Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The secret life of the Chinese Mistress

The Chinese Mistress 

In 'The Beijing Beauties' or Book 3 of 'The Beijing Family' book series, I tell the story of Chloe, a mistress to a Chinese billionaire and the ultimate decision she has to make of whether she wants to stay with her married boyfriend or leave him and start a whole new life on her own. She's approaching 30 and wants to start a family. She then flies to Los Angeles to confront him. Will she stay with him or leave him for good?

I've met quite a few mistresses to wealthy Chinese men in my real estate career. There seems to be many variations of an age old cultural tradition that dates back thousands of years and it's not just the Chinese. Some call them Xiao San or 'Little Third' which describes a woman who is a girlfriend or mistress to the married husband. Sometimes the wives know about these mistresses, just as many of their own successful fathers had paramours on the side besides their own mothers. It was part of the familial norm and they are used to it. Sometimes the wives have no knowledge about their devious husbands carrying on trysts behind their back. Discovery sometimes led to raging outbursts that make the news including death threats.

Then there is Ernai - 'Second Wife' where the mistress or second wife is welcomed into the inner circle of the married husband as a second wife, not by legal marriage. She is introduced to the wife and her kids and sometimes they all live in the same household and their children. If the second wife or maybe even third and fourth have children, they refer to each other as step-siblings.

I've heard both terms used interchangeably and the role of a mistress is often not as clear cut. Most likely, she is custom blended to fit the needs of herself, her boyfriend and the relationship. Although many might think they are young and beautiful females, that may not always be the case. I've seen them in all ages, genders including transgender varieties, shapes, sizes, social, economic backgrounds and even marital status. Some become mistresses for love, some for financial support or gain. Basically, they all mean one thing - an infidelity occurring in the marriage with a third party that is providing something of value to the relationship.

I’d like to consider the Chinese mistress as modern day concubines.  Thousands of years ago when Emperors ruled China, many of them believed that sleeping with many women gave them immortality. In their palaces, there were hundreds of concubines that dwelled along with the Emperor. The men that worked in the palaces were eunuchs to ensure purity in lineage. Sometimes poor rural families would offer their beautiful daughters as concubines to the palace which was deemed an honor.  Besides, it eased the pressure on the poor parents in having to feed one more person in the family, especially a girl when they prize a son.    

Imperial Concubines that lived in the palace

There was one concubine in particular that broke the barriers of being a concubine and rose to becoming the Dowager or Empress of China from her modest beginnings - Xixi. Giving the Emperor his only son, she used her power, intelligence, charm and natural leadership abilities to become the ruler of China during the Qing dynasty for 47 years.

Today, wealthy Chinese men collect mistresses as a status symbol, just as the emperors did before,  nothing has changed.

China's Mistress Village - Oprah Winfrey Network

When I was in grade school, I had a good friend who lived in a beautiful home in an affluent part of Los Angeles in the hillside.  Her father had a successful business in Taiwan where he spent most of his time. She lived with her mother and sister in Los Angeles where they both attended school. Later as I got older, I learned that her mother was originally her father’s mistress who was quite a home wrecker. They eventually married and through time, lived separate lives. I wouldn't be surprised if her father continued to have mistresses on the side aside from marrying one. 

In college, I had another good friend who came to our home for dinner. While my mother was making dinner, we chatted. In our friendly conversation, she divulged that she is the daughter of her father’s second wife. It was from her, I learned that some successful business men in Asia take on many wives besides the primary one that is legally bound to the marriage. She lives in their main house along with the children of her father’s first wife by legal marriage like step siblings. It was interesting. They all lived together in one big happy family.

In recent years, I helped many nouveau-riche Chinese arriving from overseas purchase real estate in Southern California as a real estate broker. Almost all of the more successful business men had mistresses on the side and often sought the company of prostitutes and occasional flings. I was also shocked to see how easily some of the women that worked at massage parlors or low level service ended businesses in the San Gabriel Valley offered themselves as consorts and evening companions in exchange for quick financial gains. San Gabriel Valley is an area in Los Angeles county heavily represented by Chinese from the mainland - mainly as immigrants and newcomers. Unlike the notion of earlier immigrants from China that were poor and migrant, the newest wave of immigrants from China in the last decade are the wealthiest from China. These women gave servitude to these men in exchange for material comforts that gave no assurance or promises of a future. Yet they didn't care, just as easily they didn't think twice about them being married. The men were overseas and away from the watchful eye of their wives. When the cat is away, the mice will play.

A few, however, made out better. They are smarter and more shrewd. More than the occasional flings as their less fortunate sisters, these calculated opportunists were kept as full time mistresses in beautiful homes surrounded by material comforts. In the city of Arcadia, there are ‘Mistress Villages’, where mistresses live in certain areas of the city that is well known to be teeming with new immigrants from China with new money. Sometimes these ambitious mistresses are homewreckers. They have the education, smarts and family background to conquer and divide themselves into the marriage as the new wife. Sometimes they are only in the affair for its benefits. Perhaps the wealthy Chinese billionaire can help her financially as she is from a poor family background. Or he can give her connections that she wouldn't acquire on her own or give her money to help her start her business.

It's been my experience that these calculated opportunists are quite savvy.  They received all the  financial perks of a wife with the freedom of a girlfriend while being single and free. They didn't have to contend with overbearing and controlling Chinese mother in laws, attend boring and obligatory family gatherings and deal with the cultural norms and expectations of a dutiful Chinese wife. Many received financial perks like a home, car and clothes that they wouldn't be able to acquire on their own. I'm not condoning what they do or praise their chosen path. Nor am I challenging the fundamentals of marriage from a political, religious or moral standpoint. I am simply making an observation. 

Arcadia, the Mistress City

In my job as a real estate broker, I’ve come across a good handful of a mistresses purchase homes  with their boyfriends' money or helping her wealthy boyfriend complete his home purchase while he is back in Asia. Sometimes these women are on the man’s payroll and are acting on his behalf as a secretary or assistant and they close escrow on his behalf.  Usually, she lives in a very nice home by herself, drives a nice car and most definitely adorns herself with the best that his money can buy. I have become friendly with a few of them through the years; enough to consider them acquaintances, which gave me material to write about a character like Chloe and develop her story.

Every year, hundreds of young women from the poor countryside of China flock into the major cities like Beijing or Shanghai looking for opportunities. Often they find themselves as mistresses to wealthy married men. Some are as young as 16 and date a married man in his 40's and 50's! Pretty disgusting. Isn't that illegal in the US? But it' a path they choose and this practice has been around for centuries and will be around for ever more.