The obsession with mixed babies
Chinese people love babies, that’s a fact. I don’t know if the one child policy (which was in effect from 1979 to 2015) fuelled this love, as babies were not so abundant as before, but to me it seems likely. When a woman had 5 or 6 kids wreaking havoc at home, I doubt she had the time/energy to drool over other people’s babies she met on the street. And that’s exactly what they do now! People here (and not only women!) love looking at other people’s babies, making comments and giving advice… and even more so if the baby looks “different”, like Baby A.
Chinese people repeat constantly that mixed children are more beautiful, more intelligent and better in any possible way than Chinese children. And, well, what can I say; in the case of Baby A. they are absolutely right (hahaha!), but… Are all mixed children beautiful? I think not necessarily! If their father is an orc from Mordor and their mother a mountain troll… well… it’s going to be difficult to be good looking! But, to Chinese eyes, they are all good looking. A similar thing happens in Spain, or at least happened when I was a child, I don’t know if it’s still the same: children with blonde hair or blue eyes were considered more beautiful, simply because they were rare.
On Chinese online stores selling products for children, the young models in the pictures are often mixed or have some physical characteristic that sets them apart: big eyes, long eyelashes, a high nose, a small face. Some shops even feature children that look 100% foreign; this might also be to make customers believe that their brand is very international and foreigners use it too.
Every time we go out with Baby A. I have to accept the fact that people are going to want to look at my baby. Some middle aged women are skilled in a neck torsion that would put the possessed girl from the movie The Exorcist to shame! At least here in Suzhou people are not so nosy as in other places (based on what I heard from other foreign women in China) and normally they don’t make any comments when we’re on the move. But when we stop in a place with other people, I can be sure that there are going to be some comments about the baby. For example, when we are in an elevator in the mall with 10 other people and Baby A. studies all the faces one by one with his double-eyelid-big-eyelashed eyes because that’s what he likes doing, staring at people. Sometimes the comments are harmless, things like “So cute!” or “He’s smiling at me!” that I could hear in any other country. However, almost every time there’s someone saying the classic “Mixed babies are always so beautiful”. I know they mean well, but I’d rather not have my baby being tagged and categorised and considered special just because he is of mixed race. By the way, the word used in Chinese for mixed babies means literally “mixed blood”.
I’ve also often heard another comment, especially from elder women, when they see my baby wearing what they consider not warm enough: “Foreign babies are not scared of cold”. As I’ve mentioned many times, in traditional Chinese medicine, cold is a silent killer and people have to be well bundled up. That must be the reason why some people cover their babies with a winter blanket big enough for a queen size bed when they go out (might also be somewhat related to the baby’s invariably bright red cheeks!).
I’ve heard from expat families that for fully foreign children it can be way worse. In one of the groups I’m in, western mums said their children did not even want to go outside to play as every time they would be immediately surrounded by people wanting to touch their blond hair, taking pictures with them and pushing their children to greet them in English. Mixed children sometimes have problems too: Chinese children simply don’t want to play with them as their grandparents or parents are constantly saying how the mixed child is much more beautiful, clever, well behaved, etc, than they are.
I’m really not looking forward to the moment when Baby A. understands what people are saying about him. Will it make him self-conscious and wish he looked like just like everybody else? Or will he become super vain and think he’s better than other people? We’ll see…