By Stephen Young
By Stephen Young
By Stephen Young
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
Seated in her small office in Fort Worth with a "Visa-MasterCard" sign on her desk, the 36-year-old Chinese native leafs through folders, perusing her client list of men and women eager to leave behind their lonely days and nights.
The phone rings. "Dating Center," she says in a soft voice, which sounds like a tremulous, submissive whisper. "You want date Asian woman?" she says, as if she's a waitress taking an order. "OK, we have Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese. We have women looking for a long-term relationship."
That's been Wang's sales pitch since she opened shop in this Fort Worth office suite three months ago. She says that in that time, she's amassed a large pool of women, some 200, and that 80 percent of them are mainly interested in meeting American men of European descent. The latter have heeded the call, plopping down the $580 to go on a year's worth of dates with as many women as they desire. (Since she opened her office, Wang has wavered about enrolling fees, but now says that $580 sounds like a respectable price, far more so than, say, the $300 she was initially charging.)
"American man treat them very nice," says Wang, who divorced a man from Taiwan and now is single. Speaking the language she's learned since coming to America four years ago, she adds, "God, there are so many people calling me every day."
So far, she has just charged the men--not the women--to use her service, and that affords the men a nice selection, with women outnumbering them 10 to one.
In China, Wang worked as a nurse for 12 years, then emigrated here. "It's a communist country," says Wang, one of six children, when asked why she left. When she moved to Texas, she soon landed a job at the West Fort Worth Dialysis Center. But ever since earlier this year, when she read a Fort Worth Star-Telegram ad from a man seeking the company of an Asian woman, Wang found herself wanting to be a different kind of nurse: healing the world of lonely hearts.
For Wang, the idea hit close to home; she says that in China dating centers are "very common."
But here, she's tapped into an interesting dynamic based on mutual stereotypes: Asian women seeking American men, whom they perceive as more modern, and the men who look to Asian women as a dying breed, the kind of traditional, home-centered female that the modern feminist movement obliterated.
To those who suspect that the Asian women whom Wang caters to want an American man only for immigration or financial reasons, Wang says that's not the case. "Many of the women are professional," she says, and flips through a small album showing a middle-aged Chinese woman who she says has a Ph.D. (The woman declined to be interviewed.) In her few months playing matchmaker, Wang has learned a few tricks of the trade: If an American has a college degree, Wang's more likely to match him with a Chinese woman. If he doesn't, she'll hook him up with a Vietnamese.
Wang picks up the phone and dials a male client for the Dallas Observer to interview. When he answers, she soon hands this reporter the phone.
"Are you Asian?" asks the man, 39-year-old Paul Pastrano, an associate manager with Motorola who earns about $70,000 a year. "I'm only dating Asian women. I have dates all weekend.
"At times in my life, I was a total sex pervert," he says later. "I go to Baby Dolls, but that's just eye candy. It ain't real."
In the past few months, he's been on four dates with women--among them a Chinese acupuncturist--through Wang's center. About their bank accounts, he says, "These women have money. They don't need me, honey.
"This may sound off-the-wall, but I want to meet a fairly attractive girl and settle down," says Pastrano, who says he's slept with more than 100 women and just this past month ushered in his birthday by hiring a hooker through an Observer ad. Now this divorced father of two says he's ready for commitment. But she has to be Asian. Otherwise, he has "zero interest."
"I guess I bought into the fantasy, the exotic and all that." He just has this hunch: With an Asian, particularly a Chinese woman, "there's more probability of having a relationship that's more committed.
"These are salt-of-the-earth people; they're pure," he says, and recounts the time he met a Chinese girl on his own and slept with her. "I was the first man she ever had sex with," the big man says effusively.
Yes, indeed. The American man is to be cherished. Just ask Xuan "Sue" Roberts, a 50-year-old Vietnamese woman who found out about Wang's center through an ad in a local Vietnamese paper. In 1969, in her native land, she had met an American man of 42 working at an American army compound near Saigon. When a Vietnamese soldier accused her of being a communist, she found a sympathetic ear in the American. They soon married, had two children, and later moved to Rowlett, where they lived comfortably until his death in 1996 from prostate cancer.
Seated in her spacious home, she recalls the pain she felt as a child in Vietnam when her father would go out, cavorting with other women. Her mother would wake her at night, crying. "It was like a trauma to me," she says now. "Vietnamese, all men that way. They say men can have three, four wives. That's why American women should appreciate what they have. They don't know what Asian women have to put up with."
Roberts' life, though, has taken an ironic twist since her husband died. A year after his death, she was introduced to a Vietnamese immigrant who was earning minimum wage as a cable worker. She soon took him in, letting her loneliness get the best of her. Now, she says that she can't get rid of him, that he lives off her and doesn't pay a cent. Through Wang's center, she has spoken by phone with three American men, but they've been duds; two never called back. Even if she meets an American who's half of what her husband was, that would suffice, she says, just so she could be with someone who could show her Vietnamese freeloader the door.
For other Asian women among Wang's clientele, being with an American man just feels more natural. "I'm so Americanized," says a Japanese woman in her 30s who has been in America since high school, and who married--and divorced--a Caucasian American with whom she had two kids. "I have no desire to date an Asian male." Yeah, it's not a "fair statement," but in the world of stereotypes and generalizations, her inner god tells her to stay away from her own kind. "I don't like the way they treat women," she says.