Monday, March 15

Day 9963: Distance 20166

I've never really liked anything about Chinese people that was specifically designed for a non-asian audience. I once slammed a short story in an OAC English Writing class because it talked about a "jook-sing's" experience in HK that I thought was unrealistic and whiny. Not that it was badly written, but because the subject matter was overdone... by me. Movies, books, stories or whatnot, the subject has never appealed to me. Perhaps because I've "worked" so long and hard to avoid most things asian (except food), that whenever it creeps into the mainstream, it just bugs the hell out of me and makes me realize that I've lost touch with my heritage. Not that I've ever really been in touch with my heritage anyway, since apart from the occasional dinner, it was never really emphasized in my immediate family. The cousins... welll... that's another story altogether.

This weekend, a few of us went to the Tarragon Theatre to see China Doll by Marjorie Chan. Very brief synopsis, it deals with a Chinese girl's struggle with old traditions and new ideas (i.e. Ibsen's A Doll's House) and ultimately ends with her leaving all responsibilities behind in search of a better life. Don't worry if you haven't seen it, I haven't really spoiled the ending... the run ended yesterday, anyway. Was it a good play, you ask? Nothing like Criminals in Love, but it was decent. The first act was interesting and actually fairly good, the second act was disturbing and disjointed. The acting was so-so, but that's never really made a helluva lot of difference to me anyway. It's all about the story, baby.

The tradition of feet binding was central to the play, as was the character of the over-bearing-yet-well-meaning grandmother who strives to give her granddaughter a better life even though it means almost selling her to the highest bidder. I've never had a problem with feet binding before. I accept it as a tradition. Since it was only just outlawed in the early 20th century, it probably means that it's still actively practiced in rural parts of China. No big deal so long as I don't have to do it. Actually, I've read articles about non-asian women who are practicing it because of it's sexual connotations. Icky... but to each their own.

What I don't like, no matter how realistic it may be, was the scene where the girl's baby toe falls off, and she's either so delirious with her situation-imposed confinement or high, that she giggles like a school girl and starts talking about how she used to believe that people grew from seeds out of their baby toes... yucky, yucky, yucky... I don't want to hear about body parts falling off. That just offends my tender sensibilities - as does the scene where the shopkeeper has an orgasm because the girl's tiny lotus feet are soooo beautiful. Icky, icky, icky. Gross, gross, gross.

But what the play did make me think about was tradition and responsibility, and how that hasn't changed no matter what century it is. We are all still bound by old traditions, and our upbringing has given us a sense of responsibility that can occasionally be described as "burdening." It matters not that we're not in a village in China and we have to become the second-wife of the second-son so that grandmother is taken care off. Rather, we're in a big city in Canada, and we have to prostrate ourselves before the career gods so that eventually, when the time comes, the parents and the grandparents will be taken care of. And in the case of the play, the girl's marriagability was determined by her ability to sew the perfect lotus shoes, our hire-ability is determined by our ability to prove ourselves to the highest bidder. It's all the same. No matter the century, there is still only limited amounts of free-choice.

This time of year, patience wears thin and tempers flare. I find myself wanting more and more to neglect responsiblity, to say "to hell with it all" and go off on a jaunt around the world on borrowed time and borrowed money. But I can't, because I have obligations. Obligations to family, obligations to friends, obligations to myself. And because I have these obligations, my patience wears thin and my temper flares... as I get delirious because of my situation-imposed confinement. A month ago, two weeks ago even, I would have said that I would do anything for a friend (depending on who, and depending on what). Now, I'm not so sure. There are some people that I would go to hell and back for. And some people who are just not worth it. Perhaps distance is a good thing. See y'all after busy season.

No comments: