Interview: Dating as an Asian-American Man – Part 1

I was recently in San Francisco and got a chance to catch up with my old buddy, Fu Quan (a pseudonym), a PhD student at a university in California. As we walked out of the Starbucks in the Ralphs supermarket, I noticed that his name was predictably misspelled on his frappe cup. The conversation shifted to his dating life, and I had a unique opportunity to ask him about his dating experiences as a Asian-American man.

This post is an edited summary of our conversation, with his permission, heavily reworded in the style of this blog.

Disclaimer & Trigger Warning: This represents the opinions of Fu Quan only and do not necessarily represent the views of this blog. Fu Quan makes generalizations about people and culture to allow for simpler explanations, in the context of a casual conversation. Like any generalization, they do not apply in all cases.

The Dating Introvert: Fu Quan, you moved to the United States from China when you were 7, so you basically grew up here. So I’m surprised to hear you talk about dating challenges that seem unique to your background as a Chinese immigrant.

Fu Quan: Yeah, dating here is complicated. It is a culture clash. Although I grew up in America, I internalized many values from the culture of my parents.

I had always thought of cultural differences as surface-level things like a different-looking hat or different-tasting food. However, it recently hit me that culture is a way of thinking. What seems normal in one culture seems rude in another. What is attractive in one culture is unattractive in another.

That Dating Introvert: Can you give examples of these differences?

Fu Quan: Yes but first some background is in order: China is influenced very much by Confucian values, and there is a big gap between the rich & the poor. They do not have the upward social mobility that America has. If your grades are bad, you will not get one of the scarce university places, and you will be doomed to a life of poverty. So there is a huge emphasis on academic achievement. Whereas in America, if you drop out of university, you might become the next Steve Jobs.

In my home culture, the “cool kids”:

  1. achieve high grades: because these are the guys who will end up making the money
  2. are quiet: because this is a sign of strength and intelligence. In school, they are given leadership positions, like your Prom Queen & King.
  3. wear fashion that would be construed as a bit feminine in America
  4. avoid conflict: because avoiding it is a virtue
  5. wait until marriage before having sex: because it is an ultra-conservative culture. This is a sign of restraint.

But in America, these things would fit the definition of being a Nice Guy and be highly unattractive.

In China, a brawny football jock who sleeps around would be seen as unsophisticated, and end up doing manual labor. In America, you give them scholarships to the best universities.

The Dating Introvert: Wow, those are big differences! But growing up in the United States, didn’t you notice the difference in attitudes?

Fu Quan: Well, you get conflicting messages. My extended family thought I was a hero for starting my PhD and not sleeping around. You grow up and you trust your parents more than peers (again, a feature of Confucian culture) to have an accurate read of reality. But my parents were born in the 1950s in China, so their idea of reality is different.

The Dating Introvert: But there are plenty of Chinese girls in California. Wouldn’t dating them avoid the cultural conflict?

Fu Quan: Let’s say that, broadly, there are two kinds of Chinese in America. There are those who grew up in America, who are more westernized. And there are those who just arrived in America, the more recent immigrants.

Some recent immigrants look down on me because I have “lost” part of my culture by not being able to speak Mandarin fluently. Some westernized Chinese women avoid me because they mistakenly associate me with the ultra-conservatism of China. They want to be seen as equals with men, they want to be sex-positive, and they want to be liberated from outdated ideas.

I should add that there are very few positive Chinese or Asian male role models in American mass media. Asian men tend to be portrayed as weak or comical. As a result, this stereotype means that even some non-Asian women will not date me because of my race.

The Dating Introvert: You sound like a serious racist 😛

Fu Quan: Our society has become so “PC” (Politically Correct) that I can’t – even as a member of a racial minority – talk about a racial problem that I’m facing, without being branded a racist or a whiner. Yes, it is up to me to be successful at dating, but you cannot ignore the broader societal influences.

There’s a 2014 Huffington Post article about this: Black People And Asian Men Have A Much Harder Time Dating On OKCupid.

The Dating Introvert: Stay tuned for Part 2 of this interview. Until next time my friends, keep dating!

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It’s OK to Have Flaws

Forgive yourself for not being where you thought you would be by now.
   – Terri Cole

One of the key themes of my blog is to pursue self-improvement for its own sake and because, as a side effect, it improves your dating chances. It’s about taking personal responsibility for your own life and reaping the rewards in return.

However, I don’t want one message to be lost in all of this:

It’s OK to have flaws.

As a society, we have a tendency to come down hard on someone who hasn’t had much luck with dating – statements like “you’re weak” or “you’re not ‘Alpha’ enough”.

But everyone has flaws. Yes, this includes that girl who chose to publicly embarrass you instead of politely turning you down. Her flaw could be that she’s mean. And yes, this includes that guy with the flashy car and loud mufflers. His flaw could be that he’s insecure.

On social media, people tend to only post positive things about themselves. As a result, it’s easy to get depressed when everyone else has supposedly perfect lives – when your life has so many problems.

But strangers and acquaintances rarely tell you what is wrong with their lives. As you get to know people on a deeper level, they open up, and you get to hear that they too have problems. For example, they’re beautiful but they have a chronic medical condition. They’re givers but they always get taken advantage of. They have a prestigious job but they’re miserable. They have a gigantic house but they’re up to their ears in debt. They have a girlfriend but they’re in an abusive relationship.

Don’t ever get trapped into thinking that you can’t date because you have flaws. People more flawed than you still get dates.

Change The Things You Can Change

Having said that, this isn’t a free pass to say that you can just “be yourself” and be lazy. If there’s something you can easily fix (e.g. hair style or clothing), you should just do it. If there’s something that’s hard to fix but important to address (e.g. shyness), you should work on it.

Clearly, some flaws hurt your dating chances more than others. Take it from me – I’ve lived it. I’m not great-looking and it’s probably the thing that hurts me the most with dating. It’s not fair that our culture is so shallow and rewards people who were born with good looks, even if they have no other redeeming qualities. But I just accept that the world is unfair and I make do with what I was born with. So I go to the gym and I dress as well as I can. My objective is to mitigate my flaw, rather than trying to become the most handsome man on the planet.

Additionally, I focus on becoming very strong in things that I can become strong in, such as confidence. Confidence is probably the Number Two thing, behind physical attractiveness, that helps with dating. By doing activities, going to classes, and trying new experiences, I can build confidence by acquiring skills and getting good at something.

Finally, there are some flaws that you can’t doing anything about. For those flaws, my advice is to “own” the flaw and move on, instead of being insecure. For instance, if you are balding due to age and a comb-over looks bad, just shave it all off. Be proud that you look strong and bold, and work on things that you can actually change.

Until next time my friends, keep dating – even if you have flaws!