Friday, October 07, 2005

Ying vs. Yang

It’s 2am. I sat on the beige-colored carpet floor in Ying and Yang’s townhouse in Orange County. The midnight air brought in mixed scents of flowers. The water fountain serenaded quietly not too far away. Yet next to me sitting across from each other, Ying and Yang were mentioning the unthinkable – separation, alimony, child support…

They had been together for 11 years, married for 7. Like me, they came to the US right after college for graduate school. Both quit their Ph.D. programs in science. Ying worked in biotech, then got an MBA degree and was now enjoying her own profitable real estate business. Yang pursued a degree and then a career in hitech. The stock options from the first company he worked for got them the house. Now they were buying apartments with stock-option money earned from his current employer. A typical story of American dreams.

Nine months ago Ying told me she was pregnant. I asked if she’s certain she would like to keep it. Yang hadn’t been the most reliable husband. She said from what she learned, husbands usually changed to be more family-focused after having a baby. So seven months later they had a beautiful baby boy.

However, one month before the delivery, Ying found out Yang had been seeing a woman he worked with. Yang promised to cut it off. One month after the delivery, Ying’s friends bumped into Yang with the same woman in Las Vegas.

This is unfair; Ying cried next to me at 2am, her eyes red and puffed up. I do want to leave him, but it’d be unfair to the baby; I can’t stand the thought of him meeting, or even just thinking of the other woman, while I’m taking care of the baby. How could you? She asked Yang. How could you, after so many years, have so little compassion for your wife?

Yang mumbled through his drooping mouth, his eyes looking away – I do love the baby, and I do care about you; let’s not talk about separation; maybe in 6 months I’ll get over this phase; I don’t know what I want; can you wait?

Most of Ying’s friends counseled her to divorce Yang. He’s selfish, and childish; they all say. Sitting by him at 2am, I’d also like to blame the sinner and tell him – go to hell; you deserve to pay a lot of alimony and child support; you deserve to be despised by all the people who know about you.

But could he have helped it?

Yang grew up in a broken family. Emotionally he had always been a bit needy, a bit, idealistic. Once chatting with me alone, he confided in me that unlike most other men, he’s not looking for meaningless sex outside marriage; rather, he’s looking for affection, that human touch, and the possibility for a true love that consumes and transcends.

I gasped when I first heard this. Is this fantasy something he’s willing sacrifice what he had for? He hesitated.

Can we blame the sinners if the sinners can’t help committing the sins? I wondered while Ying leaned on my shoulder and cried. Why some can take responsibilities while others mostly focus on their own needs? Obviously he can’t fall back in love with Ying anytime soon, so is it wise to counsel them to stay together in a loveless marriage for the sake of the baby?

Was he really free when deciding to betray his wife? He probably was never fully satisfied emotionally with his wife to begin with, and is now finally confident enough, after his financial and career advancements, to pursue his passion, or fantasy. There have to be other factors from his growing up in China, his desire for more excitements in life, and his dissatisfaction with the suburban middle-class lifestyle that had nudged him into this path.

If he had been compelled by his past to do what he had done, could I blame him?

The philosophy book I’m reading now has a long chapter on free will. The author argued for the existence of free will, and defined it this way:

“The subject acted freely if she could have done otherwise in the right sense. This means that she would have done otherwise if she had chosen differently and, under the impact of other true and available thoughts or considerations, she would have chosen differently. True and available thoughts and considerations are those that represent her situation accurately, and are ones that she could reasonably be expected to have taken into account.”

I’m not entirely convinced.

Some other philosophers argued that the lack of free will doesn’t necessitate the demise of responsibilities. Human beings are flexible enough, they say, and assigning blame and responsibilities will help guide future actions.

I deliberated on which point I should bring up for Ying and Yang to consider. But Yang’s raised voice distracted me. Ying had just proposed a formal separation. Yang objected strongly; if his emotional forays would lead to child support and alimony and the loss of what he has, he would stay in the marriage. Plus, that’s what most Chinese husbands do anyway, especially those prospering men in China’s big cities with their mistresses and frequent visits to KTVs.

Seriously, Yang had been an honest husband, comparatively. Plus, who can say that his fantasy of finding a true love may not become true one day?

But Ying was still crying. So I jumped in and offered this to Yang:

“Stop worrying so much about alimony and child support. You have been a bastard and you can’t help being one. Thank god Ying is a strong woman who can raise the baby alone. But you can’t want an adventure and at the same time don’t want to lose any of what you have now. You have to make a choice. Life is a journey and in the near future yours will be very tough. I only wish you the best luck to find what you are looking for.”

That seemed the only sensible thing to say at 2am. Free or not free, we all have to continue this illusive path to find happiness.


chinadoll said...

Most of time we don’t have answers.
Time is our biggest enemy but it’s also our best friend. It will ease all the pain eventually. We move on because life still goes on. No matter what happened we still have to be strong, be pretty and be happy. I found questions such as How could you, after so many years, have so little compassion … are quite irreverent. Asked a question you already knew the answer. Yes ,so many years …. but so what ? Some people will trade in all they have for something they never had. They already made the decisions subconsciously .
Yes , Sun will still rise we will still get up and try to be pretty and happy tomorrow. Do we have other choices ?

vivianzhu said...

I root for Ying's choice of saperation. She seems to be a strong woman. I despise Yang's opposition. As you said, he can not have both. Nobody is supposed to wait out for him to make up his mind. The choice has already been made. He need to take the risk and take up the consequences. We all live through such time, we all have to face the consquences of our choices: consciously or sub consciously.

Beijing Loafer said...

Hmm. If Yang has made the choice subconsciously, I wonder at the moral implications...

chinadoll said...

Well said , vivianzhu, yes we all have to face the consequences of our choices, everyone.
Life is tough and rough sometimes but still we have to survive trying to make it to the end.
“After all... tomorrow is another day.” as Scarlett said in “gone with the wind”

california_dreamer said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
shapinba said...

This is not the first time I have heard stories like Ying and Yang. Advice to women who want to raise a family is to stay away from men who tends to assert to free will without accepting consequences and be strong like Scarlett if happened to be married to such kind. And vice versa to men but to much less extent. After all, it is women who need to carry a new life for nine months.

As for Yang, as much as I agree what he did is morally despicable, he is no more different than any human being next to him who like to assert free will without accepting the consequences. Free will comes with consequences and responsibilities is the message that needs to be come cross to everyone. Unfortunately someone can just get away with it - "Just because I could.":-)

Beijing Loafer said...

I'm deleting and reposting california_dreamer's comment because it revealed my first name. For those who know my true identity, I'd appreciate you addressing me using my last name "Wu". I guess there are enough Wu's in China to make myself unidentifiable. Or so I hope. :) I'll address her post in the next comment.

"Anyhow, marriage is only one dilemma facing Chinese immigrants living in the U.S. For me, I am constantly struggling between the Chinese values and American culture. There seem to be no middle ground.

As Chinese living in the U.S, we face another predicament - friendship. Oftentimes, I find myself in a place where I know just a little too much American popular culture and that I’m just a little too assimilated to form any deep and meaningful friendship with my fellow countryman/woman. But this knowledge and attitude doesn’t afford me the common background that people often need to form a bond. Ha!

Wu, do you have any thoughts on this topic?"

Beijing Loafer said...

To california_dreamer's comment, I think we need to differentiate between two types of friendships. Anyone can form a casual friendship with anyone, so long as one's willing to invest some time and effort. But deep friendships are rare to find. It's not just a problem for immigrants, but for Americans as well. Otherwise we wouldn't have that many counch potatoes staying home watching TV alone in the evenings.

My suggestion to california_dreamer is, help a friend who's in need, then the friendship would go deeper. Many times I think long-term investment matters at least as much as the first impression of mutual cultural understanding.

It's all about the ROI and value investments. :)

Anonymous said...

I read a theory about how kid growing up without a father figure would have difficulty controlling his anger later on in the life. How could yang be so selfish when his wife and baby need him the most? With a little bit compassion and decency, he would have done differently. After all, we live in a society with responsibilities and boundaries.

Anonymous said...

I look at a lot of things in the world as black and white. Most of the time, it is considered a short-coming, and is a disadvantage. But I find it handy in dealing with complicated and emotionally charged situations, such as the one with Ying and Yang.

Yang’s infidelity is appalling, as well as his timing. But if he wants Ying to wait for him for another six months before he “makes up his mind”, he is cruel. It puts Ying in emotional torment for another six months and she will have to delay her healing process. If he wants to stay in the marriage, it should be because he still loves her and the bay, and not because he doesn’t want to pay child support or alimony, or to part with half of his fortune. That is selfish and cowardly. He had made his choice when he committed adultery. He was given ample opportunities to turn around, but each time he chose to go the other way. So, at least, be a man! Live with your choices and take responsibilities for them. You can’t have it both.

I had my shares with men just like Yang. So granted, I am biased. There is a specie of men whom most of us women do not understand. They are dreamers. The grass is always greener on the other side. They make great lovers, but are poisonous to marriage. They are so prevalent, and many one of us had first hand experiences with them. Some thinks it is romantic. It is arguable. But when you are pursuing your dreams, please don’t forget to take care of your earthly responsibilities. Take good care of the ones you left behind.

It is not romantic at all if you are at the receiving end. The heart bleeds so much, that all you can see is blood. As for Ying, give yourself time to heal. It will be long before you can look at your wound with honesty. Then, the healing will begin inside. Don’t forget your friends, your family and your baby are always with you.

C’est la vie!