I walked into the office and shook hands with a smiling
man named Mr Bleaucher. He was dressed very well, compared to me. He
shuffled a pile of papers like they were so many pancakes.
"I'm sure you'll be very pleased with her,"
he said. "She was picked by our compatibility computer out of over
one hundred ten million eligible women in the United States. We categorize
by race, religion, ethnic and regional background. . . "
I sat there interestedly, wishing I had taken a shower
before I came. It was a very nice office but the chair wasn't too
"And now . . . " he said. He flung open the
door to the next room like a magician. He needed a cape , though. I was
expecting a rabbit but I got a surprise.
She was pretty. Really, she was pretty.
"Mr Walker, this is Miss Dunfield of Laughing
Miss Dunfield, this is Mr Franklin Walker of New York. "
"Really Frank. Franklin is something else
again," I said. I
was a little nervous. She was pretty, you see.
Mr Bleaucher left and we were able to talk.
"Hello," she said.
"I'm ... I'm very pleased with the choice," I
said. I was trying to be suave. Maybe she didn't like being called a
choice. "I mean - I'm glad the way things turned out. "
She smiled. She had a nice smile. Good teeth.
"Thank you," she said. "So am I. "
She was shy.
"I'm thirty-one," I blurted out.
"Yes , I know , " she said. "It's all on
the cards. "
It seemed like the conversation was about over.
Everything was on the cards. So there wasn't really much to talk about.
"How about children?" she said.
. "Three. Two boys and a girl. "
"That's exactly what I want," she said.
"It's down on the file under `Future Planning' . That one there.
I suddenly noticed that sheaf of papers in my hand. On
the first page was glued an IBM card with vital statistics about her. I
guessed the thing she was holding was the same thing on me. I began
looking through it and so did she. The turning pages made a lot of noise.
It said she liked classical music. (This was in
"Preferences and Habits". )
"You like classical music?" I asked her.
"Well. . . better than anything else. I also have
the complete collection of Frankie Laine records. "
"He was a great old singer," I agreed.
I went on looking through the file and so did she. She
liked books , football , sitting near the front in movies , sleeping with
the windows closed, dogs, cats, goldfish, tuna fish, salami sandwiches,
simple clothes, private schools for the children (our children, really),
living in the suburbs, art museums. ...
She looked up. "It seems we like the same things ,
" she said.
"The exact same things , " I said.
I read the report titled "Psychology". She
was shy, avoided arguments, wasn't outspoken, a good mother type.
"I'm glad you don't drink or smoke," she
"I don't. I don't like to. Sometimes I have beer,
though. " "It doesn't say so down here. "
"Well, maybe I forgot to put that down. " I
hoped she didn't mind.
We finished reading the reports on each other.
"We're very much alike , " she said.
Alice and I have been married for nine years now. We
have the three kids already, two boys and a girl. We live in the suburbs
and listen to a lot of classical and Frankie Laine records. The last time
we had an argument is too far back to remember. We agree on practically
everything. She's been a good wife and, if I may say so, I've been a good
husband. Our marriage is perfect.
We're getting divorced next month. I can't stand it.
Mum's first attempt at match-making ended in dismal
failure. People say as a woman approaches middle age, she interests
herself in young people's love affairs and likes match-making. If this is
true, I hope this first failure would discourage Mum from acquiring such
I really don't know why she should have gone to such
lengths to try to bring those two young people together. It was a
fruitless and thankless job, doomed from the start because both parties
put impossible demands on the opposite side. The man, Xiao Liu, is about
thirty and works in Mum's office, apparently a very promising young man
with an M. A. degree.
Because he is
very choosy he has never been able to find a wife and is beginning to get
worried as he will soon be over thirty. The girl works in Dad's office and
is twenty-eight. She is also a college graduate and very good at her work.
She is quite pretty and has a very strong character. She too has not been
able to find a husband because she is too choosy. Mum had thought
innocently that however choosy they might have been, they would surely be
satisfied this time. So she invited them over to meet in our house. She
even went to the trouble of cooking them a delicious dinner.
But Mum's pairis were not rewarded. I don't know how they appreciated
Mum's dinner, liut they certainly didn't appreciate each other. Xiao Wu
could only meet two of Xiao Liu's numerous demands. She is pretty and she
has a college degree. But besides that he also wants the girl to be under
twenty-five, to be gentle and docile, a periect housewife. He thought Xiao
Wu had too strong a character and that he wouldn't be able to
"control her ".
On the other hand
he fared even worse in Xiao Wu's eyes, having met only one of her demands.
He is a post-graduate student which is one of her prerequisites for a
future hus band, and this seems to be the only thing in his favour. She
wants her future husband to be an overseas Chinese, or at least to have
relatives overseas , so that she could go abroad someday.
Also she wants
the man to be around l. 75m in height and Xiao Liu is only 1. 68m. I've
heard people say that nowadays, girls consider any young man under 1. 7m
as a semi-handicapped, Thank God; I'm already l. 73m and with any luck I
can grow another 5cm - a most respectable height. But I don't have any
relatives abroad though!
Mum was most annoyed, and put all the blame on the
girl. "What more does she want? She should realize that she's already
28 and she'll never find such an eligible young man again. " Mum
never mentioned a word about Xiao Liu's own objections."Who told you
to help such an arrogant young man? Xiao Wu is a hundred times better than
he is. Any sensible young man would have jumped at the chance. "
"Jump at the chance ! I bet you wish you could
jump at the chance yourself ! "
Dad didn't know whether to laugh or to be angry.
A 50-year-old woman could not help crying when she
heard a story written by her husband over the radio, recalling the early
days of their marriage.
The story by Shen Lijun, a senior lecturer at the
Changsha Commercial School in this capital of Hunan Province , depicted
how he , then a college graduate, met and married his wife, Long Huilan,
when he was labelled a right-winger and forced to work in a neighbourhood
factory in the 1960s.
Shen said, "In those days, I dared not fall in
love with any girls because of my inferior political status, and married
the first girl who was willing. " The couple confessed they did have
differences of interests.
After Shen became a lecturer, most of his visitors were
intellectuals, Long said. "After serving them a cup
of tea, I had nothing to say and sat aside. Because of their cultural
background, I could not get a word in edgeways during the chats. By and
by, I came to see a gap between us. "
According to Shen, he and his wife also had different
ways to teach their children. "I did not like the way she treated our
children: spoiling them and then beating them if they did not study well
or listen to her.
"But whenever I come across contradictions with my
wife in daily life," Shen explained, "I like to recall those
days of hardship we shared together, and this has become a spiritual
support to us. "
Shen is a typical example among the middle-aged people
in China , an official
of the Changsha City Radio said.
The radio has opened a special programme to help
middle-aged couples deepen their love by reviewing the past and exchanging
experiences. The programme has become popular with listeners and has
received hundreds of letters from people from all walks of life.
He Yingcai, a judge of the Hunan Provincial Higher
People's Court, said middle-aged couples account for one third of those
married in the province. Traditionally, the marriage of young people was
arranged by their parents and couples paid more attention to each other's
family background and political affiliation than their own feelings.
As a result, many couples have no feelings for each
other, though they have been married for years.
According to statistics, about one quarter of the 27,
000 couples divorced last year were middle-aged.
Rong Xiuqin, an official of the Hunan Provincial
Women's Federation,said although the divorce rate among middle-aged people
is lower than among people of other ages, this does not mean that their
family lives are harmonious. For the sake of their children, many people
try to make the best of it.
"It is our duty to.help them form harmonious
families because social stability depends on the stability of
families," she said.
Tang Xiying, a sociologist specializing in marriage and
women, noted that Chinese families may not be.formed on the basis of
feelings, but feelings for each other are the key to stabilizing a family.