A recent article reminded me of a piece of fiction I wrote for a writing course as I tried to visualize the growing problem of bride stealing in China.
“Leftover women are no cause for concern – it is the ‘leftover men’ that are China’s real crisis”, Xinhua News and Beijing News write earlier this week. “Marriage as a traditional institute is of great significance and value, but it should not be the way to measure a women’s worth in today’s era,” the article states. Although it has been the unmarried young women, often called ‘leftover women’ (shèngnǚ, 剩女), who have been singled out by Chinese media, the article says that it really is the single men, referred to as ‘leftover men‘ (shèngnán, 剩男) that are at the center of China’s “marriage crisis”.
“Statistics point out that for China’s post 1980s generation, there are tens of millions more men than women of marriageable age. At the peak of the disparity in girls and boys births in 2004, 121.2 boys were born for every 100 girls. Nevertheless, the ‘leftover men’ problem has not been covered as much by Chinese media, while ‘leftover women’ have been the targeted by media for years.”
Here is the only fiction I’ve ever written; it’s an attempt to move from statistics to people.
This was not how he’d pictured his wedding day.
All the stories he’d heard growing up. All the dreams about when it would be his turn with his friends to go and “kidnap” his bride in the early hours of the morning. His parents waiting nearby to host the wedding banquet; their turn having finally come to brag to their village through food about how well their family was doing.
Now that the actual day was here, the thought of kidnapping made his stomach lurch.
Why fate has seen fit to have him born into the shit hole of a dying village, he’d never know. He wished he was more like his parents who rolled with the punches that fate dealt.
He was the one who sobbed as an eight year old boy when he dad broke his leg so badly it required the boy to drop out of school. They stoically told him that education wasn’t needed for farming. He was the one who suggested going to work in a factory near Hong Kong, they were the ones to tell him not to aim too high. He was the one who wanted to try to growing sweet potatoes and they were the ones who said, “we’re not that kind of people.”
He was the one with the modern idea on love. But now at the old age of 24 he had to put that foolishness behind him. As the only son it was his duty to provide a grandchild. As a man it was not his duty to find love. When his father had come to him with the plan everything in him recoiled.
But here he was in the early hours of morning, getting dressed for his wedding. He wondered how much his father had to pay for his bride? He wondered how scared she’d been when she was kidnapped. He heard they drugged the girls so that they were easier to sneak across the border. Would she still be drugged? What language did she speak? Did she know he was not a monster?
Too soon it was time to go.