Imperfect day for a perfectionist

Growing up No. 1 in Beijing

Ralph Jennings is a journalist and long time resident of China. He currently lives in Taipei. From mid-2000 to 2006, he had an advice column in the 21st Century weekly newspaper in which he answered letters from thousands of students and young professionals. Below is a letter from the archive, with an introduction by Jennings.

Here’s where members of China’s only-child generation start paying dues. Children smothered in the formative years by parental compliments imagine it’s impossible to do serious wrong or to fail against public perception. Then they go off to a faraway college where no one really cares. Elizabeth, who I’d guess grew up sibling-free, explains:

Student letters to a foreign agony uncle

Dear Ralph:

Recently, I'm terribly upset. In the eyes of many people who are around me, I am a lucky dog. I have relatively good looks, a slim figure, good family background and an excellent academic performance. Although I've been recognized as a modest girl, it seems that I am really unpopular. In a recent poll, I only won five votes but there are forty-four students in our class. The conditions required were fully in line with mine, and many unpleasant classmates got a lot of votes. This is a big blow to me, after all, as I am a perfectionist. What should I do to be people's favorite? I really have no solution.


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