Considering "How To Spot A Jap" is my second most popular post with 1056 views as of this writing (snuggly between "Who Wants The Display Model" and "Chairman Mee-ow!"), it should come as no surprise to me that the whole nationality-blurring aspect goes both ways. I always thought it was an insult to Asian people when ignorant friends of mine would boldly state "meh, the all look the same to me." Of course, that was all well before I became privy to the knowledge that Chinese are top contenders for the "most racist people on the planet" title. Now I'm a little less PC and a whole lot more 'liberal' on the issue (Canadians, see what I did there?).
An odd side-effect – in that I didn't see it coming, not in that it doesn't make complete stupid sense – of living in China is that the subtle differences between Chinese people become more and more obvious to the point where you begin to recognize certain traits in others and you begin asking founded question like, "don't I know you – you look just like this girl I taught six months ago in [insert rather direct and utilitarian sounding university name here]." Whereas when I lived in Canada it went more like "don't I know you, you look just like this Japanese person I met once. Oh, you're Chinese? Close enough."
In all of this I didn't really consider that to Chinese people, Western features are a bit hard to differentiate. Sure, I had heard it. I'd even gotten into some goofy, expat bar conversations about it, but I had never really experienced it, until today.
As I'm a lazy mofo, I have been reluctantly only scraping off random bits of my facial hair for months now. Basically, I have grown what I like to call "The Functional". It's a beard with no pesky mustache, and it's alright. Maggie doesn't complain about the whiskery kisses, I'm not fearful of having to blow my nose, and I get to pose thoughtful by stroking my chin hair in moments where I'm trying desperately to remember what the other person is talking about.
However, it was just getting too long, so yesterday I took a razor to it. Through the course of the last 24 hours I've been in contact with no less than 10 Chinese adults and not a single one of them was able to place in the first, second (and most not even in the third) guesses what I had changed. Top two? 1) Hair cut (to be clear, they all indicated the top of my head), 2) new clothes. New feckin' clothes?!?
Anyway, maybe it's just that I look remarkably the same with a beard and without – judge for yourself, I've nothing left to ponder with.