One day a few years ago, I received a call from my best friend Ping. He told me he had a long-term boyfriend, Lin, and they needed my help.
While it was a surprise to discover that my best friend was gay, I wasn't all that shocked. I had just finished graduate school in California and moved back to Beijing, and I felt I could better understand his situation with my newly gained perspectives.
Ping said that he and Lin had just purchased an apartment. The problem was that Ping’s colleagues wanted him to throw a housewarming party. Lin and Ping felt that they could not refuse this request but were worried about revealing their relationship.
For years Lin’s colleagues had tried to set up blind dates for him, which Lin had gently shrugged off by explaining that he had a “partner” who was living abroad, without revealing or lying about his real relationship. However, the news that he had bought an apartment with his partner had leaked out, putting the two of them on the spot.
For many people in China, homosexuality remains a taboo topic. “Tongzhi,” or comrade, is widely used as the nickname for homosexuals in China. For the majority who have not come out of the closet, they often need to pretend to have heterosexual partners.
That was why Ping came up with the idea to ask me to act as Lin’s girlfriend and host the party. I agreed because I wanted to help and because I realised that they had come out of the closet to me in order to get my help.
We had one night to plan the party. We decided that Ping would cook dinner in advance and be introduced as my cousin. I would put on an apron and serve dinner. We prepared a long list of questions and answers about when, where and how we met, how we fell in love, when we bought an apartment together and when we got engaged.
The next day I brought some of my belongings to Lin and Ping’s apartment. I put some of my make-up in their bathroom and arranged some feminine ornaments around the apartment. I also brought two large framed photos.
I hung one photo of me in a short skirt on the wall directly facing the bedroom door where people would see it if they looked into the room. I hung another photo of me standing in front of the Golden Gate Bridge on the wall in the living room to show that I had been abroad, explaining why no one had seen me before.
On the day of the party, a dozen guests showed up. I smiled and greeted everyone, showed them to their seats and poured tea for them. My “cousin” helped me to dish up the food.
As hostess, I had to fill a bowl of rice for everyone. This, I discovered, was the trickiest part, because many of the guests saw it as an opportunity to follow me to the kitchen and ask me questions. Fortunately, I had the prepared Q&A list to fall back on.
That night the unhappiest person was Ping. The guests completely ignored him, concentrating on my “love story,” which was actually his. After joining the guests to compliment me on how delicious the food was (when he was actually the cook), Ping had remained silent.
Lin had acted pretty well, appearing relaxed when answering questions about how our wedding would be.
The whole evening was very stressful and it was a relief to see the last guest leave. One minute I was engaged and the next back to being single.
Finally, I realised my stomach was empty. I had paid so much attention to the guests that I had completely forgotten to eat.
While I don’t see much of Ping and Lin, we are still close. It’s good to know that you can really trust and be open with someone.
As for me, I’m one of “the left-over” girls. I don’t like the notion that I’m stuck on the shelf. I am just a bit stubborn as I’m not giving up my search for true love. Who said it would be easy? I think I should follow my heart.