Wednesday 11 May 2016

How to hang on to your husband in Hong Kong (You dim sum, you lose some)

My friend’s husband of 30 years has just left her for a prostitute the same age as their daughter. He’s taken a lump sum out of the joint account to pay off the pimp so they can live happily ever after. It’s so romantic; it makes me want to punch him in the face. (It’s OK, she doesn’t mind me writing about it) Apparently it’s the real deal, they love each other and will do whatever it takes to be together including binning off the wife and kids and 30 years of shared history. 

Yeah, yeah, of course nobody knows what really goes on in a marriage but she must have been doing something right all this time - so why now? 

Hong Kong is where marriages go to die. I’ve heard this a hundred times. Existing problems? Maybe, but they're dropping like flies. Apparently there’s a church hall in Kowloon where cast-off, expat women (of a certain age) meet once a week for tea and sympathy. They are shell-shocked and tearful. As if weeping over lost youth and hot flushes weren’t enough, they are now faced with the utter perfidiousness of their other halves in this new and already difficult phase of life. 

Get married, have kids, experience life’s rich tapestry, laugh, cry, grow old together then BAM! A night out with the lads in Lan Kwai Fong and hubby’s seen the light! It dawns on him that he is actually a god because he is surrounded by nubile young women who totes adore him. They laugh at his jokes and squeeze his big, strong muscles, all the while eyeing up his wristwatch and suit, scanning for brands. He can’t believe his luck. Why put up with a wife with crow’s feet and a thickening waist when he can have his pick of any one of these gorgeous, sexy girls? 

Is it possible that an otherwise intelligent man who has advanced his career by making careful and balanced decisions can actually believe these laydeez fancy him for his silver-fox looks? Can he be that stoopid? I don’t believe it. It’s a basic and cynical trade off. Wherever there is economic imbalance in the world, there are deals to be had. Just as I don’t blame the wife for growing old, I don’t blame the new piece either. She is just trying to improve her lot. There’s exploitation on both sides. He gets a hot, young girl to feel up and she gets a new frock, a holiday and sparkly things. Hopefully, a baby will seal the deal; golden handcuffs?

Young, poorly-educated women from relatively poor South-East Asian countries pour into Hong Kong every day looking for work as maids and nannies. They find themselves in grand homes looking after children, cooking and cleaning. Occasionally they must look around and think, ‘I want some of this. Let me think of a strategy.’ And the strategy is not that complicated – throw a few sultry looks at the Mister, appeal to his vanity. Job done! I know another lady whose husband ran off with the maid and now he won't even speak to her or their child. "So full of artless jealously is guilt, it spills itself in fearing to be spilt." That's Shakespeare, that is.

Of course, this is not just a Hong Kong thing.  Pretty much anywhere in South East Asia you see these improbable couples – RWOWM (relatively wealthy old white man) and PYAG (poor young Asian girl). She’s petite, gorgeous and 20 and he’s a red-faced, fat and balding granddad with ear and nose hair. Excuse my typecasting and please forgive me if you are a PYAG who is genuinely in love with a RWOWM, warts ‘n’ all. Good luck to you both!

I'm going to give the men a break here. When I lived in West Africa, the situation was same, same but different. The beaches were crawling with divorced nans in their sixties hand-in-hand with 20-year old body-builders. The dream was to sell up in Wolverhampton and use the money to buy a beach bar. Two years later they’re on an ITV documentary moaning about how they lost everything, betrayed by their young lovers who, surprise, surprise turned out to be serial gigolos.

How deluded are these people? What kind of opinion must you have of yourself to think a virile young stud could possibly be turned on by your too, too sullied flesh? No, it’s a straight trade. Bang for buck.

I had an Austrian boyfriend once and after a few weeks it bothered me that he never got my jokes and it bothered him that I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. It didn’t last long. We were both in our early twenties so how do you deal with the communication problem as well as the cultural and age differences? 

When I went to see Child 44 at the cinema in Hong Kong, there were several RWOWM/PYAG couples in there. This is a film about a disgraced member of the Russian military police investigating a series of child murders in Stalin-era Soviet Union – so not exactly easy viewing. I watched as the men leant over and started explaining in Pidgin English what was going on during every scene. The girls appeared to be bored out of their skulls; they nodded politely and surreptitiously checked their phones. As we filed out into the mall, traumatized by the final scenes, three of the PYAGs darted into Kate Spade to look at the dresses. They had done his thing, now it was time to do theirs. Quid pro quo.

I’m not young anymore and to be honest the thought of entertaining a 20-year- old stud muffin and-explaining-things-to-him exhausts me. I’d rather watch the telly. I bought a pair of shoes the other day and my daughter asked me if I was shopping for comfort now. I thought about it long and hard and said yes. I yam what I yam.  

In the changing room at Flex this morning I thoroughly enjoyed a conversation between two beanpoles in their 20s. One tells the other, ‘my therapist says I need something else in my life because I don’t drink or smoke or go to clubs, all I ever do is go to yoga and Pilates. I need something edgy.’
‘So what are you going to do then?’
‘Oh, I’ve signed up for spin class. It’s insane!’

Jeez, I wouldn’t trade my blubber for a life like that. It’s the price I’ve paid for some rollicking good nights out over he years with the husband who I am leaving all on his own in Hong Kong for a year while I go back to sort out some family stuff. But it's OK because we have a rock solid marriage, don’t we Babe?


So, how do you hang on to your husband in Hong Kong? I don’t know, I lulled you in with this title. Short of standing outside the 7/11 in LKF with a pitchfork shouting: 'Get orf my man' there's nothing you can do. I guess you just have to make sure you pick a good ‘un in the first place and hope for the best!