How I averted one blogger’s mid-life crisis…

… and am now experiencing my own.

Me, yesterday. Not really. I couldn’t afford the car.
One of the most popular posts I ever wrote on my old Yellow Wings blog was a couple of anecdotes featuring the obnoxious Chinese housemate of my (then) girlfriend.

It was a very cathartic post to write, not only because it actually prevented me from murdering the little bitch, but also because later research has told me that the post in question may have saved the sanity of one of my fellow bloggers.

Let’s look at the post in question first:

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Meursault Vs My Girlfriend’s Flatmate

This is why I hate my life:

It is a Sunday morning and I had planned to spend it sleeping in bed, perhaps momentarily burying my head into my girlfriend’s ample, Greek, bosom. The shocking truth of trying to spend a Sunday morning in the same house as Nile comes crashing down on me when I am awoken by the sound of furniture being rearranged yet again, and the tinny strains of Ave Maria belting out full blast from her iPod. I stifle an erection and run upstairs, only to find that she has in fact left the house. Maybe she thought continuing to play Ave Maria after she had left would convince me that she is a sophisticated young Wenzhou woman. It doesn’t, and I release my erection from my dressing gown and head back to bed.

Unable to sleep after the morning’s disturbances, I decide to tackle my erection problem head on and drain some piss from it in the toilet. A locked door blocks my path and I hear Nile listening to, yes you guessed it, Ave fucking Maria screeching out from a portable radio. Nile is obviously shaving a sperm whale because it takes her another 30 minutes to come out, and when she does she makes a comment about how terrible I look in the morning. I avoid eye contact and mouth obscenities at her. As I piss I imagine that the toilet is Nile’s face.

By now, my significant other is also awake. I attempt in my amateurish way to engage her in some gentle “你爸爸好不好?”, but just as I feel the vinegar strokes coming on, Nile bursts into the room. She laughs embarrassedly and runs away at the sight of a hairy 25 year old British male hanging out the back of her flatmate, and I resist the urge to ejaculate on her as she mutters a feeble apology.

For one week, Nile has been without internet, and has been sat in a puddle of dog shit complaining how all her many friends will be waiting to chat with her on QQ. Broadband was fitted yesterday, but Jewel of the fucking Nile can’t figure out how to create a new internet connection. I walk downstairs in my boxer shorts and help her to click on the button which says “Create new internet connection”. As I make to return back to the bedroom, Nile hands me a little note she wants me to read. This is what it says:

Dear Guest,

Hope you enjoy your stay in our house 🙂

However, please be knowing that this cup is my special one!! So if you want to use cup, please use other one! 😀

OK, wish you happy everyday. Nile.

“Why the fuck did you write me a note instead of just telling me? And why do you have to call me guest?” I grumble at her. Nile pretends that she can’t understand my English, so I repeat in Chinese. Then, Nile replies in English (she still isn’t entirely convinced that I hold a BA in Chinese and am a professional translator) that I shouldn’t misunderstand her and she was only trying to be friendly. I punch a wall.

After taking a shower I finally take my first shit of the day, but am horrified when the toilet overflows instead of flushing. I ask Nile where she keeps the plunger, and am then scolded for flushing toilet paper down the toilet EVEN THOUGH I HAVE NOT DONE SO. Five minutes later, when my arm is up to its elbow in shit, we then discover that the real reason for the toilet blocking is because Nile has been dropping her long strands of hair from the shower into the toilet, BECAUSE SHE IS EMBARRASSED ABOUT PUTTING THEM INTO THE BIN WHEN THERE IS A BOY IN THE HOUSE. I tell her that she is a fucking moron, and then get reprimanded by my girlfriend. Oh, the humanity.

I sit down in the kitchen to eat a nice beef pastrami and mustard sandwich. Nile, who is sat opposite me, laughs at my sandwich and says that foreign food is not delicious and too simple. She is eating a bowl of instant noodles. The irony of this escapes her.

Out of morbid curiosity, I look at her face again, and see that her mouth in fact resembles that of a pig. The noisy slurping of the noodles reinforces this image, and I am momentarily consumed by the unsettling image of Nile suckling on a mother sow’s teat.


I retire to the bedroom to watch Nile-free DVDs. Sometimes I hear her screeching Wenzhounese down the telephone in the other room, and I remind myself to tell her it sounds like Japanese next time I see her. That’ll piss her off.

I pop into the kitchen to make a cup of tea, only to find Nile filling her fat face with bread. I seize upon this opportunity. “A-ha!” I say, in the manner of the Count of Monte Cristo, “I thought you said bread was not delicious and too simple!” I feel like Richard Attenborough hatching his first T-Rex. “No, this is Chinese bread, more delicious.” I am thwarted by her ignorance, my heart falls. I make a half-hearted remark about Wenzhounese sounding like Japanese, and leave again.

Nile thinks too many people are trying to talk to her on MSN, and pointedly tells us in a very loud voice that she is “too popular”. So, her previous problem was not being able to get onto MSN, and now her problem is there are too many people on it. I tell her I feel the same way about China.

I am sat, minding my own business, when Nile begins to bother me again. Obviously, emptiness is troubling her obese head again, and she feels the need to fill it full of shit once more. I am sat reading a Chinese magazine. Nothing wrong with that, you might say, but for Nile this seriously upsets her entire world-view. I then experience the following conversation with her. Please bear in mind that by this time, my girlfriend has already given me permission to be as rude as I like.

Nile: You are studying Chinese?
Me: No, I am reading Chinese. You already know that I studied Chinese for four years and graduated two years ago.
Nile: But I think maybe this magazine is perhaps too difficult for a laowai to read.
Me: It’s not difficult, it’s one of your magazines (I silently congratulate myself on this comeback, even though I realise Nile will not pick up on it).
Nile: Oooh, lihai, lihai.

(Momentary silence)

Nile: Can you really read that magazine?
Me: Nile, I’m trying to fucking read!
Nile: But you can’t read that magazine.
Me: Yes I fucking can. Listen. 朝鲜不是伊朗. That’s the name of this article.
Nile: Lihai, lihai.
Me: (Already given up reading) So what do you think about the North Korea problem, Nile? (whispering to myself) “I think North Korea is very poor.”
Nile: I think North Korea is a very poor country.

Thankfully, we then decide to go out, and don’t have to see Nile anymore until…

As me and my girlfriend enter the flat, we are confronted with the sickening sight of Nile talking to some eight-stone weakling of a boy. However, Nile is strangely not talking in her normal voice, but now in the voice of what sounds like an impression of a six year old girl. Nile introduces us as her two laowai friends, and I tell her to fuck off.

In summary, I really don’t like my girlfriend’s flatmate, and if you have an apartment you would let us live in, please tell me. I promise not to write stuff like this about you.

Nile looked a bit like this. No, not Mark Cuckerberg, the one on the right who married him for his sense of fashion.


Ten years later it is almost bizarre to read the above article. I no longer live with a woman I don’t like (excluding my wife – JUST JOKING, LOVE!!!! xxx) and am no longer even with the big-breasted Greek girlfriend in question*.

(*Don’t ask. We wanted to go in different directions. I wanted to remain really cool and awesome, and she decided to transform into a fat miserable bitch over the course of the next four years.)

I’m no longer in my twenties and realise there is a lot from those times I actually miss.

So it is astonishing that after I wrote this, somebody else had the same thoughts that I am experiencing now. A Mr Mark Baker who was also blogging at the time, found my article and had this to say:

How One China Blogger Averted My Mid-Life Crisis

I turned 40 this year.

If that sounds “really old” to you, then I laugh in your general direction, because it’s not old–just ask my elders Mick Jagger, Brad Pitt, and Weird Al Yankovic–and because you’ll be here far sooner than you can possibly imagine.

But if turning 40 is something you too have been saddled with already, or will be soon, but neither wanted nor somehow even expected it, like a bout of mononucleosis on your honeymoon or a painfully ingrown toenail just before the big game, then this post is for you.

Turning 40 has brought with it some of those strange effects I’d heard about: Eyeing the Volvo in the garage and thinking, “You know, a Harley would fit there just as well. Maybe better.”; meeting other parents at the PTA meetings and thinking, “That nice lady in charge of the bake sale, Billy’s Mommy, I’ll bet she was quite the hellraiser back at the U.”; realizing that a number of the washed up “has been” Playboy Playmates are younger than oneself (which is even more shocking than years ago realizing some of the new ones were); and so on.

But anyway…a blog post written recently by a “young whippersnapper” living in China has just set the world right for me.

I keep a few “China Blog” aggregator feeds in my RSS reader, checking out all the entries by some authors and other posts here and there if the titles and first paragraphs draw me in. Lots of these blogs are written by twenty-something and early thirty-something chaps living it up in China, and sometimes I enjoy their thrills vicariously, occasionally harking back to my own “Good Old Days” in the P.R.C. with a tinge of envy. “Oh, to be 27, single, young, wild and free on the other side of the planet again…when everything in the world was perfect.”


But this latest post from China Blogger Meursault, a 25-year old professional translator from Britain with a BA in Chinese, now living in China, has flushed all the cells of mid-life crisis out of my system before they’ve had a chance to take root, reminding me of everything I do not miss about life at that age, with his post called “Yellow Wings Vs My girlfriend’s flatmate,” which would be better titled, as 花崗齋之愚公 suggests, “The Roommate from Hell.”

Do read it yourself, but here are a few choice kernels regarding his Greek girlfriend’s Chinese flatmate who’s gone with the English name “Nile”:

  • Blasts her music too loud while others are still sleeping
  • Hands Meursault a note calling him “Guest in our house” and asking him not to use her favorite cup (Hands him a note!?!?!)
  • Just barges without knocking in while Meursault and his girlfriend are, mmm, well, you know
  • Criticizes his “Western” food…but then claims “Chinese bread is better” when he catches her eating some
  • Nearly refuses to believe he can actually read the Chinese in a magazine that he is, uh, actually reading out loud to her

There’s more; you need to read the whole post.

But while this post reminds me of some of the particularly odd “undesirable social traits” that some Chinese people exhibit (every culture has some), even more it reveals to me why being a 40-year old Married with Children-White and Nerdy Guy in the ‘Burbs in many ways trumps (though I enjoyed it too) being an Adventure-Seeking Globe-Trotting Single Young Buck.

And that is, speaking in terms of my own experience: Young, single, twenty-something years old, ambitious, underpaid, probably just meager social connections at best in a place far from home: You are at the mercy of a random (sometimes nearly chaotic) social fabric, where even your very nice girlfriend can have a roommate who is as annoying as a festering boil on one’s bum. And that can color your entire world puke green.

But good luck to you, Meursault. I’m sure you’ll figure out a solution you can look back proudly on soon, though I suggest it needs to be one that involves this “Nile” person not being in the picture, whether that means you and the girlfriend only hang out at your pad, she kicks Nile to the curb, or she moves to a different flat altogether. Your 20’s are far too short to have many days colored puke green by the likes of Nile.

Well Mark, I’m happy that my experiences back then averted your mid life-crisis. Let me know when you are nearing 60 and have decided to check yourself into a Swiss euthanasia clinic. I’ll write you an email about my current miserable middle-aged life to try and encourage you to keep the life support machine switched on for a little while longer. Do it for the kids, Mark.

Coming soon: What happened to Nile?

6 thoughts on “How I averted one blogger’s mid-life crisis…

  1. Nah, I don’t really miss my expat days. Being married with a kid, working an OK job back in Blighty, still travelling occasionally, none of this is bad. Every time I go back to China/Taiwan for work or to visit people I knew back in the day all I see is that it was always going to be the temporary thing that most of us said it would be at the time, and which were complaining was played-out and we had had enough of (because we had) before we left. Thinking of the old expats I used to know, I might sooner top myself than be one of them – big-talking booze-hounds either with lousy marriages or unmarried (and still bragging about their conquests).


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