Missed Connections – a review of This Modern Love

 

http://www.travis-lee.org/2017/03/20/missed-connections-a-review-of-this-modern-love-by-ray-hecht

 

It’s like real life, but better – Tinder slogan.

Apps like Tinder are a natural consequence of a world of pickup artists and pseudo-harems, where 10% of the men fuck 90% of the women and everyone else is left paying hucksters thousands of dollars to learn how to play a game they were never fit to play in the first place.

Datings apps play a big role in Ray Hecht’s new book This Modern Love. Everyone is connected but everyone is lonely and we follow four of these lonely lives in Los Angeles as they seek attachment.

Ben Weiss stands at the crux of this book. Ben is an introverted coder whose relationship coldly ends because his girlfriend discovered his profile on dating websites while maintaining such profiles herself. Ben comes off as particularly emasculated, lost in a world of text seduction. “Cuck” might be the going term, though I’d never advise you to use it.

The others fare no better, even Jack who understands how the game is played. As they seek meaning, Ben pays for a sensual massage, Jack goes through women, Andrea sleeps with a middle-aged man and Carla writes fanfiction and does drugs, and no one comes away satisfied. There is no app or social media website that fills the void in their lives and love, if it exists in this world, cannot be distilled into a few kb of data and remains elusive to these people.

Although I initially thought I couldn’t relate to the people in This Modern Love, I think I understand them. In college I tried my hand at dating, with terrible results, and while I can’t empathize with Jack, I do pity Ben. Like many young men, lost in an increasingly disconnected world and a contest of counterintuitive rules which no one ever wins.

This Modern Love is available at Amazon.

 

by Travis Lee

THIS MODERN LOVE: a novel by Ray Hecht My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dots and Demitasse

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This book plays off several shades of the contemporary grunge with a persistent neo-noir gradation. It saturates the cliché and builds it up through every paragraph till it blows into a cumulonimbus of decay. It is a tale of ‘missed connections’ and opportunities. A dystopic dirge keeps throbbing in the background while the four protagonists dance to its tune in perfect psychedelia.

It is hard to go through the book from this frame of reference. We can see ourselves in the pages making love to cellphones and avatars and losing sight of the reality while sinking deep into the mire of a new strain of love, the new romance. No one cares anymore for ‘the real thing’. Is there actually something real? Well, we do not have the time to spare on that kind of discovery. In an age of fast food and digital cash, finding true love seems rather…

View original post 382 more words

THIS MODERN LOVE: a novel

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https://www.amazon.com/THIS-MODERN-LOVE-Ray-Hecht-ebook/dp/B01MA54L4I

 

I am pleased to announce the release of my latest novel, This Modern Love.

Unlike my previous writings about China, this story is primarily concerned with America. It is about the way that technology has skewed modern relationships, and explores various themes of youth and immigration, sex and emptiness and the whole soul-of-my-homeland thing.

Please check it out on Amazon. It is available as a Kindle eBook as well as a paperback edition. I believe it works well as a digital read.

If you would like to review, please contact me and I’d be happy to send it to you.

Thanks for reading!

 

Synopsis:

American love isn’t what it used to be.

Roommates Jack and Ben are complete opposites when it comes to romance. For Jack, a mere waiter, it’s easy to use to the latest to app meet a new girl every weekend. But Ben, even though he’s a programmer, can’t seem to figure out how to maneuver online dating.

On the other side of town, sisters Andrea and Carla have their own issues. Andrea is a bit of a wreck, stumbling from one dramatic episode to the next. Carla is more concerned with blogging than dating, though she does get lonely at times. In an age of narcissism and alienation, it’s just so hard to meet someone.

Over the course of one day, these thoroughly modern men and women keep passing each other by. From yoga class to the club – all in a haze of drugs, sex, and selfies – opportunities for true love come and go, and no one notices because they were too busy staring at their phones.

Welcome to the 21st century.

Book review: PET. a memoir of love and sex and domination

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When I came across “The Lesbian Pickup Artist” Flye Hudson’s guest post on SpeakingofChina.com which included an excerpt from the book PET., I was surprised to see the worlds of AMWF blogging (Asian Male White Female) overlap with the PUA scene (Pickup Artists). I’m not terribly familiar with pickup artists, but like many males I read Neil Strauss’s famous book The Game and tried to incorporate some of the advice without putting in too much effort embracing it. As a student of human nature, it’s certainly an interesting phenomenon. And that’s without even getting into misogynistic controversies.

PET. is a memoir by Flye Hudson about her experiences loving a professional pickup artist who happens to be a Taiwanese-American. It is definitely not a how-to guidebook, but simply an avenue for Hudson to express all that she went through in this tumultuous romance – some of which gets quite dark. It is intensely honest, even while names and locations are renamed, but feelings are the point and the honesty gets brutal.

The story begins by detailing the perils of online dating. Hudson, a bisexual woman of college age, posts on a fetish site that she prefers Asian men and only one guy stands out. Called Ryder Chan in the book, he soon explains that he wants a dominant-submissive relationship. Much of the memoir is about that as much as pickup. The Taiwanese/Chinese cultural side is minimal, with some scenes about the family but many people in America have an immigrant background and it’s not the central theme. The true focus is its about a submissive woman who falls in love with a hardcore dominant man, and all the conflict that enfolds from that dynamic.

Her lover is a rather unique individual, and makes her his “pet.” They engage in many sexual adventures which make for a good read. Lots of drama concerning multiple threesomes, hooking up with exes, cheating, his pickup artist history, and trying to work out a sort of open relationship on his terms. Hudson’s narration is often more about feelings than about detailed descriptions, and those feelings tend to range from intense love to intense self-loathing. The invisible “Borderline” is even a character of sorts, not a bad literary technique.

The biggest criticism in my view is that Ryder Chan is not much of a likable person at all. Hudson goes on and on about how much she loves him and the power of his love and being accepted, but judging from the stories shared he is usually rather cruel to her. There is so much talk of loyalty, again and again he gives orders and demands loyalty, and it’s hard to understand what the great appeal is. Basically, the love angle is an example of when writing is telling not showing, as so much of the text talks about love without showing stories that prove it. Even in the worst moment – without giving away spoilers – Chan basically drives the narrator to her worst point in her life and then saves her from it after the fact.

Although, it could be that as a more vanilla reader myself I just don’t understand the whole dom thing. PET. Is also about the author’s journey to be accepted for who she is, darkness and all, and her lovelife is her choice. Perhaps the point is that Flye Hudson loves him, not the readers.

One other disconcerting aspect that must be said is the PUA tendency to rate women by looks. It is a sexual memoir and I do admit I enjoy reading descriptions of beautiful women in intimate scenes.And there’s nothing wrong with having tastes and preferences. But on the other hand, berating women for not being hot in certain parts seems unnecessarily cruel and feels somewhat disappointing coming from a woman author.

All in all, PET. is a self-published memoir which is a vehicle for the author to express herself. It seems to be totally successful at that. The writing is casually and amateur and melodramatic sometimes, it could use some editing, but ultimately the subject matter is so damn interesting that the book is totally worth the read. For anyone curious about alternative lifestyles, whether or not readers themselves would necessarily embrace that sort of thing, it comes quite recommended.

Available on Amazon.

Interview with Ray Hecht on His New Novel “South China Morning Blues”

(Originally posted on: http://www.speakingofchina.com/bookreviews/interview-with-ray-hecht-on-his-new-novel-south-china-morning-blues/)

 

People have called China endlessly fascinating. But you could say the same about the expat scene here. In the seven-plus years that I’ve lived in this country, I’ve come across some real characters here – people I could have sworn were straight out of a novel.

I’m reminded of many of them after reading Ray Hecht’s new book South China Morning Blues, which features a motley cast of young expats and Chinese locals living across Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Hong Kong, including:

…Marco, a crooked businessman with a penchant for call girls; Danny, a culture-shocked young traveler; Sheila, a local club girl caught up in family politics; Amber, a drug-fueled aspiring model; Terry, an alcoholic journalist; and Ting Ting, a lovable artist with a chip on her shoulder.

 

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Through 12 distinct viewpoints, South China Morning Blues takes readers on a tour of the dark underside of the expat scene in China, culminating in a dramatic life-and-death situation that brings everyone together. It’s a fresh take on life in 21st century China and definitely worth a read.

I’m happy to once again feature Ray Hecht on the blog and introduce South China Morning Blues to you through this interview.

 

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Here’s Ray’s bio from his website:

Long story short, raised in America from the Midwest to the West Coast on a starchy diet of movies and comics and science fiction paperbacks. There’s a Mid-East connection in there too. I like to write fiction about such states as California and Ohio, and such provinces as Guangdong. Japan being an interesting topic as well. Lived in Shenzhen, China since 2008 (has it really been that long?), a lovely Special Economic Zone Hong Kong-bordering chaotic city that has given me so much. I occasionally partake of some freelance journalism for various local publications.

You can learn more about Ray Hecht and South China Morning Blues at his websiteand buy a copy at Amazon.com, where your purchase helps support this blog.

—–

 

What inspired you to write this novel?

Good question to start out with. A few things come to mind: After living in China in those earlier years, I found the country to be absolutely fascinating, and I wanted to share the experience of the land by telling stories.

Also, I’d long been a fan of Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting and had a lot of respect for his system of multiple narrators that all have distinctive versions of experiences,and being more interlocking short stories than one big narrative. I think one of the philosophies that fiction can teach us is the subjective nature of reality. The way some people, say, move to Guangzhou and complain how they hate it while other people see it totally differently and love it.

Another inspiration, I must say at the risk of sounding pretentious, was James Joyce’s Ulysses. Not that I’m smart enough to write something like that — or even smart enough to truly understand the famously-dense book. But the way the novel utilized mythological metaphors, as per the Odyssey resonating in early 20th Century Dublin. I wanted to try something like that. The ancient mythologies of the world will forever be able to inspire modern stories.

Well, for me, characters are most important. A character needs unique personality traits, archetypes that make them stand out, something interesting about their histories and personas. After that’s established, a plot begins to form… And so the idea evolved to use the Chinese Zodiac to structure the characters of a novel…

 

Your novel is told through the perspective of 12 main characters as they live in or visit three major cities in South China — Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Hong Kong. How did you decide to structure your novel like this?

As said, I had the idea to base characters off the Chinese Zodiac in order to tell stories about modern China. Seemed to make sense at the time.

I’d already ended up living in Shenzhen, which is a major city most people around the world have never heard of. The city is next to Hong Kong, and I spend a lot of time there. For the sake of literary research (also because I wanted to research a historical novel about Canton circa revolutionary 1911) I moved to Guangzhou for an off year in 2011. I find all these cities fascinating in their own unique ways. I mean, Beijing and Shanghai are great, but I ended up in the southern Pearl River Delta region and I am glad I did. No place on Earth has more stories.

It seemed obvious that my novel about the soul of present China would have to incorporate those three cities.

 

Like your memoir, South China Morning Blues features quite a bit of sex and recreational drug use. How much did your personal experiences influence your writing in this book?

Ah, an embarrassing question. Hmm, how can I put this…?

First of all, my biographical writings may have some sex but I don’t think there’s much to brag about. Outside of a handful of tell-all dramatic episodes, by far it mostly concerned online dating and several serious relationships. Not too crazy, right?

The sex scenes in SCMB are, shall we say, meant to be more literary. At least more literary in the sense of literature I like to read. Being more extreme than real life in most cases. Many of those scenes were inspired by way of hearsay of other people I know, my own imagination, and a bit of research online. Not really based off my own personal experiences very much.

(Hey, I did say that Trainspotting was an inspiration.)

As for recreational drugs, I experimented a bit in my youth — and by youth I mean my mid-to-late twenties, I was very boring as a teen — and I think I was always responsible about it. To be honest, I’m often shocked when I observe how extreme drugs and alcohol are in the China party scene. It is something that needs to be depicted, whether glamorized or not. No outright spoilers here, but if you read to the end there are consequences for the characters who abuse themselves and I think it’s important to showcase that side.

All in all though, I want to show all sides of real life. Using illegal substances, having irresponsible sex, pushing the boundaries, and making mistakes; these are all things that human beings actually do. And they are interesting things. I believe they are things worth writing about. Worth portraying, without too much judgment. More or less, presented as is. That’s writing.

 

Tell us about one of your favorite characters from the novel and why you like him or her. Continue reading

Pearl River Drama: A Memoir

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http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00RQQIA26

 

I have now completed my memoirs, in eBook form.

You may be familiar with the Dating in China blogs already, but there’s more to the story…

I have decided to edit them, and put them out there as an eMemoir of sorts on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Press.

Yet, this is not just a simple copy-paste and proofread for typos. Since this version isn’t all out there online for free, I have written more to the story. Certain personal, more graphic details. Certain things left unsaid that would be unbecoming on a public forum.

Not to mention further chapter continuing where the blog left off, and an epilogue.

If you’ve enjoyed my writings this past year, you may enjoy taking a look. And if you’d like to write a review on Amazon yourself, I will happily forward you a copy!

Even if you only have fond memories of reading the previously-blogged edition and prefer to leave it at that, it would be very considerate if you shared some thoughts. Positive or negative, tell the world what you think. Link above.

Thanks very much to all you readers out there!

 

 

— —

When one nerdy, young American moved from California to China in the autumn of 2008, he had no idea what was coming. He knew there would be an adventure and it would have its challenges, but he didn’t know it could get that bad.

From the deserts of Black Rock City, Nevada, to the towering metropolis of Hong Kong, this memoir takes our humble writer all across the globe in search of love. Well, maybe not always searching for love, but in search for something.

It starts on a psychedelic trip in Burning Man, and continues in the “overnight city” of Shenzhen. That’s in the Pearl River Delta, among the densest megacities on Earth. In breakup after breakup, one lonely expat struggles to understand the Chinese mystique. Featuring an ensemble cast of international girls, he had many experiences and leaned a few lessons along the way. The story continues to further exotic locations: Beijing, Canton, Bangkok, Manila, Ohio, the ruins of Cambodia, and Seattle.

Once or twice, he may have even found love. And lost it. Hearts were broken. Minds were mended. All in a haze of romance encounters, online dating, and travel.

This is his story. Complete with travel photos, and quotations from “Seinfeld” and Mo Yan.

DATING IN CHINA

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DATING IN CHINA


(Table of Contents)

Firstly, from 2008 on:

Prologue: How I came to China

Part 1: Burning Man
I go to a big trippy festival

Part 2: Doing LSD at Burning Man
I expand my mind and receive an invite abroad

Introductions

Intro to Dating in China
First things first, let me explain how this thing will work

I arrive in China
The story officially begins, I get here

Girls

Mona
My first China-based girlfriend, and how that didn’t work out

Julia
The next level… Sigh, was it love?

Mary
A summer romance, a brief flight, all too innocent

Annie – Sky – Lulu – more
Singlehood, bachelor life, the learning process, playing the field…

Zoey

The Beginning
Long-term relationship begins, a defining point in my life

An American intermission
You can’t go ‘home’, and I try and I fail and I drift

The End
Finally, and sadly, nothing lasts forever

 

GUANGZHOU YEAR
In the city… the city of Canton…

And now, 2011 to early 2012:

My Guangzhou Year 1
An intro to the new status quo, as I pack up move to the ancient land of Canton/
the modern megacity of Guangzhou

Dating GZ Edition – Kendra
First story, I meet a crazed American abroad and adventured therein
Public nudity and disrespect, among other themes

China to Thailand to Cambodia
I travel, I bring a certain Cynthia, I make mistakes
But hey, that’s life and at least I got to see a new place

Dating – visitors and friends, others
Some characters from previous entries reappear, old friends reunite, a funny story happened one day
This time it’s not just about me

Rejected in Guangzhou
The stories everyone seems to want to know. Rejected!
Featuring Josephine, Seline, and more

The End – my humble successes
On a final positive note, sometimes life works out rather fine
It was a good year, I experienced a lot
I really shouldn’t complain

 

2012

Back to Shenzhen
In which I return to this town that somehow suits me

Emma
I begin the online game~

Jeanie
I have a girlfriend! I really did!

Yuki
I must admit, things got a tad gross.
Hope this wasn’t the beginning of a certain pattern…

 

2013: Epic Clusterfuck Year

Not Dating in America (and Hong Kong, and Canada)
2012 comes and goes and the world doesn’t end,
Meanwhile a bad start as I embark upon a year of drama bullshit

The Stalker
In which I make a foul choice which ends up following me around all year.
Dark times. No fun.

Carmen
I meet someone cool and travel to the Philippines
A brief positive note, albeit all too brief

Sonia – Jing – Amelia
POF, a site, met some peoples from differing lands, times are had,
and then I quit online dating forever more

The Very End
And I do mean it, the very very end.
I reflect and I consider and now it is time to move forward–

Dating in China 2012 – 2013

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PREVIOUS MEGAPOSTS

Dating in China 1
From Burning Man to Shenzhen, covering mid-2008 to early 2011

My Guangzhou Year
In the city… the city of Canton…

 

2012

Back to Shenzhen
In which I return to this town that somehow suits me

Emma
I begin the online game~

Jeanie
I have a girlfriend! I really did!

Yuki
I must admit, things got a tad gross.
Hope this wasn’t the beginning of a certain pattern…

 

2013: Epic Clusterfuck Year

Not Dating in America (and Hong Kong, and Canada)
2012 comes and goes and the world doesn’t end,
Meanwhile a bad start as I embark upon a year of drama bullshit

The Stalker
In which I make a foul choice which ends up following me around all year.
Dark times. No fun.

Carmen
I meet someone cool and travel to the Philippines
A brief positive note, albeit all too brief

Sonia – Jing – Amelia
POF, a site, met some peoples from differing lands, times are had,
and then I quit online dating forever more

The Very End
And I do mean it, the very very end.
I reflect and I consider and now it is time to move forward–

 

Not to be continued.

–Thanks for the memories!!

 

Ray

Dating in China – Yuki, gross

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Not that this was the same time period, but here’s me in Tokyo!

I sincerely try not to judge people.

I really do. I try, and I don’t always succeed, but I try. Intellectually I know I shouldn’t be judgmental.

When it comes to sexually promiscuous women, I can be torn. On the one hand, we are all adults and we should be free to do whatever we want. Me included. Some people express themselves sexually and they are healthy about it, they want to give themselves pleasure and society shouldn’t force arbitrary rules causing unnecessary shame. It’s simple, really.

Yet, there is on the other hand: how some people seem to warrant further psychoanalyzing to see why they are having all that wild anonymous group sex. Certain peoples with issues and acting out. Can’t help but wonder what’s wrong. Or at least, can’t we be morbidly curious about why people are the way they are?

I still have some enlightening to do myself…

Honestly, I don’t even care that all that much. It’s not my business. Let me start over. This is all from a totally amoral standpoint.

I simply don’t want her to text me those pictures of her fucking multiple men, and often pictures of her fucking those multiple men at once. I’m just not into seeing that. And she kept sending them unsolicited again and again. Emails, text apps. Skanky invitations (for lack of a better term), I’d tell her to leave me alone, and she continuously pushed at me and pushed at me the most graphic sexual imagery possible.

That’s weird, right?

 

Yuki

I don’t think it was a moment of desperation or anything like that. A mere moment of playfulness. Not particularly special or anything.

Well, after online dating for so long, the odds were in my favor that eventually I’d meet someone off and the drama would begin.

So. I was single now and feeling frisky one day, as single men tend to do, and I messaged some lady on POF and said I was doing a survey on hand jobs. Rate your skill 1 to 10. Funny much?

She was apparently intrigued and messaged me back.

Yuki was my age. She’d done some kind of trading business. I know she’d been to Vegas before and was internationally-minded enough. Her ‘name’ was a Japanese (Chinese people rarely use their real names when speaking English to foreigners, they usually choose a Western name but some people do like to be called something more exotic). She wasn’t all that hot. She was curvy for a Chinese woman. She was quite willing. How was I to know it would turn out bad?

After a latenight dinner we took a taxi to my house and so on. Whatever. We met a few times after that I guess. It wasn’t like that memorable. She wasn’t supposed to have turned out to be this big a deal still bothering me today.

Some time passed, there was no indication that we should become a serious couple, and one day she asked if she could stay at my place for several days. Um, what?

She had been telling me she was looking for a new place, looking to move. She was just in-between. It happens. Or, does it?

It was terrible. I can be such a sucker. I laid out some ground rules, and I let her bring over luggages and crash. She went out to work or something in the days, and then came over at nights and left many dirty dishes and crap lying around.

Worst of all, she was always around. My whole personal routine was interrupted. I like to be alone most of the time, to be honest.

I do invite people over from time to time. I’ve written about Couchsurfing, for example. Thing about those situations though, is that there is a plan beforehand. A specific date of when the guest leaves, an endpoint.

Yuki soon overstayed her welcome and I told her she needed to get out. This wasn’t cool. She needed to get the hell out of my house.

It was hard to read this person. I mean, she’d been abroad. A moderately middle-class Chinese woman, I’d suppose. Didn’t seem like she was broke. It’s not hard to find an apartment in Shenzhen, so why did she need to be in-between like this?

Was she actually homeless, drifting from man to man’s houses? Or, just desperate for human contact?

I don’t know. I don’t want to know too much. Just stop taking advantage of me.

Then, another day a month or so later, it came eerily close to stalking.

That time she came over without warning was unacceptable. I hate when women do that. I have a routine, I need to be alone to be productive. I don’t like surprises. Sure I let her stay over, but I told her in no uncertain terms that she could never ever come over unannounced again.

When I later moved, I made it a point to not forward her my new address.

And lest you think I’m some pig rejecting an innocent Chinese girl who only wanted to be my girlfriend… Then the explicitness began.

Now, I’m not necessarily opposed to sexting. I may indulge in such from time to time. But when the unsolicited nude pictures started, and were then followed up by pictures of sex with other men’s dicks, I had to politely ask her to stop. She can be exhibitionist all she wants, but don’t I get to inform consent?

And they kept on coming. Dick pics. Other men’s dicks. More dicks. Then two dicks at once. Then a video. Then more.

Continue reading

DATING IN CHINA – MY GUANGZHOU YEAR

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Canton Tower
I was there, man

 

 

Previously: DATING IN CHINA – MEGAPOST 1
Covering the years 2008 – 2011

And now, 2011 to early 2012:

 

My Guangzhou Year 1
An intro to the new status quo, as I pack up move to the ancient land of Canton/the modern megacity of Guangzhou

Dating GZ Edition – Kendra
First story, I meet a crazed American abroad and adventured therein
Public nudity and disrespect, among other themes

Dating – China to Thailand to Cambodia
I travel, I bring a certain Cynthia, I make mistakes
But hey, that’s life and at least I got to see a new place

Dating – visitors and friends, others
Some characters from previous entries reappear, old friends reunite, a funny story happened one day
This time it’s not just about me

Rejected in Guangzhou
The stories everyone seems to want to know. Rejected!
Featuring Josephine, Seline, and more

The End – my humble successes
On a final positive note, sometimes life works out rather fine
It was a good year, I experienced a lot
I really shouldn’t complain

Stayin’ upbeat

Continue reading

DATING IN CHINA – MEGAPOST 1

And now for your reading enjoyment. In case you missed it before. Allow me to lay it all out.

Megapost of my personal dating memoirs, covering the time span of August, 2008 to February, 2011

Links, from the beginning:

Prologue: How I came to China

Part 1: Burning Man
I go to a big trippy festival

Part 2: Doing LSD at Burning Man
I expand my mind and receive an invite abroad

Introductions

Intro to Dating in China
First things first, let me explain how this thing will work

I arrive in China
The story officially begins, I get here

Girls

Mona
My first China-based girlfriend, and how that didn’t work out

Julia
The next level… Sigh, was it love?

Mary
A summer romance, a brief flight, all too innocent

Annie – Sky – Lulu – more
Singlehood, bachelor life, the learning process, playing the field…

Zoey

The Beginning
Long-term relationship begins, a defining point in my life

An American intermission
You can’t go ‘home’, and I try and I fail and I drift

The End
Finally, and sadly, nothing lasts forever

 

Continue reading

Dating in Guangzhou – The end… my humble ‘successes’

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Dating in China, blah blah. I’m coming to an endpoint here. At least the end of my Guangzhou Year point.

Yes, I was getting sick of GZ. But not sick of China yet, not even close. I decided to go back to the familiarity of another city, my default locale. Shenzhen is just where I would’ve ended up eventually anyway, might as well surrender to my destiny. I sincerely like it better, somehow it works for me. I can’t believe I’m still here.

Guangzhou, in all its overwhelming epicness, was a place to study and a place to learn yet not a place for permanence.

In this final installment of the Provincial Capital’s memories, let me be a bit more positive. I may have complained too much in previous entries; I should be more grateful for the wonderful experiences I’ve had. It wasn’t all lonely nights in Canton…

 

There was Nellie, whom I met on POF. She had an exotic face, a cutesy style, and she invited me to her glamorous home to drink French wine. I spent a weekend there, she was so gracious. Regaled with tales of work and travel.

She visited me in Shenzhen once too.

Then there was Janey, whom I met on gzstuff.com. It was all so natural and easy, she added me or I added her (who remembers at this point?) and I simply suggested we go on a date and then we did and it ended nicely.

She was very attractive, thoroughly modern, and studied yoga. She didn’t mind coming out all the way to my place. But oddly shy. Like open in some ways, so reserved in others. We went to the cinema several, and window-shopped at Tianhe malls.

One day we had a fight when I went to her area in Taojin. I got bad directions and got lost and was late. No dinner even, only harsh words. It simply wasn’t meant to be long-term.

Most of all, there was Valerie, my then friend-with-benefit of choice. An office worker in glasses with a casual style. She was from Yunnan. She lived in deep Panyu, far away from downtown, and she was happy to visit me. We first met at a market in Shiqiao, the busiest area of the district and a world away from the city center.

I took her to dinner, went to parks, we enjoyed many weekends together lounging about my area. She liked me, she really liked me. Always cool, always happy, always there for me. Such an awesome person.

And no drama. I thank her for this. Today, as I think back and compare, I could not be more grateful for her positivity and good times.

I hope she thinks well of me now. I don’t even know why we didn’t become boyfriend and girlfriend. Didn’t seem in the cards, didn’t seem we had that kind of thing going. She wasn’t really who I pictured myself with, to be honest. We never had any serious conversations. She never pressured me to take things further. She was perpetually chill. Who knows, perhaps something was going on in her personal life at the time.

Still, I wonder…

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