A tale of two T-shirts…


This is actually a very popular feat in Shanghai where many couples enjoy flaunting their “coupliness’ in this way. I guess I’ve seen these sorts of match-ups so often now I’m finally starting to find some of them cute (did I just say that?).

This reminds me. On my first day at work, I was told to be in the lounge for “my welcoming” at 11:50.  “Yes of course, no problem!” I replied. My boss then said to me in the most casual tone “Just prepare something brief to say, like your name, occupation and do you have a boyfriend”. I had a double take but found this last request more bemusing than offensive although in France this is unheard of: we do not mix private and public life like this, not at all. You’d expect to be friends with a person before thinking of asking this sort of question.

We huddled up in a large circle with the rest of the staff (mainly quite young Chinese teachers), and I was the first to introduce myself. I made it very basic.

Then the turn went around and I noticed they really liked to add an element of joke into their introductions, like

“My name is Yao Lin, my older brother is Yao Ming and that’s how you can remember me!” (note – Yao Ming is the famous and adored basketball player)

or “She’s Wan Tingting, she never ever stops!” *giggle* (note – Wan or 完 means end and Ting or 停 means stop, so although the girl’s name isn’t written in these specific characters the sounds are the same)

or “I’m Sisi and I’m born in 1988 and I’m…14 years old!” and with this the speaker puts up those V fingers for victory with a smile across her face.

This is only a small snippet of the stuff they would say and it was actually quite amusing. What I found especially awkward however was when they spoke of their boyfriend situation (yes the office was all girls).

They would either end their short spiel with a brief brushing-the-topic-aside comment, their eyes flitting to the floor “…and-a no, no boyfriend” or they would smugly say “…and yes I have a boyfriend, thank you!”, this last “thank you” being accompanied with a short nod of the head as if acknowledging in some way the luck she had, simultaneously giving off the unsaid message ‘I know, it’s happened to me but don’t worry it’ll happen to you too!’

I easily picture those behavioral traits in another circle of speakers… “and no, I failed and wasn’t able to resist the vodka yesterday” [head down, shaking – ashamed], the next saying “I’ve been clean for one week, yes, thank you!” [short head nod – ‘but don’t worry, I’m not going to dig it in! -too much…’]

This little performance was repeated for each newcomer: same circle, same jokes and same unease.

I conclude that age and names absolutely seem to be areas to crack jokes about amongst Chinese in the workplace, however the boyfriend situation which I’m sure is raised to crack the ice sometimes felt like an uncomfortable confession being pressed out.  It was a reminder of the importance being in a couple has in China. The younger ones have less pressure, and as they get older, it is easy to feel they sense the eyes of judgment fall upon them.

So turning back to our T-shirt situation in China, are these complementary tops the reflection of a deep and eternal love? Or are they a means to show off to other more unlucky souls by arousing envy in their stride?

They are such a big no-no in France that upon my first sight of them, I thought things like “What the hell have they got to prove? How childish are those T-shirts? Really, you want me to know you’re with him?!” etc; I found it quite cringeworthy to see.

My cynical mind would see these T-shirts screaming one message with its owner’s murmuring another:

“I’M NOT SINGLE ANYMORE!” (but YOU are, sucker!)

“I’VE FOUND MY LOVE AND WE ARE SO HAPPY” (I just need to wear this enough and I’ll believe it)

“LOOK HOW AMAZING WE LOOK TOGETHER!” (yeah just keep your eye on the T-shirts, they match better than we do...)

Now I guess I’m finally taking off my French goggles and seeing the fun in them.  The French side of me would still be unwilling to wear them out in the street on an ordinary day (I would consider Halloween), but my Chinese side is smiling now instead of wrinkling my nose up at the sight.

…and FYI a large choice of them can be found cheaply on Qipu Road 七浦路, Tiantong Road station  😉

Image | This entry was posted in Life in Shanghai, shock, Thought and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A tale of two T-shirts…

  1. viniagong says:

    I’ve been used to see that match t-shirts everywhere… trust me, you will see more funny pattern…

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