then proceeded to talk about weightlifting – how often he does it and so on. Awkward.
Now if this had been a darkened room, with drum and bass – a few drinks in my body to fuel me and a Saturday night when anything could happen, this kind of attention is welcome.
The strangeness is the setting. This is a fairly respected university and it leaves me feeling, well, scrutinized from the wrong angle.
Nothing’s weirder than being called sexy by a student in a lecture hall. Oh, but this is China. And I guess this is what happens?
I’m honestly not sure.
What I am sure of is the falsity it creates. I now understand how Gwailo (as my mother called them in Cantonese) can generate mass hysteria. Have Chinese goddesses flinging themselves at them or capture the rapt attention of a Chinese person who laughs at everything he or she says or hangs on every syllable.
What it can create is inflation – in your head. You begin to see yourself as distinct – so much so that bold behaviours emerge or worse – a God complex.
I’m no prettier than the next girl, and it’s wise for me to remember this when I arrive in Europe by July and become old schleppy Jeannie again.
Expats – have you experienced this or witnessed it in action?