Mingh was apprehensive. She had gone back to Suzhou, China to pick up her daughter, Wing Kee Lin, to bring her home with her. Mingh had been married to Lin's father for abut ten years until he had divorced her. Divorce is very uncommon in China. He was wealthy enough to have more than one wife if he chose. She had married him when she was fourteen. She had been the second wife. By the time she was about twenty four, she was the fourth wife. She had not been able to have any children. Her rich husband divorced her because his other wives were able to have boys.
Soon after he had thrown her out, she found out she was pregnant. Her family would not take her back. She was able to get a job at one of the big manufacturing plants in the city. The big manufacturing plants took whole city blocks. They also had huge dormitories so the workers could share eating privileges, and living space.
Each woman lived in a room with three other roommates. There were eight hundred women living in four-bed rooms in a high-rise that had the entire working staff for the plant. They had some babysitting services for a few children, but Mingh could not live with there with her young daughter indefinitely.
Through a fluke in circumstance, Mingh had met Joe.
Joe was much older. He was one of those engineering geeks. He had been sent from an American consulting firm to monitor plant efficiency. His employer had an ongoing contract to monitor the efficiency of a number of Chinese manufacturing plants.
One of the plant managers offered to have Mingh perform as a host to show him the city. Mingh had also worked as an international operator. She had flawless English and was fluent with American slang. She just had to get a different job after she had her child.
Mingh, or "Winky" as Joe liked to call her, felt a little awkward trying to show him around the big city. Suzhou was famous for being like Venice, Italy. The city was famous for their ancient streets were waterways like the fabled city of Venice; the town of Marco Polo. Showing him around ended up being a romantic exercise, with all of their time in little sampans, paddled by another man.
Mingh was an easy girl to fall in love with. She had long, dark hair; very slim waist and hips; unusually long legs for an oriental girl; a pleasing tan; and a very pleasing smile. She had an unusual tick in one eye when she smiled, which made it easy for Joe to call her "Winky."
Joe spent most of his waking time after work with her whenever he was in town. She would not sleep with him because that just was not their custom. It was scandalous enough that she was a single woman with a child living away from home.
When he proposed, Mingh wasn't really ready. On the other hand, she had few options. A single woman with a girl and no husband was not a popular person in china. There were not a lot of young men trying to get past other young single girls to chase her.
Mingh did not feel she had a lot of options when he asked her. She was not excited about the prospects of moving to another country. The perception among Chinese people who watch old re-runs is that it is a nation of unscrupulous people like the actors on "Dynasty."
Mingh agreed to marry him, but not to bring her daughter with her right away. Mingh had gone back to Kansas City to live with Joe for a year before bringing her daughter.
Mingh had not had a romantic first year with Joe. With him being a good twenty years older, they did not have common music, common movies, or many other tastes. Never-the-less, she had hoped they could make a marriage work.
Mingh's daughter, Lynn, had been sent to live with her grandparents for a year while her mother got accustomed to another country. Mingh tried to hide her nervousness as they boarded the twelve hour flight together back to Kansas City. She told her daughter about the wide open county, the cars, and all the friendly people.
After the on-flight dinner, the beautiful Chinese stewardess brought by a bowl of Chinese fortune cookies. Mingh took two and passed one to her daughter. Mingh opened hers. It said: "You are about to experience the most experience of your life. You will be changed forever." Mingh smiled and handed it to her daughter. Lin looked at it and smiled.
Once they got home, Mingh showed her daughter her new room. They went shopping. Things seemed to be going pretty good. Lynn was starting to get comfortable with going to the city pool, bicycling and hanging out with other girls in the neighborhood. She started going to summer work out with the cross country team and was holding her own.
Lynn was not used to being around so many boys. The cross country workouts seemed to be "Co-Ed," which meant that they were not segregated. The cross-country squad ran six miles twice a day; once at six in the morning and once again at six in the evening. She was shocked at the dress code. Lots of the girls seemed to be wearing their pajamas for running gear. The girls might have checkered baggy pants that came to their knees. Others seemed to have very revealing short shorts and thin shirts that hid nothing once it got sweaty.
Mingh was relieved that her daughter was accepting her new surroundings. They watched lots of television to get the pronunciation right. The most baffling thing to get used to was the slang and jokes. What the hell was "Elvis has left the building?" The term "bad" seemed baffling the way it was used.
The more comfortable that Lynn got with her surroundings, the less Mingh felt comfortable with their new family. Joe seemed to be changing. He had been reasonably attentive when they first married. She was not overly preoccupied with sex; on the other hand, she did not quite feel she and Joe were on the same page either. Being one of several wives, she was not unfamiliar with being a second hand citizen. She knew what it was like to be a sex object.
She was starting to feel that history was repeating. Joe was starting to become more insistent on choosing her clothes. He had not made it an issue when they were in China. Now that they had been married a while, he was always pointing out how the younger girls were dressing. Winky thought teenagers seemed to be almost naked; that they wore skirts that were impossible to sit in. They seemed indifferent to what others could see. At her age of thirty nine, she was not comfortable dressing like her daughter. The more Winky resisted, the more he insisted.
One day, when everybody was gone, Winky was dressed in a housecoat and straightening up her daughter's room. One of her daughter's short shifts was lying on the floor. Winky was a little curious, and put it on. Standing in front of the full length mirror, she didn't really think she looked that bad. She put on her daughter's six inch high-heels. Secretly, Winky was very pleased with her appearance. The dress hit her at mid-thigh. It was an outrageously short dress. Her daughter had insisted that she go to the public pool with her on the weekends. She had a nice wholesome tan from it.
She went downstairs to answer the phone. That was when her husband came home. She was sitting on the couch with her legs crossed and folding a basket of clothes when he came in with one of his clients. He had only come in to get a USB with some files he needed.
Winky was still on the phone. She put the pile of clothes she was folding on her lap out of modesty. Joe had already seen her. Joe was close to sixty years old now and he couldn't always get it up even if he was interested. This pretty much did it for him; to see her in her fourteen-year-olds dress. The tent in his pants was growing.
Winky knew the polite thing to do was to end the conversation and stand to introduce herself, but was humiliated that she had been caught in this outrageous dress. She ended the phone conversation, hung up and smiled. She refused to stand when she introduced herself.
Mingh, this is a customer of mine. His name is Sam Baldwin. Sam this is my wife. Her real name is Mingh, but I call her Winkey. He explained the progression of how her name had become her nickname. Everybody laughed and Mingh was becoming more comfortable in front of them.
"Mingh, honey, let's get Sam a beer. Sam would you like to have a beer?" Sam nodded and smiled. His smile got a lot bigger when Mingh reluctantly moved the pile of folded clothes to one side. His smile got a lot bigger when she stood. His smile was not as big as the tent in his pants as she embarrassingly smoothed the incredibly short dress down to cover herself.
Mingh had put the dress on when she took off her housecoat. She had no clothes on underneath; no bra or panties. That became clear to both Sam and Joe when she walked over to go to the kitchen and she was backlit by the sun coming through the picture window in front of her. Joe was thunderstruck. His super modest middle aged Chinese woman who was reluctant to appear naked in front of him was now patently naked for that one split second in front of the window. She just didn't know it.
Mingh returned with two cans of Boulevard Beer. When she handed them out, she tried not to make eye contact. She recognized that look. She had seen it often; on the streets of Suzhou, Shanghai, Kansas City and even in her front yard. She didn't always know what she had done to create it, but she recognized it. Mostly, she recognized the look when she had gone to the pool with her daughter. The two women got the look when they stopped in the sunning area; took off their sundresses and spread their towels on the aluminum recliners. They got the look from the old men standing in the shallow end of the lap lane when they put the sun tan on each other.
.... There is more of this story ...