Everyone thought Lulu was staying on because of her business plans. And in a way that was true too. After all she was working on a lifelong merger, and the last thing she needed was Bei falling apart in public, but that’s what happened when Wang Deng started dragging Bei to fancy business receptions. He wanted to see his wife throw some dividends, he wasn’t running a charity after all. But anyone can see that mixing Bei and business is not a good idea. And sure enough: she didn’t like the business crowd one bit. Bei likes to spend money, she doesn’t want to know how people make it. Five minutes into the receptions she went cross-eyed with boredom and threw herself on the bar. And who can blame her? Most business people these days are peasants in disguise. Peasants who sell dung or concrete, who make gazillions selling it, but still - peasants. They make their fortunes, and next thing you know, they’re sitting next to you at G and bore you to tears. Because what are they going to talk about, innovations in the composition of concrete? Fluctuations in the price of dung? It didn’t take long before Bei went from socialite to alcoholic, and along the way, tottered into the manicured grip of Dr. Chen, the plastic surgeon.
All the girls are keen on plastic surgery now: they want Western eyelids and barely-there noses, and why not, it’s a good investment. Better jobs, richer husbands. Look at Xiao Lei, the movie star; fixed her lids, ditched acting and went off to marry a Hong Kong tycoon. If that isn’t incentive, I don’t know what is. Not that anyone in China thinks Xiao Lei’s got anything special, her features are all over the place, flat and all. We were shocked when she got that Western cosmetics contract, but it seems to be some sort of a trend. I’ve noticed this before: Westerners have no taste. Take the men: millions of girls out here to choose from, but they go and pick the ugliest piece in the shop. Even Lulu – of course she looks fabulous – but still, I told you, she’s not perfect, but Westerners, they love her. Anyway, Xiao Lei is a huge success - is it any wonder that girls look at this and think, marriage, cosmetics contract, that’s a whole lot of perks for having a lid fixed. It’s a cost-benefit analysis as Lulu says. Because that’s how we live these days, sensibly, you know? No fanaticism, no idolizing and no politics, please. Above all, no politics. No one wants to bother with it anymore, we just focus on work, that’s where everything’s concentrated now; the greatest rewards, the greatest freedom and the least interference from the government.
excerpt from short story, Bund Girls
Bund Girls was published in the 2011 Lightship Anthology .