This week I'm in Fuzhou for the 66th China International Medical Equipment Fair which I will write about shortly in another journal.
Last night I went out to dinner with my boss, an old German dude (OGD) who was his former boss from a different company, and the OGD's Chinese assistant/translator.
After finishing up our seafood tasties, we four tumbled out onto the sidewalk. Having surveyed the surroundings, my boss declared that we were going to go to KTV (he likes to sing). Being a good soldier, I happily agreed (I don't like to sing at all).
A short walk later we arrived in front of a large, flashy KTV parlor. The sign on the building, in giant neon characters, read 自助KTV. ("self-service KTV")
"Self-service KTV?!?" he bellowed. "To hell with that! We need sexy girls! CHANGE LOCATION!"
So we did!
Another short walk and we arrived at a much grungier looking place that was equipped with the critically-necessary sexy girls. After some basic inquiries about the prices, we four waltzed up a long spiral staircase into the main
harem room parlor, then down a long corridor past a dozen or so KTV rooms before finally arriving at ours. Along the way, as you might imagine, I drew all sorts of stares from the "sexy girls" hanging about the place.
Once in our private room, we four settled back into a very long sofa and discussed our options. The girls at this particular establishment came in 3 levels of sexiness:
- 400 元
- 300 元
- 200 元
After about 5 minutes the Mama-san arrived to "take our order" and we gave her a hard time about the prices. She plainly explained that the 300RMB girls were more beautiful than the 200RMB ones, and the 400RMB girls the most beautiful, obviously. I asked her if the 300RMB girls were really 50% more beautiful and she... wasn't particularly amused by this question and shot me a dirty look!
Eventually we settled on the 300RMB tier, with mutual agreement to upgrade if we found the ladies insufficiently sexy.
Mama-san disappeared for 30 seconds or so, and when she reentered the room 15 young ladies filed in behind her. They all lined up shoulder-to-shoulder in front of us, took a deep bow, and welcomed us to the establishment with fantastically bored tones of voice. It was so pathetic I laughed.
Each girl was wearing an off-the-shoulder dress, either pink or light blue, that was actually rather conservative now that I think about it. Not even any cleavage, really. They also each had a lanyard around their necks with a large badge showing their ID number. No names, just numbers.
Having introduced themselves, they stood patiently waiting looking at nothing in particular. My comrades-in-shenanigans got into a good-natured argument over who should choose first, before the Old German Dude gave up and gestured at the tallest one off towards the left end of the line. She bowed slightly and then shuffled over and sat down beside him on the couch. His assistant then snagged one, leaving my boss and I.
Ordinarily you'd give the socially-superior person the first choice, but knowing this was my first time at Sexy Girls KTV he insisted I choose first. In truth, among all 15 of the girls, I had only found one attractive when they entered. However, she was really quite beautiful. She hadn't been chosen yet, so #602 became my girl for the night. While I was looking them over from the couch they all grew a bit restless because I was foreign. I made a point to call out her number in Chinese, with an accurate enough pronunciation that they all realized I had a basic language proficiency, at which point she immediately relaxed and shuffled over looking more curious than anything.
And so it began! Part of our package fee included 2 cases of the local beer, in cans for extra low class-itude, and our new lady friends immediately cracked open a can each and began pouring.
In China beer is consumed not from the bottle but from a small beer glass, which is equivalent to a large mouthful - maybe 2 or 3 "shots" - and thus perfect for toasting and bottoms-up drinking. For some reason that I've yet to discover, Fuzhou has even smaller beer glasses. They're little more than your standard shot glass... drinking beer out of them seems silly, but it makes it easier on the girls I guess.
The girls poured two midget-glasses of beer each, and then offered the other to their partner for the night. My cutie, the only cutie if you recall, graciously offer me my midget-glass of beer, which I just as graciously declined and told her that I don't drink anymore. At first she was suspicious that I was just teasing her, but when my boss assured her it was true she was visibly relieved: while she would still be expected to drink the occasional toast with the other guests tonight, her primary responsibility of matching me glass for glass was gone. To celebrate her good fortune she... poured herself a drink and downed it in one gulp!
The range of possibilities at a place like this runs the gamut from just drinking and singing together, to ass-grabbing and snuggling, to outright prostitution - negotiated discreetly and conducted off-site of course. And then you have me: the happily monogamous, teetotaling non-singer.
I amazed my sexy girl by being genuinely interested in genuinely uninteresting things, asking her questions like:
Where are you from? A village in the countryside surrounding Fuzhou.
How old are you? 18 according to her, but anywhere from 16 to 20 would have been possible judging by her appearance.
Do you do this every day? No, we come when we feel like it. If there are a lot of customers for some reason then Mama-san will call the girls who aren't in and yell at us to get off our lazy asses and come in.
Why are you a 300 元 girl and not a 400 元 girl? You're much more beautiful than these other 300 元 girls... I'm not tall enough! She was only about 160cm (5' 3"), and she said the top level girls had to be at least 170cm (5' 7"), which is truly tall for southern China!
What's the worst part of the job? The drinking!
The best part? The money is pretty good, the work is easy, and I get to sing. Can you sing? Yes, a little. Any English songs? One!
At which point she ran to the KTV computer and clicked around a bit, then queued up Kelly Clarkson - Because of You and came back and plopped down on the couch next to me to wait for her turn.
If you can't call that song to mind, go ahead and watch the video before continuing, I'll wait...
Now try and imagine a beautiful young Chinese girl stepping out to the center of a dingy karaoke room, flanked on one side by a giant TV and the other by a long couch with two Chinese guys, the Old German Dude (happily groping his girl), and 3 other slightly older and much more work-worn establishment girls...
the music begins...
she raises the microphone...
she closes her eyes..
she tilts her head back ever so slightly and...
Everyone stopped, even grabby-mc-ass-meister paused his pawing to stare. My sexy girl, #602, was a closet Whitney Houston. Not only did she sing Because of You much, much better than Kelly Clarkson did, she did so without being Clarkson-chunky and without any real English ability.
It was, honestly, stunning.
Her pronunciation was spot-on, she sang with overwhelming passion and really every bit of her body, and for 4 minutes or so nobody even moved. We - other sexy girls included - just sat transfixed on our grungy couch.
And then it was done, the spell was broken, and with a little "xiexie" and a giggle she trotted back over and plunked down beside me. Instantly reverting to her default somewhat awkward, terribly cute persona.
While I was still trying to piece my mind back together a funny thing happened - my comrades-in-shenanigans began congratulating me! You see, according to the alternate universe logic of the Sexy Girls KTV, my status amongst the group had just been elevated when my sexy girl blew us all away because I had picked her! Never mind that I could never have known her ability to sing when she was in the original 15 girl line-up, I had picked her and any ability she had was automatically a credit to my refined sexy girl judgment!
Eventually the night drew to a close. Mama-san came back and tallied up the final total. My boss split the tab with the OGD, and we began the long walk back through the establishment down to the street. It was at this point, as my cutie walked beside me, that the OGD's Chinese translator leaned in and informed me that if I wanted to take her to get some coffee, and then perhaps to my hotel, it would probably be possible... to which I smiled and politely declined.
Ever the good soldier, I herded my inebriated leader into the back seat of a taxi, hopped in the front, cast one last look back at my smiling cutie standing demurely on the corner, and then ordered the driver to take us home.
It is interesting to consider the motivations of each participant...
- My Boss - he loves to sing, and is quite talented. He doesn't go in for any of the flirting or groping. To him, Sexy Girls KTV is an opportunity to sing duets all night with youthful, well-practiced ladies. And that's exactly what he did, to his great enjoyment.
- Drew - My first such experience, I only went in order to accompany my boss. It was not something I feel a need to experience again, but I did enjoy my time beside my nubile, charming #602.
- The Old German Guy - somewhere between 50 and 60 years old, his chief pleasure was squeezing the bottom of his girl, chain smoking, and
coughing outsinging classics like House of the Rising Sun and Venus.
- The Assistant - 35 and unmarried, but looking more like 25, this guy was right at home on the couch amidst the sexy girls. He might have sung one song - he preferred to chat and drink with the girls.
There is a whole world, a social undercurrent, of Chinese business society that I've only had flashes of exposure to, and Sexy Girls KTV + coffee + hotel is one of those. Here in Fuzhou at an expo as we are, there is a natural gentleman's agreement that these sorts of things will occur, in fact should occur, and will not be spoken of outside the grungy confines of the KTV parlour. Business in China, despite the presence of women, is still very much a man's world.
As for #602, my dear Ms. Xie, wherever you are, I will never forget your rendition of Because of You, and I wish you a happy, comfortable life free of diseases and unplanned pregnancies! :-)