22 Jan 2012

Enter: the Dragon

"But Chuck, you promised you'd call!"
Tomorrow marks the start of the new Chinese year. Seeing as how I've been living in Singapore for about five months now, I figure this is as good a time as any to write about something cultural. I haven't quite come to grips with the Chinese calendar yet, but I'm led to believe that the Chinese Zodiac assigns one of twelve animals to each year. This new year, for example, is the Year of the Dragon, a phrase which can only bring to mind this mild-mannered gentleman on the right, Bruce Lee. If -like me- you were under the impression that the recession and war and the passing away of Amy Winehouse all represented the worst that can happen -that things can only get better- think again. We're only just entering the year of the Dragon. 

Amy Chua's eldest: Sid. Jr.
I jest. The Dragon is in fact a revered figure in Chinese mythology, an amalgam of nine different species of animals, none of whom -I'm happy to report- is George W. Bush. Or Zooey Deschanel. The Dragon is believed to have many healing abilities, at least some of which are also acknowledged in the West. Popular culture stalwarts like William S. Burroughs, Sid Vicious (left), Chris Farley and Kurt Cobain have all endorsed the life-affirming qualities of chasing the Dragon. Some, like Lou Reed and David Bowie, were known to break into song and dance in their appreciation of Dr. Dragon. The Dragon also has its share of detractors in the West, spurred on no doubt by the subversion of the Dragon as an Oriental badass in European folklore, and the unfortunate association-by-default with matriarchal anarchist, Amy Chua.

"No, Sting is the whiny one."
The economic crisis in Europe -according to the Chinese Zodiac- shows no sign of abatement, thanks in so small part to the Dragon's historical rivalry with Saint George. Fashion, on the other  hand, is expected to be positively influenced by the Dragon, with trends in recent years -like the hugely popular yellow tracksuit donned by Uma Thurman in the Kill Bill series (right)- already pointing to a resurgence of dragon iconography and retrochic. The accompanying sword however is not expected to catch on, not least in the human rights-friendly West. An unlikely accessory has surfaced instead, with celebrities and less important people increasingly spotted with the very Dragonesque Chihuahua peeping out of their Jimmy Choo handbags. The Chihuahua has of course been a constant bone of contention for evolutionary scientists, with recent discoveries pointing to possible genetic inheritance from snakes and Satan. Unfortunately, they are still -in certain ethnic/economic communities- referred to as crack babies, thereby sullying the good name of Dr. Dragon by association.               

Lastly, I must admit I was not particularly amused by my well-meaning colleague's observation that I was born in 1984, the Chinese Year of the Rat. This is patently much less sexy than the Leo I was brought up to believe I am. I will however persevere to document my continuing cultural education in this lovely little land. The Singaporean government though, is notoriously impervious to humour -and presumably less so to wisecracks from rodents- and I may well be in danger of stepping over some imagined line of political correctness. Forget not that even Jack Bauer, that manliest of all manly men, cracked in Chinese prison. I only hope they take kindly to my drunken drawing of Mickey Mouse in the DOB column in my passport. Happy Chinese New Year, everybody!    


red dirt girl said...

Goooo Dragons! I read somewhere on the innertent that the official dragon year doesn't start until Feb 4, 2012 ... something to do with the lunar calendar and the first day of spring??? Well it also said I wasn't a really a dragon but a SNAKE! and I hate SNAKES !! So I'm sticking to the version I like best.

I'm sorry for you that you are a rat. Happy me, having been born in 1964 in the month of April means I get to be a double dragon. And yes, dear man-child, that means I am legally old enough to be your mother ;)

Happy Chinese New Year, Icy.

icyhighs said...

If that's true (about Feb 4) I'm kinda glad. Coz I just read on an old post of Goatman's that 2011 was/is the 'Year of the Metal Rabbit'. The Metal Rabbit! How awesome is that? Did you know dildos originated in China, and they used to be made of wood and shaped like rabbits? That's not relevant but my mind works in spurts.

Red, you can't be a snake - not least coz I'm a rat! It's the jungle version of Twilight - we can't hang out coz you'd rather eat me!

Heh this whole you're-older thing is adorable by the way; you're hellbent on proving I'm a foetus aren't you? Its 12 noon here and I'm on my third helping of Makers Mark + apple juice, so I'm going to go all inappropriate and give you a giant hug! Happy Chinese New Year right back atcha!

goatman said...

Of course the featured expectation is "dragon stew" mmmmmmm

red dirt girl said...

Hugs back 'atcha!

Okay, I'll stop harping on the generation thing ... you see I'm crushing on your writing at the moment, and I need to keep reminding myself that these are the words of a man who is, well, a generation younger than I.

I'm quite fascinated by it all. My ex-husband and I had a long distance relationship for a year, and we used to do that: fall asleep on the phone with each other. The phone bills were outrageous! But in the 20 years that we were married, he was never able to articulate his feelings to me. And I find that to be true of most men that I meet.

So I AM curious, is this a unique facet of YOUR personality or have men finally gotten the message that it is OK to talk about FEELINGS without threat of losing their manliness?! I'm really hoping it is the latter and not the former because that means my daughter has a much better chance at knowing how her man thinks and feels (when she picks a man.)

I'm not sure if the 'knowing' will make her more successful at finding the right guy or presages a better chance of longevity for the relationship ... But I do have hope... !


Sanjana said...


I'm a Leo as well, and born in the year of the Rooster, which I totally don't identify with... but I guess it's better than the rat thing eh? ;)

And I think 2012 will be an awesome year. The Year of the Dragon will be good! :)

icyhighs said...

Hi Sanjana, the rooster is cooler than my lowly Ratatouille alter-ago, I agree. I'm rather amused (in a good way) by your sincere optimism - "2012 will be good!" You have a good year now!

icyhighs said...

Red! Now I'm a sociological experiment?! Just kidding. I don't know about all men, or even about 'talking about feelings' - I do know that I go into a relationship knowing fully well that relationships are things you have to work at to make them work.

I don't believe in floating along in a bubble, oblivious to reality till you're pregnant and one of you needs to quit your job and money is short and careers are compromised and tempers flare. And I find a lot of men (and women) don't see it that way - they get their hearts broken time and again, and yet they go into a new relationship forgetting all the lessons learnt,deluding themselves that being loved somehow means you can be less than the best person you can be, that you can slack off.

I don't think that answers your question but that's why I'm curious about breakups - because it's a personal failure, not a collective one. What makes these people so secure about someone that they forego hygiene and honesty and just plain being interesting individuals? That's what I'd like to know.

red dirt girl said...

I AM heartened by your assertion that you believe relationships are things to be worked at to make them work. I disagree with you on the progression of honesty, however. I think we are MOST dishonest when we are attempting to attract someone new. Our real selves only shave once a week in winter ... our ATTRACTIVE selves make certain we shave at least twice a day... horrors to have a little razor stubble whilst we attempt to tumble into bed with our new lover. (Yes I am being deliberately facetious here.)

When is your inherent self-protective guard up the most?? When you first meet an attractive somebody or 9 months down the road when you move in together ...??

The reality is, Icy, that we are not designed to be our 'best selves' 24/7. We are utterly and thoroughly human: good and bad all jumbled together. And yes, that sometimes means we are slackers: selfish, impatient, short-tempered, bored, boring, indifferent, hard to handle, out of control.

So there you are: learning to love and accept the whole, flaws and all. That's where the real work begins. What compounds this process is that you are also, simultaneously, learning to love and accept yourself as you are ... now THAT'S what interests me.


icyhighs said...

Agreed, Red. I meant to write 'integrity', not honesty - as in when a breakup is caused by infidelity.

I found your take on honesty interesting though because its the exact opposite for me. When I meet someone I intuitively do everything possible to ward them off, put on my worst self. I usually come across as an alcoholic struggling writer - I've been plying that shtick since I was sixteen.

It works for me because I'm drawn towards women who think they can rescue me, mother me. And it works for them because for a while it really seems as though it's working - because I'm not half the bad-boy I pretended to be, because the more I know someone the more my real self comes out. And I'm a very normal, caring, considerate boyfriend (or so I'd like to think).

The irony is that that's when they leave - because the project is completed, there's nothing left to repair. So in your words, its the "loving me for who I am" that doesn't seem to work out. The real me is not half as interesting! And the real issue is :I need to stop being able to only function under lowered expectations - need to learn to love and accept myself, as you put it.

P.S. I'm so glad I can bounce my nonsensical theories off you, however temporary that may be.

red dirt girl said...


You're only proving my point. By 'pretending' to be a bad boy (your worst self), you are doing yourself and your love interest a disservice, because you are being dishonest.

Over time, your truer self emerges, not half as threatening or self-destructive as you would have us believe.

We all have our dichotomies, Icy. And we are all involved in this evolution of knowing ourselves, accepting ourselves, loving ourselves ...it takes a lifetime, I'm convinced. Consider it as a journey on a spiral: you circle around to the same place, but your positioning is different: you've risen above or fallen below your previous place on the spiral.

Learn from the moment and move onward. If you are willing, you will find someone to share your journey with you. Just be who you are. You are lovable as is.