When I was little, before falling asleep, I would look up at the stick-on, glow-in-the-dark stars on my ceiling and daydream about finding my soulmate. Early exposure to sappy romantic comedies instilled a belief in me that there was only one soulmate for me in the entire world — and it was up to me to find him. A terrifying thought crossed my mind: What if he lived on the other side of the world?
Since then, I’ve abandoned the idea that there is only one person out there for each of us. The realist in me long ago decided that who you end up with is a matter of opportunity and timing — barring the help of any mystical guiding hands (also known as fate). My younger self raised an interesting question, though. Really, how likely is it that a person could find his or her lover on the other side of the world?
Well, according to my globe, the other side of the world from America is China — where I happen to be living at the moment. Has a Chinese man swept me off my feet? Hardly. However, I haven’t really tried to find Mr. Right in China. Maybe it has something to do with the question posed by my 20-something Chinese student life assistant. One day he turned to one of my American male classmates and asked a question out of innocent curiosity: “Why do American women have fat legs?”
So maybe the standard of beauty doesn’t translate between these two cultures. (I have to admit, going by my experience with advertisements displaying the standard attractive Asian male, it doesn’t translate well on my end, either.) Then again, I have gotten a few awkwardly but strongly worded emails from some rather bold Chinese students I’ve taught that suggest the contrary.
So how exactly does one find one’s soulmate on the other side of the world? It’s not just time and opportunity that are important but common traits as well. It’s no coincidence that of all the dating Chinese students I meet, almost all of them are with classmates from high school. Even in the mixed Chinese-American marriages I’ve encountered, more often than not, both individuals had attended American universities.
The National Marriage Project found that people are most likely to meet their partners through friends and acquaintances. Given the rising popularity of websites like Date My School, however, this trend presents an interesting question: Does a successful relationship require the couple to share at least a few friends? Or can they subsist on common interests alone?
The benefit of meeting someone through acquaintances is that it assures both parties that the other is trustworthy — or at least trustworthy enough to win the respect of a mutual friend. The new approach of dating websites like Date My School emphasizes a closed community consisting purely of college students with names (but not pictures) kept anonymous. Perhaps this signals a change in how couples will meet in the future — in specialized online groups, rather than through mutual acquaintances.
My grandmother once imparted these golden words of wisdom to me: “The most important thing is to find someone with whom you have a lot of things in common.” Maybe it’s not so much about finding a partner through acquaintances as it is about finding the person who inspires just the right amount of nostalgia in you, mixed with a sense of adventure for the new. And that’s the kind of feeling that can transcend cultures.
Anastasia Taber is a junior in the College. She can be reached at [email protected] THE DATING DALAI appears every other Friday in the guide.