Saturday, May 2, 2009

Date #6: Natives and Aliens

This was the first date I went on with optimism in mind. Of course, I had just been on a date the day before with Grampa Tom, so how could I not be optimistic? The man I was to meet was roughly 30, a student from China who I had been emailing back and forth with for some time. The plan was to meet downtown near the fountain in Waterfront Park in the late afternoon, walk around a bit, then grab a bite to eat. "Adam" was smart; analytical and interesting to talk to, and while I had a few issues with some of the positions he took in his emails, (like his perspective on the Tao Te Ching), he seemed worthy of my optimism. I left my apartment roughly an hour before I was to meet him. It was a beautiful afternoon and I made great time as most of my journey into town from the void was downhill. I wore my bike shorts with a skirt over it as I knew I would not be able to find a place to change once I got there as the port-o-potties at the Saturday Market were not an option.
I arrived downtown roughly fifteen minutes early and sat down on a bench. Portland is at its best in the spring; all of the trees and bushes are flowering in a beautiful spectrum of pink and white, and the sun lingers in the sky, indicating summer is on the way. It is a relief when the sun occasionally shows itself in the spring; it reminds all Portland transplants why we decided to move here in the first place, much to the dismay of the Natives, who are so full of themselves for being such that they are quite difficult to tolerate.
I was sitting on a bench under a flowering tree, looking across the river at the city, wondering when it was that I forgot how beautiful Portland is. I looked over and saw Adam walking toward me, smiling. He was cute in a puppy-dog kind of way. My initial thought was that I could just put him in my pocket and take him home with me, but I got over that as he walked toward me and turned out to be much larger close-up. We decided to walk towards Burnside, thinking we might find a place to sit and eat outside. As we walked I was telling him about the dates I had before. Because of my initial attraction to him I was having a hard time looking at him, so as we walked I kept my eyes focused ahead of me. Suddenly he stopped and said, "Wait, you rode all the way down here?" I didn’t really understand why he was so shocked. "I thought you put your bike on a car and drove down." This last statement was strange to me, and I wondered if he saw my bike as an accessory like a hat or a purse I just took with me everywhere I went. I reminded him that I do not own a car, and he seemed amazed at the trip I had undertaken to get there. I told him it was like anything else; it is only extraordinary if it is an uncommon occurrence in your life, and as I rode my bike everywhere, it was not in any way exceptional. We walked on, and found a place to sit down and have a beer at Berbati’s Pan. There were many people milling around out front, most in a general state of disarray. Down the street there were tables set up with hot food trays set out on them. It was meal time at the homeless shelter.

It was getting on toward evening and the weather turned a bit chilly, so we decided to sit inside. He ordered me an IPA and himself a Guinness, which endeared him to me immediately. I have a very special place in my heart for Guinness drinkers as several of the oldest and dearest of my friends immediately come to mind when I or someone I am with drinks it. We began a line of random small talk, but our conversation quickly became quite deep. He went into what kind of women he was attracted to; usually older and intelligent, which, he pointed out, was what I was. He told me that he was very attracted to Nancy Pelosi as an example of the type of woman he liked. He said that whenever he saw her speak on TV it really got him going. I wasn’t really sure how to respond to this, so I just kept listening.
When he spoke, he would address me and then complete his thought, such as, "Sara, you are very smart, and obviously have thought about the appropriateness of procreation and all its unintended consequences." It reminded me how much I liked hearing my own name. After he had started more than one of his sentences with "The scripture says…." I knew it was going to get heavy. His perspective was that the U.S. is a Christian country, though few people he knows here agree with him. He said that he and his mother (back in China), laugh all the time about how we Americans don’t understand that the reason love, charity, and forgiveness are valued here is because of Christianity. I am a big fan of being in the all-to-common situation where people from other countries tell me how much they sit around and laugh at Americans, but this time I didn’t really agree with his premise. It kept coming back to Christianity and the Bible for him. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to get into this conversation with him about religion and politics, but I figured I had nothing to lose, so I began to explain to him how the founding fathers came here to get away from religious oppression, and that while the word "God" is on our money and in our constitution, it is only there by way of happenstance, and that while it is a sticky issue since our last illustrious president entered office, separation of church and state was an ideal the founding fathers felt quite passionately about. I also suggested that the true difference between China and the U.S. may lie more in the differences in government. This was just the beginning of a very long and edgy conversation with him.
Adam spoke of his mother’s experience being a Christian in China, how it was to grow up there, and that abuse in China is an accepted fact of life. He said his father had been very abusive toward him and his mother, and that his mother had also hit him when he was growing up, and he still had night terrors about this stuff. It is times like these when I am reminded that I have nothing at all to bitch about, that all the pain and torment I feel like I have gone through is much less staggering when held up next to an experience like his. As we talked further about the differences between China and the U.S., he made the point that there is still love in the U.S., and the realities of China create a situation where the women are looking only for a man that will provide, and that there is no luxury of waiting for or even looking for love. Adam felt that it would be awful to try and find a wife in China, because he would never really know if the wife he chose would actually love him or be with him for his money. Imagine being on your death bed, having been married for thirty or fifty years and not being sure whether the person you have spent your life with has ever loved you. Now that I think about it that probably happens here too, maybe just not as often. Adam then told me that the scripture says that men use love to get sex, and women use sex to get love. I smiled at that and asked exactly where in the Bible it said that. He confessed that he did not really know, and that I probably knew the Bible much more thoroughly than he did. I told him that I had only read the Bible for a class in college, and while I liked the stories, I saw no basis to create a set of life-guiding principles to live my life by in it, and then I told him that I do not believe in God. When he asked what I believed in, I said, "people." His response, ironically, was that this was possible because I live in a Christian country. If I lived in China, I would have a far different perspective of people. This argument went on for quite some time, and in the end, it became cyclical and quite pointless. As I didn’t have the perspective of living in China, I could really only use the argument of my experiences here. Adam was clearly married to the Christian perspective and there was little I could do to persuade him away from his point of view.
He then brought up that he had just been laid off and he was having a heart procedure on Wednesday. "Did I mention that?" He asked me casually. Then he told me that he had been accepted to a school in Pittsburgh for nursing, and he was trying to decide whether or not to go, as he had not gotten into OHSU, which had been his first choice. Amazing the things you learn about people when you start to talk about religion and politics. By this point in the date, I had already had two beers, and because I had not yet eaten, I was pretty buzzed. The other issue was that I have a rule that I do not leave a beverage alone on the table with strangers in order to avoid any possibility of being drugged. This created a problem where I had to guzzle the last three quarters of my second beer because I had to go to the bathroom so bad. Of course, the more I drank the better looking he got, so I decided to suggest food. He ordered a Greek salad and I ordered spaghetti. We ate in relative silence, only talking about our food on occasion.

After he paid, we walked back toward his car, and talked about emailing each other further. At one point, he looked down at my bike, and all the various stickers on it, and asked, referring to one that said, “I love the First Amendment”, and asked, “What’s the first amendment?”   I laughed and said, “One of the things that make the U.S. different than China.” 
The problem was that I liked him, but because I had drank so much beer, I couldn’t tell how much. It was times like these when I was very happy that I had a couple of guys on the side so I wouldn’t make any mistakes out of horniness. As we approached the Hawthorne bridge, I told him that I was going to hop on my bike and head home. He gave me a hug good-bye and walked off toward his car. As I got on my bike and started pedaling home, I thought that this had been a good date, but I saw our religious and cultural differences as too much of a hurdle to having any possibility of the relationship going anywhere, in addition to the fact that he was probably moving to Pittsburgh.

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