Today for the very first time on Shards of China, I have a guest blog post. Interestingly the whole post is anonymous, it was left as a response to my piece on second wives in the Sex and Sexuality theme. I thought it was interesting enough that it shouldn’t be buried in the background. I’m very grateful for M sharing their feelings with us on this subject. So, thank you M – it’s a really interesting perspective on things. So apart from this intro today – none of this work is mine.
“Hello, I just wanted to leave a reply about er nai and my points in seeing it as the ‘norm’. While it is fairly acceptable, there are still underlying resentments between the family and the er nai depending on how close the family is.
My family came from a poor farming background most of whom moved to the city. In ~1997 they were all given ‘farming’ land (about 20min drive form city centre) and were able to build on them. Most made housing blocks and rented it to other rural workers and made considerable profits. My grandpa was one of these ex-farmers and he has 2 brothers.
All of them took an er nai or had extra marital affairs. The eldest still has 2 wives and they both even sit on the same dining table during dinners. However I always detect a sort of resignation in the first wife(who is much older). She lives in the hometown while the 2nd wife lives with him in the city.
The 2nd wife also has 2 daughters who are very pretty and they seem to get along well with their half siblings. When I first made made the distinction I was to a degree, repulsed. But it seemed if he can support both families, in Chinese views, it’s better if the first wife wasn’t left on the streets.
The second brother had another family when he came to the city to work without his wife knowing. It all ended with his wife having cancer and died so he married the other lady. I was told he was frowned upon back then. He wasn’t the oldest (entitlement for more wives) nor that rich and some even blame him for causing his wife’s grief and death. The lady he married is much younger than him.
Lastly, my own grandpa is where we had the most resentment. Maybe because he is my immediate family and we had a close kinship. His reason was to do with passing on the family name. His only son committed suicide and moreover, land passed through sons. My grandma stood up to his family and said daughters are humans too so should have claim rights. But great grandma suggested getting a young er nai and have a male son. In the end he did and we only found out after he had a daughter with this woman then a son.
My grandma wanted him to cut all ties with her and just wanted to adopt the boy but the er nai refused (knowing this was her free meal ticket). She already had a flat bought for her when she had the daughter. I heard from my aunty she had gotten fat from not having to work anymore. Her daughter goes to the same preschool as my aunt’s son, she lives that close to our family.
I asked aunty how it feels to see her and she feels nothing, it’s just something that happens and you cannot stop and will someday accept them as part of the family. I was so angry at first but got over it.. he did it to save face as he had no sons.
My grandma is still angry as there is still the possibility he might sneak off there. Which I believe he did more than once. They go on holidays a lot now probably to stop him.
Sorry if this was long. I have always wanted to pour this out but remain anonymous. One day when I meet the half relatives & hope it works out with with mutual understanding. I believe if my father were alive today, he too would have an er nai.”