The girl born without a penis

Born without a penis has been a lifelong curse leaving me in no woman’s land and plagued with a sense of not belonging.  Not enough for/of anything …

In my own family I stuck out like a sore thumb, labelled a rebel and black sheep from a young obstinate age, refusing to bend to thousand years old tradiition and values.  In the adopted country the colour of my skin meant I couldn’t merge into the crowd despite giving myself an English name in the Sixth Form.  I was extremely lucky not to have encountered any nasty racist incidents and my best friends are British but a part of me always yearned to seek my roots.

In Hong Kong, my birthplace I have found some kind of peace.  I find it comforting to walk amongst my own people and be just another Chinese face in the crowd.  I feel that I have come home and that my life has come full circle.  Although I am far from being one of them, marked by my dress sense, attitude, movements and mannerisims, yet I feel I have been accepted and my eccentricities put down to having been brought up abroad.  Ah she grew up in London seems to cover a multitude of sins.

Hong Kong can be an intimidating, fast pace kind of place but luckily I have found a quiet haven in an out of the way part of the New Territories.  The locals hate its inconvenience, being inaccessible by road and the long flight of concrete stairs that need to be negotiated daily but that is exactly what affords it a sense of serene seclusion.  There are only a few houses and half of them abandoned by the elderly who could no longer negotiate the steps.  I share this sanctuary with a young family downstairs, a soicable Filipino family opposite and lots of single people living in bed sits.

I belong to neither the very poor who make do with one room for the whole family nor the filthy rich of the nearby gated community.  In limbo again, not the grassroots and not the ivory tower either.  Perhaps I am the bridge between the two.  I have had glimpses of both worlds at different stages of my life thanks to my higher education.

It struck home the other day while at my first barbecue since returning to Hong Kong that I am accorded a lot more respect to the hired help, though I don’t really see myself as any different.  We are both offering a service in exchange for money.  I observed that the latter never sit at the dining table to eat but at the kitchen counter and even young kids just order them about without even a please or thank you, which I really dislike.  When I started to help clear up it seems that this does not become an English tutor, a professional and that this should be left to the maids, it is their job.  Status is very clearly defined; I am seen as an equal and they are not.  This concept is alien to me, as far as I am concerned we are all human and therefore deserving of respect. 

I guess if I had been more ambitious, career minded or married well or not have succumbed to bad health I could have joined the league of those of the gated community.  Every time I enter the hallowed grounds I try to imagine what it would be like to live behind those ornate gates being waited on hand and feet and driven around in a high status vehicle.  To be honest I don’t think I would like it.  I would prefer to do things for myself, why should someone else fill my bowl of rice when I am perfectly capable.  I value my space too much now to share it and I am rather fond of my small but cosy flat where the ‘common’ folks live.

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About cho wan yau

Teacher by day poet/writer by night. Words have been my first love and will be my last. As a child I locked myself into the toilet devouring books which transported me to distant lands. Poetry shared penned from 2009-2010 in a titanic struggle to stay sane at Heartbreak Hotel. Please check it out on chowanyau@wordpress.com. Any comments or feedback welcome. Why not share your story with me, because we all have one, don't we?

Posted on January 5, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Thanks for this snapshot of your life -and you. How long have you been tutoring in HK?

  2. It really disturbs me when I see people treat waitresses like slaves. Get me this…get me that…without a please or thank you. Such behavior says so much about the person no matter what his or her status. Human respect is a quality to be cherished.

  3. We’ll let me say one thing. Being born with a penis is not the barrel of laughs you imagine. Mostly it just hangs around getting in the way. An easy target for others. When it does stand up for itself it is mostly ignored. And when someone demands it gets off the couch and shows some backbone – mostly it shrivels in fear. Life is just a series of ups and downs really.

  4. Ah get the violins out Paul ha ha. Very witty, btw, you should be a stand up comedian. But don’t give up the day job, just yet. Let me tell you born without a penis is no barrel of laughs either, even in the west where equality is bandied about, there are more men at the top of the corporate ladder than women and at home though both sexes now have to work full time to make ends meet, you’ll find it is the ‘weaker’ sex who carries the weight of most of the housework and childcare. And they have to look young, beautiful and sexy and up for it or swapped for a younger model and end up financially worse off even after years of free devotion.

  5. Yes Carol, it disturbs me too, that is why I always make a point of telling the kids I teach to say please and thank you. They behave that way towards their parents too, they constantly make demands and not requests. We are producing a whole generation of monsters that will one day run this world and that is a very scary thought, I hope I am dead by then.

  6. Yes you are right TD, I had been enjoying tutoring up till now, but after xmas seems to be exam season and I don’t know about the poor kids but I am feeling the pressure to deliver and justify the dosh they fork out weekly. I resisted a more regular income teaching in tutorial centres after school because I ddin’t want to just drill them for exams but I find this is what is expected of me from the parents. I’d naively thought I would have more autonomy teaching one to one and my professionalism respected but I am finding I am just told please teach her prepositions and practise doing comprehensions and this is for a mind numbing 2 hours with a child just turned 6. Can you imagine?

    When the cat is away the mice play but when she is around we have to play the game, the kid and I. I feel bad being yet another pressure point for her and I’d much rather educate than drill and she is feisty and gifted and often I have to make deals with her, like let’s do this boring exercise and then we can play for five minutes. That is the only way I can bribe her to co-operate. Tbh I’d much rather teach her to play chinese chess or scrabble.

    The concept of learning through games and fun is very alien and regarded a waste of time. I am paid relatively well thanks to my Masters in Education from London and many years of teaching experience and British accent having been brought up in the UK. What I earn in two hours tuition equates to twelves hours’ minimum pay or a long day of driving being a minibus driver. The daily working hours here are excessive, eleven or twelve hour shifts are standard six days a week. Only one day’s rest like God.

    I don’t know how long I can surivive as a one woman crusade campaigning for fun in learning, the bottom line is this is my only source of income and I need to survive like the poor kids and perhaps just get cleverer at playing the system. Or am I just being too optimistic?

    sorry TD this has turned out to be more a post than a reply to your comment.

    Maybe I’ll look into teaching English part time at the universities or as part of their extra-curricular program, children and adults are both desperate to improve their English. To be honest the standard here is shockingly poor considering it had been a British colony for 100 years till 97 and an international financial centre. The trouble is it is not really spoken at home or amongst friends but only at work if it is required.

  7. For some reason I never got notified of this response. It sucks when working on your own doesn’t turn out the way you envisioned. But at least it sounds like you have several options that might turn things around. I wish I had something more helpful to say….

  8. No problem I am just touched you care enough to comment. I will stick at it as I do actually enjoy the one to one interaction with the kids and just adopt a pragmatic and realistic approach so the pressure doesn’t get to me or suffer a false sense of guilt at not delivering the goods.

    I have never promised them that I could get better results, I see my job as giving them a firm foundation on the basics of English grammar and how the language works and at the same time encouraging them to have a go and be independent learners and thinkers. But that and creativity don’t seem to sell very well here. Shame.

    How are your plans to go freelance?

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