One of my friends has just told me that she has moved out from home. I was surprised to hear that because she has just recently graduated, and what’s more, she’s Shanghainese.
When I asked my parents for permission to move out last year, they opposed the idea strongly. I could support myself financially but I gave in, not to hurt their feelings or worry them too much.
In Shanghai, children, especially girls, are supposed to live with parents until the day they get married. Parents take care of everything and treat their daughters like princesses no matter how old they are. I wanted to move out because I thought it was time to be independent after graduating from university. But they believed I should save the rent because I had a home there and that it was unsafe for an unmarried girl to live on her own.
A similar situation came up when I decided to go to Beijing alone earlier this year. They didn’t consider it safe that a young girl travel alone. After trying to persuade them for a month, they finally approved. But I was required to call them at least twice a day and text them whenever I could. I understood their concerns and I was grateful that they let me go at last. Most Shanghainese parents wouldn’t do that. One of my mom’s friends yelled at her: “How could you let your only daughter travel alone? Are you out of your mind?”
It’s a different story in the West. Children are encouraged to have their own identity as most families have more than one child so they have to rely on themselves a lot, which turns them into independent individuals.
Take college for example. Boys and girls in Western countries like to go to colleges far away from home, but in Shanghai, parents and daughters prefer the universities in the city. I actually wanted to study at a university in Beijing. Unfortunately, my grades were not good enough to be admitted and my parents were relieved that I could stay in Shanghai.
Shanghai is the last city in China that values girls more than boys. Because of the one-child policy and preference for daughters over sons to a degree, parents here are so overprotective that most daughters don’t want to grow up. I was once chatting with a girlfriend about the idea of moving out and she seemed puzzled. “Parents cook for us and do the laundry. I don’t see why we should waste money on rent and give up the good life to move out.”
I think her attitude well explained the issue of leftover girls. They stay with their parents as long as they stay unmarried, even if they are 40. They can’t be independent. Parents lavish every care on them and they will always be playing the role of daughter.
An Australian friend of mine once said that he didn’t want to date Shanghainese girls any longer. “They live with their parents and their parents call them if we are out late. It made me feel like I was going out with a kid. After a few bad experiences with Shanghainese, I prefer to date non-locals, who are more independent, act like real adults and have their own places.”
I can’t agree with him more. A truly independent lady should start by living alone. Yes, it costs money, but life can’t be valued just by money. The experience we gain is much more precious than that.
So, I am moving out this year no matter what. Sorry, Dad and Mom, but your baby girl has to grow up. It’s time to be independent.