Reasonably speaking, confessing this was very easy. Even If I couldn’t say it face to face, sending a message would be fine. The problem only lied in finding a suitable opportunity.
When we were nicely having a meal and chatting, I surely couldn’t suddenly say, “I’m asexual.” That would be too crazy.
It also wasn’t suitable when we were going on a walk. It was a public place, and many strangers would pass by so it wasn’t private enough.
Inviting him out solely to talk about this matter… might be being too serious about it. Wang Dequan was also quite busy with work.
After postponing it again and again, a month passed and I still hadn’t found the right opportunity. After all, I was still afraid to say it, admitting defeat just before the battle.
Although I always used my flaws to make fun of myself, deep down I actually cared a lot about it. Back when I had just broken up with my junior, it wasn’t like I didn’t try to hold onto our relationship, but he insisted that I didn’t love him enough. I was unable to argue with him, but I wasn’t able to sleep at night for half a month.
This was my weakness, a pain that others could not poke.
As a result of talking about my old friend, my old friend then appeared. Today I went to meet with the magazine’s new advertising partner representative, and I happened to find that it was my junior, my ex-boyfriend.
The energetic boy from that time was now wearing a suit and leather shoes. Society had worn away his immaturity, making him more experienced and sophisticated. When he saw me, he did not hide his surprise but didn’t soften at all as we talked about work, and I actually appreciated this strictly businesslike attitude. After discussing, I wanted to go back, but he then enthusiastically invited me out to eat.
I didn’t have the tolerance to remain friends with my exes, so I didn’t want to agree. In the end, I compromised and went downstairs to the cafe with him to catch up for a bit.
Although my enthusiasm waned in the beginning, after reminiscing on numerous past events from university, I couldn’t help but sink into melancholy. In those days, we were energetic, impulsive, and in our prime. Now, everyone had already changed.
Eventually, he suddenly said, “I let you down back then.”
I said, “It’s all in the past.”
My junior looked at me and said, “No, it’s not in the past… Actually, I’ve never been able to forget you.”
I blinked. What did this mean? Did he want to get back together with me?
I reminded him, “Are you okay with not having sex now?”
“No,” he said. “I’m a man, so of course I have normal physical needs. But I can assure you that on a spiritual level, the person I love the most will always be you.”
This man, so shameless! Was he saying that he wanted to have a platonic relationship while cheating on me physically? How did he become like this?
I glared at my junior, but he had a look of sure confidence and continued to say, “Really, you’ve always been like this. No man would be able to put up with you.”
I indignantly but also a bit sheepishly said, “How do you know? I have a boyfriend right now.”
“Oh? Then does he know what’s wrong with you?”
I wasn’t good at lying and could only stay silent. Thus, my junior looked immensely proud of himself.
After he left, I dejectedly sat there, not wanting to stand up. In fact, he wasn’t wrong about one thing. How could there be someone who doesn’t mind? Let alone men, women wouldn’t be able to tolerate their partner’s lack of desire either, right?
I stopped thinking about how I should word it and directly dialed Wang Dequan’s phone, deciding to cut the Gordian knot and be straightforward.
“Hello, Wang Ge1?”
“Yes, what is it?”
“I have something to tell you.”
“Actually… I’ve never told you that I’m asexual.”
I was far from being as natural as I thought I would be. Once I said it, it seemed to use up the most courage I had ever had in my life.
It was clearly silent on the other side, and my heart sank a little.
“What… do you think?”
After a long time he said, “This… It’s hard for me to answer you right now.”
I gripped my phone and felt as if I were awaiting trial. My hand disobediently began to tremble slightly.
“Usually when men have low sexual desire, if it’s a deficiency, it is mainly because of a deficiency of kidney Yang or kidney qi. If it’s an excess, it is generally accumulated liver qi or accumulated damp-heat. And not to exclude circumstantial conditions as Western doctors have said, it can be due to organic pathological changes or psychogenic factors. Just based on a simple description, I have no way to determine.”
“So, when you have spare time, you can come visit Hesong Clinic. Don’t mind the trouble, but we would also have to do the four methods of diagnosis2 in order to accurately and responsibly diagnose a patient. Don’t worry, although you have a bit of a qi and blood deficiency, my initial judgment is that this is not the main cause, and it could likely be an emotional illness3. Anyway, we won’t know until you’ve had an examination.”
“… Ah… Okay.”
“Is there anything else?”
“No, nothing else. Sorry to trouble you, Wang Ge.”
“It’s okay, and don’t be so polite with me. Give me a call before you come.”
“Okay, I’ll let you get back to work.”
Then we just hung up like this?
I chose a day Wang Dequan was in and went to Hesong Clinic, but I didn’t call him. I sat in the lobby in a daze as I watched the children boisterously play around.
I had already arrived at the clinic, yet I was still hesitating.
I didn’t actually think a Chinese doctor would be of much use to my worries. I had gone to a psychologist before and told them everything, but they never treated the reason why I went, and afterwards the matter was left unsettled.
On one hand, Wang Dequan’s attitude comforted me, but on the other hand, it inevitably led me to feel uncertain whether he only regarded me as an ordinary friend and patient for him to have such a calm attitude about it.
Alas, I was already starting to have mixed feelings.
Calm down, to me Wang Dequan was only a blind date, nothing more. He got up early and slept early every day! He used old-people emojis! His name was so out of fashion! Did I really want to spend my life with him?!
At first when I saw this name that wouldn’t live past five episodes, I was absolutely certain we wouldn’t make it!
Ah, how annoying. Why was I sitting in a TCM clinic thinking about my relationship issues?
Both sides of the lobby were spacious lounge areas that had sofa chairs and magazine racks. When the assistant at the front desk saw that I didn’t have the intention of registering, she didn’t rush me and even poured a glass of lemonade and brought it over, handing me a brochure on the way and telling me to find her if I needed anything.
I sat on the sofa, absent-mindedly flipping through the brochure. I looked for Wang Dequan’s name, wanting to see what he specialized in.
I flipped through it once, and he wasn’t there. I flipped through it twice, and he wasn’t there. The third time…
Wait a minute. I was at a loss for a long time. Had I gone to the wrong clinic?
Only now did I call Wang Dequan and asked him how many clinics Hesong Clinic had opened in total.
“There’s only one.” He said, “Did you want to come?”
I said that I had already arrived and was in the lobby.
He said, “I’ll come out to get you now.” Then he hung up.
Not long after, Wang Dequan walked out with large, powerful strides, the back of his doctor’s coat fluttering in the air. I felt an indescribable feeling.
I immediately cast the doubts I just had to the winds.
So what if his name was out of fashion? So what if he used old-people emojis? So what if he woke up and went to bed early? He was indeed handsome.
With this presence, could the director really arrange that he doesn’t live past five episodes?
At the front desk, Wang Dequan signed his name and added a registration, then took me to his consulting room.
I was still holding the brochure, and I curiously asked, “Wang Ge, why isn’t your name in here?”
He lowered his head and glanced at it, calmly saying, “It is there.”
“It’s really not there.” I unfolded it and showed it to him. “Where is it? I flipped through it several times and couldn’t find it.”
Wang Dequan stopped walking and pushed open the door to the consulting room on his left. He let me go in and sat down, then grabbed the brochure and flipped to a certain page before placing it back into my hands.
I stared at it.
“Wang Linyuan. Chief physician, traditional Chinese medicine doctorate, graduated from the traditional Chinese medicine department of Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, studied under Professor xx, specializing in the treatment of various difficult illnesses in internal medicine, gynecology, pediatrics…”
“But that’s not you?” I didn’t understand.
“Huh?” He stretched his head over and glanced at it. “You didn’t know? Then the person who introduced me probably forgot to tell you. After all, everyone is normally used to calling me Dequan.”
Wang Dequan took his ID out of his wallet and showed it to me. To my consternation, it said “Wang Linyuan”, not one character wrong. “The name used on my ID and doctor qualification certificate are different from what I normally use.”
I fell silent.
“So… Why do you use two different names? Is it your former name?”
“To be exact, Linyuan is my name,” he said naturally. “Dequan are the characters chosen by my mentor. The custom is that only someone’s parents and elders can call them by their name. People of the same generation all address each other using other characters. When I was in school, my peers all used the characters given by our mentor. We gradually began to call each other these and got used to it, so it stuck.”
As a matter of fact… Professor xx that he studied under was practically a household name, and it would be embarrassing for you to ask if he was living or dead. This behavior seemed understandable, but it must have been difficult for Wang Dequan to uphold this very historical sounding name for so many years. Thinking this, I looked toward him and couldn’t help my gaze from becoming sympathetic.
“Actually Wang Ge,” I tentatively asked. “Have you ever mentioned to your teacher… if you can change to a bit of a more, uh, modern, no, a more common name?”
“I have.” Wang Dequan said seriously, “‘Dequan’ comes from a line in The Yellow Emperor’s Internal Canon4: ‘The reason people could live past 100 years old is that their actions remained unshakable and they had complete virtue.’ According to Qi Bo’s statement, only those who conform to heavenly law can be called ‘complete virtue5’. I asked my mentor if this was a bit too much, but he said ‘Linyuan’ is the shape of danger, so taking the meaning of ‘complete virtue6’ was very appropriate and that there was no need to change it.”
At a loss, I nodded. “Ah, so that’s what it is.”
However, he suddenly revealed a mysterious smile. “Actually, among my peers, my mentor always favored me. Could you tell?”
“…I suppose I… could, could tell.” I was stupefied and thought deeply for a long time. Finally, I carefully said, “Anyway… As long as you’re happy then it’s fine.”
Wang Dequan took my pulse, looked at my tongue, and so on. He didn’t find any big issues, only that I had a bit of a qi deficiency which mostly originated from common problems among modern people, such as having irregular sleep patterns for long periods of time.
He then asked me about the specific symptoms of my condition, when I had noticed them, and whether I had any unpleasant experiences in the past.
His voice was very gentle and deep on my eardrums, so I couldn’t help but feel an “as if I could talk to this person about the burdens in my heart” feeling of safety.
I poured my heart out to him about those indistinct memories from my childhood and even heavier than that, the psychological pressure my parent’s cautious and unconditional indulgence over the years had given me.
I forgot that I was there to see a doctor and gradually opened up, even about coming out, my relationship, my fight and breakup, as well as my disgust and disappointment with the current disorder of the gay community. I told him everything in one breath.
Wang Dequan didn’t rush me, nor did he add any comments. He only remained calm and patiently listened from start to finish.
“… He said that. After all, everyone has weaknesses. Although I know it’s very childish, with just one poke I couldn’t help but jump up, and I had the impulse to call you. That’s all.”
I brought this conversation to an end and rubbed my face. My heart suddenly seemed much lighter.
The psychologist I used to see always liked to take my stories apart after listening to give me a detailed and thorough analysis.
However, I didn’t like the feeling of being rationally taken apart and didn’t want others to use cliched and stereotyped advice to tell me what to do and criticize me. I had read both Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung’s works and the more I learned about their theories, the more despair I felt over my own powerlessness.
“I’m sorry, Wang Ge,” I said. “I’ve been saying a bunch of nonsense. I wasted so much of your time for nothing.”
“You’re not wasting my time.” Wang Dequan said, “An illness may not only be physical. There are many times patients who come here only need to talk, and I don’t happen to have any other appointments this afternoon, so you can continue speaking.”
“So, I actually haven’t fully thought about whether I want to treat it. Many times I think, does this really count as an illness? What is there to treat? But after all, others will look at me differently so I guess I should still treat it…”
I didn’t know what I was saying either. I even felt a bit remorseful for coming to the clinic where he works, babbling for a while, and in the end being unable to figure out if I wanted to be treated. This wasn’t asexuality, there was something wrong with my head.
However, he seemed to be oblivious and thought for a moment before saying, “If you’ve decided that you want treatment, I’m not actually specialized in this field, but I have a senior that specializes in andrology and emotional illness that I can introduce you to. But if you feel that it doesn’t interfere with you…”
I continuously shook my head. “No, no, no, it’s better not to. I didn’t actually want to make such a big deal about it.”
Wang Dequan faintly smiled. “Then there’s no need to treat it.”
“This is just my personal suggestion.” He said, “You see, you don’t actually have any sexual dysfunction. You just have some psychological resistance to certain sexual behaviors. But for you, this hasn’t interfered with your normal life, so why must you insist on changing?”
“But…” I hesitantly said, “It surely isn’t normal…”
Wang Dequan questioned, “How exactly do you define the standards for ‘normal’?”
I didn’t know what it meant, so I was stumped.
“From a physiological point of view, the ‘normal’ range of erection, ejaculation, time, and frequency of male sexuality is a subject I should know better than you.” He lightly tapped the end of the pen in his hand on his medical case sheet. “However, each of us has individual freedom in the choices we make about our sexuality. In today’s society, some people are accustomed to promiscuity and some people would prefer not to marry for life. You can criticize others, but who is able to set this standard for ‘normal’? As for you, it’s just a psychological refusal to have sexual relations with others. Is there any problem with that? Subjectively, you don’t really have the desire to change. On the contrary, you are content with your current state, so why must you force yourself? Once you desire to change, then change will naturally come. You have to learn how to reconcile with yourself and not always be so hard on yourself. Otherwise, isn’t living tiring?”
I looked at him and was speechless for a moment.
After a long time, I finally found my voice again and called out, “Wang Ge.”
“What is it?” He asked.
“But not everyone can accept other’s choices… Like I said, this was how I broke up with my ex.” I put on a brave face and said, “After all, we’re both on a date now, so I want to know what you think? Are you okay with it?”
Hearing this, Wang Dequan seemed a bit surprised and slightly raised his eyebrows.
“It’s likely that I didn’t make myself clear before.” He seemed to have some mild nearsightedness because whenever he became serious, he had a habit of slightly narrowing his eyes, so he appeared to look particularly deeply at someone. “If I didn’t think you were suitable, I wouldn’t have wasted the time to get where we are now. Since I have accepted you, I will respect whatever choice you make.”
- “Ge” literally means big brother and is a form of address for older males.
- In TCM, there are four methods of diagnosis that include observation, palpation (pulse), auscultation and olfaction (listening and smelling), and interrogation.
- In TCM, “emotional disease” (情志病) is a disease caused by the seven emotions which leads to the imbalance of yin, yang, qi, and blood in the internal organs.
- An ancient Chinese medical text that has served as a fundamental source for traditional Chinese medicine.
- The “complete virtue” here is Dequan’s name (德全).
- The “complete virtue” here is different (德全不危) and refers to having a complete and well-directed approach to health in wellness. This phrase is also the one used at the end of the quote.