Wednesday, August 11, 2004

 
Juicy Lucy
Beauty, as we all know, is in the eye of the beholder and - as far as Chinese and Western standards are concerned - actress Lucy Liu is a good case in point. What brought her to mind was a profanity-laced noodle lunch I was slurping with a 23-year-old coworker, a young Hong Kong/Chinese "cadet reporter" whom I'll call J. J had been assisting me as a translator for a story I was working on. We were sitting in a crowded Chinese fast food chain eatery when she had asked me if I thought it was "rude" for a woman to swear.
"What the hell do you mean?" I retorted. "No damn woman I respect has a fucking foul mouth!"
She laughed and then pressed me further about various English swear words and their degrees of wickedness. We discussed the flexible "f" word (good as a phrasal, transitive and intransitive verb, a noun, an adjective and as simple exclaimation), the "s" word, "damn", "hell", "a-hole", the "mofo" word, etc. and she finally concluded, giggling a little that: "This damn ramen tastes like shit."
"That was the best language lesson I've had," she said as we left.
"No problem, always happy to corrupt impressionable young minds in the name of mutual cultural understanding," I replied. "Maybe I can ask you some questions sometime."
"I have another question I want to ask," J said.
"Sure, anything."
"Why is it that every western guy my friends and I see with a Chinese woman - why is it that all the women are ugly? Don't westerners have any good taste? Or can't they get any good looking women? My friends say that if we want to date a western guy we should just uglify ourselves."
Aha. This was familiar territory. I'd been down this road before with coworkers at the Shenzhen Daily and it invariably led to the Lucy Liu Debate and just what constitutes beauty. Completely unscientific research on my part has found that all 1.3 billion Chinese think Lucy Liu is a complete skank. A malformed drooling toad. Even worse, a freckled malformed drooling toad and in China the ubiquitous beauty ads that promise flawless, vampire white skin make it clear that freckles and tans are akin to leprosy. Tanned Lucy also sports freckles. And she's also slightly cross-eyed - another bummer on the Chinese beauty scale.
"Wait a minute," I said. "Basically you're talking about Lucy Liu types, right?"
"Yes! Yes! She's sooo ugly! I hate her. I cannot believe how famous she's become."
"I kind of like her freckles," I said. "Most Americans think freckles are cute."
J was aghast and then mentioned the crossed eyes.
"Also cute. Endearing almost!" I rhapsodized.
By this time we were on the subway heading back to the office as the debate raged on - Liu's bitch on wheels Ally McBealLing Woo character, Charlie's Angels, etc. etc.
"I CANNOT believe why she is famous," J repeated. "Westerners are fools when it comes to beauty." Then she noticed something. We'd been so wrapped up in the Great Lucy Brouhaha that we'd boarded the wrong train.
"Goddamn ugly Lucy Liu!" J fumed as we got off at the next stop to double back. "It's all that bitch's fault." She paused a minute and then laughed a little. "Did I sound rude? Did I use those words right?"
"You're a natural," I assured her.
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