When to Be Beta


While our sons played outside the kindergarten after class, Susan and I discovered we were both passionate about reading books to our children and we both dreamed of putting up a library one day.  Funny or not, just when you’re about to leave a place, you discover things that make you wish you can stay such as newly formed friendships and the possibility of fulfilling projects.  It was also Susan who in our last month in Dagang, introduced me to the biggest bookstore in town.  I always went to TEDA forty five minutes away or Beijing three hours away to look for books not knowing what I wanted was right under my nose in the Oilfield.

Since we can’t take most of our books on our major move to Yunnan, I gave Susan a lot of books to start-up our imagined library.  Someday, when we visit her and Yinpu, we’ll be able to see the seed of a little library growing in their home.

Last week, I brought Joshua to their house and we started talking about the route from Dagang, Tianjin to Dali, Yunnan.  Excited, I ended up fetching my laptop so that I could trace the route aided by the big map that Susan had.  We made two options — one that passes by their hometown in Shanxi so that Joshua can see Yinpu who was leaving for the summer holiday to be with his grandparents.  I’d also like to pass through Chengdu for the love of Sichuan food and to visit the Waldorf school there.

Susan felt the route might take a long time because it would be passing through a lot of mountainous regions so she suggested a second route going by the coast where the highway would allow a faster travel time.  This route would give my friend Kelly in Shanghai the opportunity for us to meet up in nearby Suzhou.

I eagerly showed Jason the two routes mapped out in Power Point and he tersely replied, I don’t need this.  Foolish me.  Of course, why would I tell a Chinese where to go even if they were mere suggestions.  I think it’s the Alpha female in me who wants to plan and put things neatly and orderly that clashes with the Alpha male who wants to do things his way.  So the Alpha must always know when to give in and be Beta or else too much tension and conflict will ensue, not to mention frustration.  I should know better when to be Beta.

In “Just So Stories” by Rudyard Kipling, there is a tale called “The Butterfly That Stamped” which I read recently to Joshua and which embodies what I felt about the importance of wives knowing when to contain emotions including enthusiasm, and recede into the background.

“Then all the Queens except Balkis–the Most Beautiful and Splendid Balkis, who stood apart smiling–fell flat on their faces, for they said, ‘If these things are done when a Butterfly is displeased with his wife, what shall be done to us who have vexed our King with our loud-speaking and open quarrelling through many days?’ . . . . Then they put their veils over their heads, and they put their hands over their mouths, and they tiptoed back to the Palace most mousy-quiet.”

Not being “emo” or “exag” but hyper metaphorical.  There’s a time and place for being mousy-quiet and knowing when is a life skill.   I never had such an appreciation for Kipling, whom I never knew was such an amazing read-aloud author until I started reading him to my sons.

So to my friends and students who might want to know if we could have coffee or lunch together in your hometown, it would be a surprise for you and me!




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