When Lianne Lin moved to Taiwan to study Chinese, she didn’t realize that she’d become a study in modern sociocultural relations.
ISSUE: Winter 2010
DEPT: My Story
STORY: Lianne Lin
An Uncertain Education
Earlier this year, I moved from Los Angeles to Taipei, Taiwan — my mother’s birthplace — to study Chinese and experience life in Asia. I enrolled in school and started making new friends. For income, I looked for English tutoring jobs through a website that posts your photo, résumé and email address online.
One day, I got an email from a 43-year-old Taiwanese businessman who wanted conversational English practice. He was thin with average looks and height, and spent most of our first “lesson” bragging (in excellent English, incidentally) about his financial success. He was a cocky, overconfident go-getter who had started companies in several different countries. His cowboy-style shoes had custom-made heels to make him look taller, and every day he wore a huge, obnoxious ring containing a dead bug preserved in amber.
During our next few sessions, he asked me personal questions about my dating history, family and plans for the future. He talked about his Caucasian ex-girlfriends from America and showed me photographs of them.
At our fourth session, two weeks after we first met, he suggested that since I loved Taiwan so much, I should look for a boyfriend or husband here. I told him that I was open to that idea, that is, if I found a guy I really liked. After a moment of hesitation, he volun- teered himself for the position.
“You can be my girlfriend. I’ll take care of you,” he said. “I’ll put you in a nice apartment and buy you anything you want or need. If it works out, we can settle down, have kids.” I was surprised by his boldness and laughed awkwardly. He said, “I’m serious. Think about what I’m saying.” Friends had already asked me if a “sugar daddy” had approached me yet, and I’d read a few articles on the subject, so I knew it was not an unusual part of the culture here in Asia. A rich man pursues a mistress or trophy wife (often younger), he spoils and supports her fi- nancially, and she in return is available to satisfy his “needs.”
Despite all my misgivings, I couldn’t help but consider the proposition for a brief moment. I would have loved to build a future in this amazing country and be rid of my financial struggles. Not every girl gets a chance like this — would I be foolish to turn it down?
I had an acquaintance, a former model in Los Angeles, who married a rich man and became a trophy wife. It was definitely an arrangement rather than a real relationship. Her husband made her wear full makeup, sexy clothes and high heels all the time, even at home. She quickly became unhappy and divorced the man in a matter of months.
My situation would be similar, and I knew I couldn’t live that way either. First of all, I just really didn’t like this guy. Second, I would hate to lose the respect of friends and family back home in San Francisco, and labeled a “gold digger.” Third, I could just imagine myself sitting in a swanky apartment like a high-class prostitute, dreading the moment when this arrogant man would come home to have sex, and it made me feel sick to my stomach. If I had been co-dependent, naïve, materi- alistic and/or bankrupt, I might have given it a chance, but I could plainly foresee the bitter end and wanted to avoid it at all costs.
I told him that the whole thing wasn’t for me. Fortunately, he accepted my answer graciously. Unfortunately, I lost a student and a subsequent source of income. But money is relative, and a real relationship is worth the wait.
More stories from Audrey Magazine’s Archives here.