“Do Not Marry before Age 30” is a book written by Joy Chen, an American-born Chinese and the former deputy mayor of Los Angeles. She overcame many barriers and evolved from a timid Chinese girl to a confident global citizen. She got married at age 38 and has two beautiful young daughters. Simply put, she’s successful in both career and family.
I firstly knew Joy by reading her blog Global Rencai (Global Talents) when I was doing some research for my article about left-over women in China. I noticed that on her blog, she received countless comments from Chinese women, many of whom complained about the pressure on women in China especially when it comes to marriage. And then she wrote this book.
In the book, Joy sends a message to every Chinese woman:
It doesn’t matter if you’re single or married, divorced or widowed: you can have it all. That is, of course, as long as you are brave enough to ignore the conventional rules.
There are a lot of books out there teaching woman how to be a good wife or how to find a good husband, but few of them are brave enough to speak it out that a real happy and successful woman should be spiritually independent.
Joy pointed out the current situation in China in the first chapter: after graduation, a lot of single girls in China will be asked “do you have a boyfriend?” If the answer is yes, the following-up question would be “what’s your plan?”, “where is he from?”, “does he have an apartment?”, “when are you getting married?” If you don’t have a boyfriend, usually people will give you a pity look. It seems like the only criterion to judge a woman if she’s successful is to see if she has a boyfriend/husband or if her boyfriend/husband is successful. It just makes me so sad to see my friends getting married due to the pressure from their parents. I’m sure they love their boyfriends but often times they come to me admitting that they have not ready for marriage or they are not sure if he is the one but they have to get married because their parents expect them to.
No, it’s not supposed to be like that. I’m 26 years old and I would be lying if I say my parents haven’t put any pressure on me to urge me to get married and have kids. That’s one of the reasons why I decided to move out from my parents’ house two years ago to live on my own. I want to be independent, spiritually and financially. I have a great job. I have my hobbies. I want to explore the world on my own. Maybe one day I will marry a guy that I love, but it’s just something I will consider at a certain time in the future. Getting married is a certain point in my life, not an ultimate goal I should make all my efforts to realize it.
A friend of mine, a Shanghainese girl who married an older Chinese guy when she was 23 and moved to his hometown in southern China as he has a big business there. She quit her job and her life here to be with her husband. “I’m not happy,” she told me the other day. Sadly, she didn’t have the courage to give up her fancy life. “I don’t know if I can still find a good job to support myself. I have everything I need right now.” Materially, yes. But what about spiritually? I just simply told her what I read from Joy’s book:
“As women, it’s easy for us to lose sight of our own possibilities. But the moment you taste power, you’re different.”
China has boasted earth-shaking changes since the reform and open-up to the outside world in 1978. However, the deeply rooted concept that men are superior to women, held by Chinese for thousands of years, make most people believe that women and even the word itself indicate the weak. Boys are taken seriously in the family. Boys should be strong and independent while girls should be obedient and considerate. Male chauvinism is still prevailing in China. It seems like men who are earning money is superior to the women who are taking care of the family at home. This is why I don’t date Chinese men (Sorry folks). A lot of them are not confident or secure and they think the best way to win a woman is to spend money on her. I’ve talked to my Chinese guy friends and apparently they admire me as a friend but they will never marry a girl like me because I’m spiritually too independent for them. Isn’t it pathetic?
We call for equality between men and women. It looks like it’s getting more and more equal but deep down inside, single and independent young ladies are still facing huge pressure from the society: single girls over 25 years old are called left-over women who are successful at work but are left by men; however, men over 25 or even 45 years old are diamond bachelors as they are mature, understanding and financially stable.
My dad is a traditional Chinese guy who expects me, his only daughter, to get married soon so that he has something to talk about with his old classmates on their reunions. He said I made him lose face because most of his friends’ daughters are married and some of them even have kids. Obviously it didn’t occur to him that he could boast to his friends that I am an independent young lady who lives on her own and I am brave enough to travel abroad alone. Either of these seems important to him.
I was hoping Joy’s book could change his attitude towards me and marriage but he just said one word after glancing at the book cover:
Well, I guess there is no other way to change him or the society. All we can do is to change ourselves. I admit I felt a little bit lonely when I just moved out and sometimes I do wish I could go on vacation with a boyfriend, but I believe loneliness is a flavor we have to taste in our life. It’s when we can think for ourselves and know more about the world. Life will be full of regrets if we get married to place our spirits on someone else simply because we can’t bear loneliness.
I remember when I talked about my future husband with my girl friends, I always had a clear yet vague image about him. It’s hard to describe what he is like, however, it has nothing to do with money, look or family background. But after I read this book, I found my answer:
Marriage is nothing like dating. Marriage is more like a mundane small business in which you and he are co-partners and co-employees for life. For your little company to succeed, you must believe in each other, and trust in each other’s good judgment. You must agree on who does what. You must agree on the direction of your company and the values by which it will run.