My mom had it rough. As a child she was the oldest of five children all living in the same small bedroom, four girls and one boy. They didn't have a lot. As the oldest she bore a lot of the responsibility to parent her siblings. As she has aged and her short term memory fades it's interesting to see where her mind wanders to. It's the long term stronger memories that keep being repeated. Moments and items that have a powerful emotion tied to them. Several from her childhood.
The one I hear the most about is how she was embarrassed with her clothing at school. She says she wanted to attend a school where students were forced to wear uniforms so that everyone looked the same. I'm currently in my first experience with school uniforms. I can't help but think of my mom often when I see everyone dressed the same. A slice of heaven in her mind.
Her home life was hard enough that she jumped at the first opportunity to get out and married my dad. She was a homemaker for fifteen years before choosing to get divorced. My father moved from Marion Center to his new home near the Kintersburg gas pump station and she chose not to go with him. She vacillates on whether she made a good choice. Sometimes she regrets it. Other times not so much.
She was fortunate to land a job in the US Post Office. It lead to her opportunity in Washington State. Really, the USPS lead to a life of greater opportunity for me. I don't know that I would have gone to college had my life moved forward for me in Pennsylvania. I doubt it. I think I would have been a copy of my brother Dale. I idolized him. He's a good man and I have a lot of respect for him. I would have ended up turning wrenches on cars and spending lots of time at dirt race tracks. My happiest memories as a child were at tracks. I'm sure I could have found a very happy life there, but at a very different economic level.
I tell you about my mom because it's formed the basis for my opinions of adult women. Being a mother and attempting to work full time is hard. I watched my mother struggle with it. I've watched my wife struggle with it. I've watched some good friends struggle with it. Making life harder for these women is a mysoginistic society. Slowly, over time, things have improved in the states. Not perfect, but better.
I may be hypersensitive to it, but what I'm experiencing here in China is an entirely different level of mysogeny. Parents here have openly wanted boys and not girls. The one-child policy exacerbated this notion. It lasted from 1979 to 2015. I've been on some dates with women all born before the policy was put in place and each has been affected by it in obvious ways. One woman told me she has divorced her parents. She has two sisters and a brother. Her parents gave everything to her brother while disregarding the girls. I don't think it comes from a purposefully mean spirited heart. They've been conditioned to think that boys are worth more. It's the mindset they grew up with. That said, it's had some traumatic emotional impact on the women here. Some more than others.
I've talked with my friend Ye about it. She was fortunate that her father loved and accepted her. However, she was also quick to tell me that he still would have preferred a boy. Further, he was very excited to have Charlie born into the family. She understands the society he was raised in and doesn't judge him harshly for it. The fact that Ye's mother is a doctor with a level of fame may have had an impact on their family. I would love to meet her mom and hear her story. I guessing a woman in China getting her PHD in medicine in the 60s is rare, but I don't really know.
Ye told me she would have liked to go into medicine as well, but she was encouraged to study music instead. When I asked Ye about her mother I got an unexpected response. In the 60s education in China was frowned upon for everyone. She says propaganda told everyone that being a worker in a factory was the most prestigious and honorable job. Her mother wanted to get out of med-school, but didn't have the proper connections to get into a laborer position. How messed up does that sound when filtered through the lense of modern day society?
This past week my role of 9th grade level leader pulled me into a mess. A few of the 9th grade boys are a little more than obnoxious. I've heard from two female teachers that these boys as a group show little to no respect to women. Elaine and her husband Pat are also new to Hangzhou. They brought their two boys from Denver after having lived in Maine most of their lives. Elaine has a fairly straight forward demeanor to her and doesn't take crap from anyone.
While on duty this past week in the cafe (it's a small coffee shop next to the library) she confronted one of our 9th graders about taking food into the library area out of the cafe. She said she spoke directly to him several times and he ignored her like she wasn't there. As she continued to try and engage him he got up and left leaving his garbage behind without saying a word. I'm wondering, how would I have handled this? Perhaps not as well as she did. She finally got his attention and got him to pick up his trash. Actually, half of his trash. She had to stay on him to grab it all.
This event has traveled up the administrative ladder to fall in my lap. I tried to track the boy down Friday, but he was absent. I'll shoot for Monday. I would like to force him to apologize, but I don't think that it will bear fruit. It's sort of a public shaming thing if not sincere. After talking to several others about the boy I'm convinced a forced apology won't help the situation in any way. Someone has to build a rapport with the kid. I think I'll start with finding out what he's interested in. Maybe I'll find a table tennis opponent or a golfing buddy? We'll see.