This morning I was minding my own business on the bus I take to work. I had found a seat all the way in the back. I put my earphones in and I was enjoying NPR’s Fresh Air podcast with Lin Manual Miranda, creator of the hit musical Hamilton.
Then I felt a tap on my shoulder.
I turned towards the aisle, where I assumed someone would hand me something I dropped, hand me an advertisement, or want to speak English with me. All three are common occurrences on buses here, I have learned.
Instead, a Chinese man began to speak to me (in Chinese) and pointed at his mobile phone. He asked if I had WeChat (the application basically everyone in China has and uses for everything from shopping and paying for things to instant messaging and calling taxis).
I’m still fumbling with my earphones at this point, listening to how Hamilton is not gonna throw away his shot…
But I said that, yes, I have WeChat. (Doesn’t everyone?)
He smiled and then pantomimed me getting out my phone. It became obvious to me that he wanted my WeChat contact information, but I had never met this man before in my life.
Then I froze. I realized what was going on: he had decided to flirt with me.
In the best Chinese I could muster, I explained that I was not interested in dating him and that I am married.
Flummoxed, I turned back towards the window and resumed listening to the NPR interview, all the while wondering what the hell just happened. The bus hadn’t reached my stop yet, so I was still in my seat, awkwardly facing away from the man who had just asked me for my number.
After two eternities passed, the bus reached my stop and I walked to work. By this time, I had resolved to ask my officemate, Wei, about this experience. She is Chinese and in her late twenties, so surely she could tell me what all of this meant.
I got to my office, met Wei, and began explaining my interesting morning. She immediately started giggling. I was correct: this man was attracted to me. We briefly discussed the possibility that he was dared by some friend to do it, but she said it’s unlikely. (I explained that in the U.S., it’s likely.)
I texted Andy to tell him all of this, and he responded: “Whoa! Confident guy! You’re out of his league. 😛 ” Score one point for Andy. 😉
We continued laughing, and I asked Wei if it’s common for Chinese men to ask western women out. I had heard that it is not common, mostly because Chinese men aren’t interested in brash, wildly independent, feminist, dominating personalities (which they seem to assume “we” all have, as a stereotyped group). Wei explained that my experience is pretty unusual and that this man must have felt pretty confident asking me for my information. I agreed, we laughed, and then I had to go to a meeting.
In other news, our toaster of a month and three weeks died today. It’s sad, but I refuse to eulogize a product that had a shorter life than the damn mosquitoes that seem to always find their way into our apartment.