Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Two Very Different Blankets! , by C. JoyBell C.

This is a reblog  from a beautiful person whom I  have great admiration and respect. Her take on differences in culture and how it affects relationships and humanity as a whole  is very refreshing.  She is a product of intercultural relationship;  she is a world traveler;   she is young, spirited and always dynamic.    Her mature insights are often a delightful revelation.  Let me introduce Charity, or C Joybell C.  To quote from her blog's introduction: 
C. JoyBell C. is known to often say, "I grew up on airplanes," referring to her memories that occurred more often on an airplane, than not! An American born self-taught writer of Asiatic Anglo-Celtic European descent, she grew up in-between cultures and crossing borders, her great-grandfather was a Taoist High Priest while her other great-grandfather was a Southern Georgia Baptist Herald. Fighting to live her life for herself and not for others, she is defying her status quo in being a writer and this is exemplary of who she is. She is the author of "Saint Paul Trois Châteaux: 1948" and "The Sun Is Snowing: Poetry & Prose."

The Two Very Different Blankets!

I often talk about how big a deal culture is when it comes to human interactions. People are quick to dismiss this fact, they shrug their shoulders and say "Oh we're all human and our souls have only one culture so it doesn't really matter, I don't see culture I only see hearts." Very nice words to hear, but very unrealistic. When put into a situation where those very same people need to adjust to people of different mind sets and means of expression, suddenly those very nice words don't have much muscle! That's because, the truth is, we are all affected by our cultures and by the cultures we've been exposed to. We judge people and write them off as being like this and as being like that, when in fact all those "like this's" and "like that's" are cultural differences! Of course, this isn't applicable to every single difference between people, but the greater percentage? Most certainly so.

I have had the vantage point in life, since I was a child, to be immersed first-hand in different cultures. I truly know what the word "adjust" means and I truly know what things begin to look like when people resist compromise and the willingness to understand each other. It can literally break families apart. Right now, I am always the one who steps up in between people in the family and says "Wait a minute, don't say that about her, because this is what her culture is like..." and I explain things. Or I'm the one saying "Wait a minute, it doesn't necessarily mean that, it most probably means this because this is what his culture is like..." and I explain the cultural differences. It's like walking on ice. And I can walk on ice.

To make things easier for people to understand, I like to divide the cultures of the world into two major groups. Of course I know that each and every culture has it's own colors and tunes, but there are two big blankets that cover, that overlay, and it's easier when we look at all people as laying underneath either one of these blankets. This is how I like to show it: one blanket is covered in vibrant, raw colors! Exuberant and flawlessly animated and free! The other blanket is a blanket made of subdued colors! Understated, mute, reserved. I'd like to say that I could roll underneath either blanket and feel comfortable, but to believe that would be naive of me! I can move around well underneath either blanket, but I prefer to sleep under only one. I think that no matter how well you are able to move around underneath these two blankets, you are going to prefer to sleep under just one.

We have very raw and vibrant, expressive and free, uninhibited peoples, such as the Greeks, the Italians, the South Americans, and etc. And there are the very reserved peoples: the French, the Northern Europeans, and various social communities in the United States, the Chinese, and etc. In the Orient, you'll find the most reserved culture is the Chinese culture, with the French culture being the most reserved culture on the European continent (in my opinion and view of things). You may argue that you'll find very understated people in countries like Norway, but the thing about Norwegians for example, is that though they are reserved as a people; once you do make that connection and are able to go beyond that wall, you've found a truly warm, truly giving, truly understanding friend for life! And that's different from lets say, the French, who can be very giving and warm initially, if they so choose to, but then you eventually do hit that wall you aren't allowed to go beyond. So it is the positioning of that wall which makes all the difference! As with the Germans; you hit the wall first, but going beyond that wall you find a friend for life! The Chinese culture is very interesting, as there is absolutely no room for mistakes, there is a wall in the beginning, in the middle, and in the end, and there are so many polite traditions (like the French politeness and traditions), that it's rather difficult to determine if the person is being genuinely loving and accepting, or if that same person is just "performing" what is socially acceptable and expected of him/her! Now, people will always say that the French are snobs, but I strongly disagree. The French are not snobs. When I am in France, I am honestly the biggest snob in France, so it is impossible to believe that the French are snobs! Au contraire, the French can be very warm, kind, extremely, extremely polite people! But then! They have this fear of going deeper! It is a fear that suddenly grips them and shakes them and they simply can't move! And it is a jealousy, as well! It's not a snobbery, it is a jealousy. If you make a French friend, don't be surprised if this French friend denounces you as their friend if you attempt to make a friendship with any one of their other friends! And vice versa! To the French, one's friend belongs to one alone! And to introduce a friend to another friend is like giving away what is yours, it is a heresy, a blasphemy! And so you can just imagine for yourself what kind of a society occurs when people don't want to be friends with other people's friends, when people say "this person is mine." In other parts of the world, we go to parties to socialize with other people's friends and make friends out of those people, but not in France! This is not their reason to go to parties! So, as you can see, this is a jealousy, they cannot take to see a human warmth emanating between people that they want to be their own. So, the root of it all is not a snobbery. I am a snob. The French? The French are not snobs, the French are a jealous people. Jealous and reserved.

When we look unto cultures like that of Greece, where friends literally feed each other food with their own fingers: sticking that food into their friends' mouthes; we are looking at an almost completely different species! There are none of those walls, none of those inhibitions (physically and emotionally), you can meet a Greek person today and in this same day be that person's friend for life, and then go home with that friend and meet his/her family and friends and all of their family and friends are now your family and friends! And this is the kind of flow you will find in the Italian culture, where people really are not going to spend time making every effort to be polite to all the other people around them. I personally feel comfortable underneath this blanket! I could never spend my life wondering what every single person around me is thinking if I laugh too loud or if I forget to say "bonjour" or "au revoir" to the sales person who sold me my compact powder. I couldn't go through life like that, period. It doesn't work for me. I'm not an extremely polite person. And I like to feed people I love! I like to put food in their mouthes and I like to make a friend for life, in a single day! I like to hear people laughing too loud and shouting at each other and I like to hear people making love in apartments while I walk through the streets! This is the blanket that I feel comfortable under. And I want all my friends to be each others' friends, as well! I can see how this can be deemed as rude, inappropriate, and etc. but as I have said in the past, "...who cares about polite?", " want people to remember you as the passionate one, not the polite one." With that being said, I do believe that there are many polite ways and polite manners that we all would benefit from having. I am extremely polite when compared to some of the people I know, but I am not extremely polite when compared to the French or the Chinese. The French are to Europe what the Chinese are to the Orient. The Chinese are the French of the Orient.

I don't like to discriminate people and say that all people are the same, but these two "blankets" can give all of us a very general, broad, and easy view so that we can realize what kind of culture we fall under (generally) which is the first step to seeing yourself for who you are, what you want, and what direction you should take in life when it comes to meeting people and looking at serious relationships with people. Of course, it's always possible that a Greek person and a French person get married and be in love despite all of those differences, that a Chinese person and an Italian person understand each other and become friends for life! This is always possible. And, I need to point out that here in this article I've written, I'm discussing culture, not race. You can be full-blooded Chinese but having been born and raised in Brazil, you are a completely vibrant Brazilian in heart and in mind! Because it's not the race that influences people, really. It is the culture. And I hope this little article of mine will be something that you the reader will take to heart and benefit from in the future.

As a final note to this piece I've written, I want to leave you with the thought, that you don't always have to stick to the norms of your own culture. You have the freedom to choose, to say, "I want to be that way" or "I would rather change my ways and adapt their ways" because this lifetime isn't forever, and you weren't born into the world in a cage and under rules stating that you must under any circumstance stick to one pattern of thought and only one pattern of living and outlook on life! You don't have to be only one way just because everyone else around you is only that way. You can be you, and you is whoever you choose to be!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

What's The Big Deal in Joining a Guy on a Table Inside a Bar?

 Dear Mirriam and James,

I am a young, pretty and a decent girl although I work in a bar in the Philippines.  We have a husband and wife customers who frequent the bar and one night the wife complained to the bar owner, telling her that she (the wife) was disappointed in me, and does not like me to share a table with her husband.

You see it happened like this:  The husband and wife always come to our bar to listen to the music and they always occupy the same table.  Lately, the wife  joined the table of her woman friend who also went there with her fiance.  Her husband was left alone on their table, although he was sitting side by side with the fiance of the wife's friend and they were also chatting.   I decided to sit where his wife always sat before she joined her friend, and according to the wife,  "I shared her  husband's table".  That night I noticed that the wife was looking  at me, but I know I was not doing anything bad so I did not budge in my seat, I am innocent!  I noticed that the husband looked at me now and then and my co workers in the bar started to tease me. After a while the husband transferred seat and joined his wife on the other table.  The next day, she sent a CP text message to the bar owner, told  her that she was disappointed  with me.  What's the big deal with that, I just sat there, never asked for a drink from the husband, never even said hello, etc.  I was just talking to my other co-workers in the bar.  I think the wife is over the top and arrogant, so when they came back I frowned at her to show her that I was pissed with her.

Pretty Innocent Girl

Dear Pretty,

If I were the wife, I would not have waited for the next day to complain to the bar owner.  Right then and there, I would have approached you and would have put you in your place - standing and serving orders to the customers.  Don't your manager or bar owner teach you that as a worker in a bar, you are not supposed to sit with the customer unless you are invited?   Granting it is true that you did not mean to really join the husband, and you sat there in order to chat with other co-workers, do remember that you are paid to work, not to sit and chat with your co-workers.  And you were audacious enough to "frown" at the wife the next night?  That's bad attitude and your manager or bar owner should teach you how to please not only the male customers but also the wives or girlfriends. The female companions of your male customers are customers too.  It's okay to be playful and flirtatious with male customers, but don't do it  if they are with their girlfriend or wife, however 'innocently' done.


Hello Pretty,

Netanyahu asked this on the TV recently, “If it looks like a duck, if it walks like a duck, if it quacks like a duck, then what is it? Yeah, that’s right, it’s a duck, a nuclear duck".  In this case a bar duck. 

All over the world, any woman, bar worker on not,  who joins a man in a table in a bar is in effect 'inviting' - inviting attention, inviting for offer of ladies' drinks, or maybe inviting 'boom boom' as you call it in Asia. And if the man is with his wife, you are inviting for a threesome!   Who the hell cares if you only sat there in order to talk with another co-worker?  Stop this nonsense about your 'innocence'  and  grow up already. 


Friday, January 20, 2012

What Do I Do to Her Visiting Relatives Who Take Over Our House?

Dear James and Mirriam,

My wife, a Filipina and I (I am Dutch) live in a spacious  condo unit in Makati. Our place is  good enough for my three-year-old son, my wife and I.  However her relatives visit us at twice  a year.  We have an extra bedroom for guests but when they come, their minimum number is three.   I feel uncomfortable if  there are five or more guests, and some   have to sleep in our living room, and also stay with us for more than one month.  During these relatives' visits  I feel like I am invisible.  My wife caters to all of their needs, wants and whims, and tells me these  are all expected of her.  I could understand that they miss each other and they have to catch up with each others'  life stories, hence the constant chattering in their dialect,  consuming  lots of food, drinks, etc. I hate that they also take over my house - they tell my wife how everything should be done like rearranging our furniture; how to 'discipline' our son, how to cook our food; etc.   What annoys me is suddenly my wife treats me  like a second-class citizen in my own home.  She has to cook Nanay or Tatay's favorite food; go to the beauty salon with her sister; go out shopping with everyone;  watch Tagalog movies in movie theaters, etc.  I feel left out, and all the while I am spending more money for everyday expenses and their shopping, eating out, etc. 

My son unwittingly joins the 'snubbing'.  He goes out to 'them' for his needs, for his socialization, etc. There are times that I am not able to control myself and become sarcastic to all of them, although I don't think they understand or maybe they just don't care at all.   I long for the day when her relatives leave and we are living 'normal' again.  I have another worry:   Her older sister who had just separated from her husband  would like to live with us.  She has two sons.  I don't like her relatives living with us, especially that they think  they have the right to take over my home.  What shall I do?   

Invisible Husband
Free image from

Dear Invisible Husband,

Have you talked to your wife about how you feel?  You and your wife should have a serious talk on  how her relatives are damaging your relationship.    You should agree on the duration of her relatives' visit;   the number of relatives who could visit, etc.   Your wife should be able to understand how you feel, and should be considerate enough to have her relatives  adjust to your kind of lifestyle.   It is not your place to talk with her relatives about your discomfort or annoyance, and your sarcasm is not the right  way of expressing your feelings.   Your wife should be 'ambassadress' to keep the peace between you and her relatives by catering to your and your son's needs before her relatives' wants and needs.  

As regards her sister, if you are not comfortable with her staying with your family, be frank about it.  You may help the sister to find a good accommodation, and help financially  until she gets a job out of the goodness of your heart, but you're in no obligation to give her support.  You and your wife should make it clear to the sister what kind and to what extent you are helping her. 


Dear Invisible Husband,

I agree with Mirriam's advice and if that does not work, tell your wife you are consulting a divorce lawyer.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Where Do I Look for a Decent Foreigner Lover?

Dear James and Mirriam,
Chinese ActressZhang Yi and Vivi Nevo

I am a forty-five years old, Asian, single and looking for a partner in life or lover.  I was busy with my career - took up MA and MBA and modesty aside, I have a high position in our company.     I also took care of my family - sent my younger siblings to college and until now I am helping them financially.  I feel that now is the time for me to take care of myself and my happiness too.  I prefer foreigners because I have been burned many times by my countrymen. I hate to generalize, but speaking from experiences, I think my  'countrymen' are only after my money.  They see me as a prospective sugar mommy!  I would like someone to be intimate with, not only  physically as in sex, but also intellectually and emotionally.  Where do I find them?  Friends have  told me to go to gyms, bars, or join clubs or organizations where there are lots of foreigners. I have tried going to a bar where there are supposed to be lots of foreigners, but I see most of them with young bar girls, and only one  or two would talk to me a bit and won't even offer to buy me a drink.   What is your advice?

 Mildred Patricia (Patty)

Dear Mildred Patricia,

I admire your fortitude in helping out your family before your own interests, especially concerning  the matters of the heart.  Your friends are right in advising you where to seek for a foreigner partner/lover.  Men, regardless of nationality,  would love a person like you who have a big heart.    Don't filter out your countrymen altogether as there may be some who are also good as friends and could provide you emotional and intellectual intimacy.  Also they could have foreigner friends to introduce you to.  Be patient, start with having friends, relax and enjoy yourself  with their friendship first.   A word of caution: not all foreigners have a good heart and certainly not all could match for your IQ and EQ (emotional quotient).  Don't set your standards too high, or you may be in for disappointment. 


Soprano Star James Gandolfini & Deborah Lin
Dear Patty,

I agree with James' advice.  I'd like to add - location, location, location.  Don't go to places where the majority of women/girls  are younger and prettier, regardless of them being a bar girl, etc. You would like to go to a place where you don't call attention to your age by being compared to younger women.   Choose a place classy enough for you, where you could meet classy people, foreigners included.  Sleazy bars and seedy places are not good places to look for a partner/lover. You should be in a situation and place where you could shine.  Be a member of Toastmasters' Club or any organization that showcases your talents and capabilities.  Don't disregard the internet.   There are lots of matchmaking websites in internet where you could get to know more men and it's a lot safer too.  After knowing someone enough in internet, arrange to meet him in a safe place where you two could get to know each other and could socialize with other people too. 


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Don't Hate Me Because I am Beautiful!

Dear James and Mirriam,

I am a young bride, married to a foreigner who people sometimes mistake as my father.  When he was still courting me I got the impression that he was well-off.  I was not overly in love with him, in fact I was fancying a younger man.  I was working in a bar when we met.  I was young and I did not intend to work in a bar in a foreign country too.  This man who became my husband helped me to get out from that bar and together we returned to my country.  We got married, we live comfortably but  I miss the days when I was an entertainer and clients give me a huge tip for a song or for sitting and having drinks with them. 

We came to know another couple whom we treated as our parents.  They were older, wiser,  and they were nice to us. They are also well-off.   We always went out together in excursions, in bar hopping, etc.  One time, the wife went to the city to attend a convention and the old man and us,  together with another couple went bar-hopping.  I saw that the husband was a little lonely so I did my best to humor him.  He was agreeable and even more well-behaved when his wife is not around.  He and his wife, although they love each other very much,  are always bickering in public and we find it amusing. The husband liked the attention I gave him and I was happy that he warmed up to me.

The problem is I developed a schoolgirl crush on the husband  and the wife noticed. I made the mistake too of posting on my Facebook status what I feel about the whole situation, how I feel about him.  I guess the wife got pissed off (we are Facebook buddies) as she avoided our company, although the husband still went with us.  My husband and I noticed the wife's avoidance so we did not invite her anymore to join us, and instead invited the husband only.  There was one time when we saw them in a bar and we decided to join this husband and wife with another couple.   We observed  that the wife was uncomfortable and decided to go home,  telling us that she was not feeling well.  The husband went home with her.  Each time we see them, the wife feigns sickness or something and would like to go home alone.  We have no problem about that but the husband always decides to go home with her too. I don't like to lose our friendship with them, and I even posted in my Facebook status that I am so in love with my husband and I am contented with our life and financial status. My husband also posted in his Facebook status that he loves me so much.  I am trying my best  not to flirt with the husband anymore, but can I help it if he looks my way?  I am very attractive, modesty aside.  I am an eye candy - I fix my long hair and everyone looks at how I expertly I tie my gorgeous hair in a bun; I look at the men sideways and they can't resist looking at me the whole evening; I smile at them with a naughty hint and men approach me, hover around me, even with my husband around.  Even in cyper space chat room, I have many admirers.  Some would even send me money, laptop, Blackberry, etc., but of course I can't take them as my husband will find out I am chatting in internet with other men while he's sleeping.    Back to my problem, can't the wife just forget the whole thing and be the friend that I used to have?  I miss our friendship - she used to give me nice  trinkets; treat me to nice restos; listen to my stories about my other admirers; give advice when my husband and I are fighting, etc.

Don't Hate Me Because I am Beautiful

Advice from Mirriam:

Dear Don't Hate Me Because I am Beautiful,

Give the wife peace.  How can you expect to be friends with the wife whose husband you flirted with?  And as you said, you are trying not to flirt with the husband anymore, but everyone could see that you are a natural flirt.  The wife tolerated your flirtation before, because they were directed to other men.   Being a friend of hers before,  she must have known your tricks already. Your crush on the old man may be borne out of your fantasies of having a luxurious life with him as you said they are well-off.   Put yourself in the wife's shoes,  do you think that trust could be restored after this?  Don't count on it. Be grateful that she did not pull your hair.  Be grateful that you have a tolerant husband. Count your blessings.  Let this experience be a lesson to you.  Don't flirt with your friend's husband, don't flirt with any other men.  There are good subtle flirtations which could make the other person feel good, like what you did when the wife was away, but bringing it to another level which I assumed you did as you admitted you developed a crush on the husband is not acceptable. 


Advice from James:

Dear Don't Hate Me Because I am Beautiful,

What is your husband's stand on this?  Mirriam is right,  count your blessings.  You have a husband who loves you unconditionally.  Stop the flirtation with other men and grow up.  Your husband may not be able to give you the luxuries and the money that you used to enjoy when you were an entertainer, but you and him are building your life together now.  Your husband is thinking long term - your life together for fifty years or so, not an hour of entertainment in a bar.

You and your husband invited the husband only -  do you think he will enjoy and will be comfortable being with you and your husband while his wife is waiting at home? 

And what's this business of chatting with other men in cyber space?  Are you still looking?  Devote your time to more productive stuff, like keeping your house, learning to cook, educating yourself, reading worthwhile books, etc. 

Beauty and youth will fade, build a good character.

Friday, February 5, 2010

I Carry the Universe on my Shoulder

Dear James and Miriam,

I am a 26 year old, female, Amerasian, tall and good looking, and so confused.  My best  friend who used to be my boyfriend just left in order to start life anew in the rural areas without me, without anyone.  He is a foreigner.  I met him when I was a high school student. He promised we will be together 'til death do us part, and we decided to start a new business together.  He bought a building and had me as the owner of the building in all the legal papers as foreigners are not allowed to buy real estate properties here in the Philippines. He opened a girlie bar in the first floor of that building, and hotel rooms on the 2nd and 3rd floors.  We tried to make our business flourish.  We worked day and night for our business.  The girls that my boyfriend hired as dancers and waitresses also worked hard to seduce my boyfriend until one of them succeeded.  They became 'steady' too.  I was so devastated, I started working as a sex worker in his bar until I met an older man who took me away from the bar.  The relationship did not last.  Three more men came and went in my life.  The reason my relationship don't last is because they can't keep up with my family's expenses.  I am the sole breadwinner of our family.  My mother, an ex bar girl stays at home now, and I also send my 23-year-old brother to school. My mother and I started several home businesses but they failed.  My brother is too lazy to do his school work and is still finishing his high school.  I have not finished high school as I have to earn a living for my family. 
One of my conditions with any of the men who has relationship with me is that they also provide for my family.  They don't seem to understand the Filipino value of helping out the family. .  My first boyfriend and I became friends again after his failed relationships with several other girls after me.   The building he bought is still in my name and he has entrusted me to be the building administrator as he is having the building for rent now.  I feel sad that things did not work out between the two of us.  I feel sad that after our strings of relationships with other people both of us are still loveless and looking.  I have lost interest with men, my only concern now is earning for my family. I will be working again as a sex worker.  I feel old, I feel like changing gender, I would like a change of lifestyle too as my ex boyfriend is doing now, but I have a big responsibility to earn for my family.  What shall I do? 

Trina, the Woman Atlas

From James:

Dear Trina,

You don't have to change gender in order to change your luck. What you have to change is your family's treatment of you as the beast of burden.   Is your mother too old to move or is she invalid? If she is not, she could still work - maybe not as a bar girl or sex worker but other kind of jobs like sales girl, housekeeper, or market vendor, etc.  Your 23-year-old brother could take care of himself too, and could maybe help your mom and you too, even without him finishing college.  He could work and study at the same time if he likes. 
We foreigners don't relish providing for the whole family of our wife or girlfriend especially so if they could fend for themselves.  We encourage financial independence and responsibility.  Be assertive to your family.  Discuss with your family ways they could help themselves.  Give them a time frame in order for them to be financially independent.  You have to live life for yourself too.  In order for you to help others you must help yourself first. Don't sabotage a chance of a happy relationship by having your boyfriend provide for your family.


From Mirriam:

Dear Trina,

My heart goes out to you.  It must be sad to see the old boyfriend go.  You are still lucky as he gave you the responsibility as the building administrator.  You are earning money as such, right?  If you don't, you must ask for your rightful commission or salary. 
Yes, as James said, you must discuss with your family that you can not be the bread winner for the whole family.  You could help them now and then, but you should assert that each one of you should earn a living and be financially independent. Tell your brother to take responsibility.  Have your mom understand that in order for you and everyone to progress is for each one of you  to  have a source of income.  If she is not good in being a business woman, she could work as an employee.   Go away if you could in order for your message to your family to sink in.   They will not die of hunger, they could fend for themselves.  Continue your studies if you can.  You are still young and many opportunities could come your way.  I wish you lots of luck and God's blessings.