Cen has a sunny disposition. she is positive about life and talks of the past with a great sense of humor. Though she did not have the chance to achieve her own dream of becoming a nurse, Cen is optimistic that her children are able to have better opportunities.
I got married at 21.
M: Is that young to you?
Yes, it is young [to be] married at 21.
M: What is a more appropriate age?
25 years old. My older brother and my younger sister got married at 30.
M: Why did you get married at 21?
I met the right person.
M: What makes him the right person?
My husband is a nice person and I want to be with him.
M: Can you tell me more about his personality?
He is kind, gentle and honest.
M: Did you get married in a rural place?
Yes, I got married in my hometown.
M: How did you make the decision to move to a big city?
My husband has been working here [in Shenzhen] since he was a teenager. He had been here for a decade already, so I came here with him after getting married.
M: Do you have any children?
Two kids. A boy and a girl.
M: How old are they?
My son is 14 and my daughter is 16.
M: What do they think they will do next?
My daughter wants to be a kindergarten teacher.
M: What did you hope when you first moved here?
We rent a house here and we own a small store. My husband is working in construction. He has been here for a long time so he knows the place better than his hometown. We can’t find good job back home and we are used to living in Shenzhen.
M: How do you think living in Shenzhen will affect your children?
My kids go to school in Shenzhen and they were born and have grown up in Shenzhen. They are like Shenzhen local.
M: What do you like about having them grow up in Shenzhen?
The living standard is higher in Shenzhen than in our hometown. People in my hometown have different values and attitudes towards kid’s education. People in my hometown are so different from people in the city. I don’t like taking my kids back to my hometown because I am afraid that they may learn from those bad kids in the village.
M: How do your children feel about what you do or what your husband does for a living?
We have never talked about it.
M: Do you think they know how hard you work?
Yes, they know. My husband’s work is even harder.
M: What do you hope for your children in the future?
Not yet. I just want them to be good and stay out of trouble.
M: I want to ask you what is the biggest part of your identity. Is it being a mother, being a woman or a migrant worker, garment factory worker?
I want to be a good mother and a good wife. I think being a mother is most important to me.
M: What kind of values do you think your children should learn from you?
I think they should learn patience and carefulness. I told my girl who wants to be a kindergarten teacher that she should be gentle and nice to little kids and she shouldn’t be a short-tempered teacher. Most kids are the only child in their family and they are the apple of their parent’s eyes. My daughter is still very young and I am afraid that she doesn’t know these things.
M: How do you feel about having two children versus having one child?
I think having two children is better. Only children can get lonely. Although two kids might fight with each other when they are little, at least they have someone to talk to and be with. I think most only children in families are lonely and introverted.
M: Do you have siblings?
I have an older brother and a younger sister. I am in the middle.
M: Do you see them often?
No, I only see them once a year.
M: So they live in your hometown?
M: Why did you decide to work here [in Shenzhen] and they didn’t?
My father has a small business to support the family so they don’t need to work in the city.
M: What did you dream about when you were a child？
I wanted to be a nurse when I was a kid but I didn’t take the test and go to nurse school.
M: Why not?
My elder brother was at school at that time and I thought it would be too much for my father to afford my education. I didn’t even take the test. Some of my classmates who weren’t as good as I was in school passed the test and went to nurse school.
M: Is there anything you would like to add, that you think it is important?
I don’t have any plan for the future yet. My kids are still in school. My son is not good at school and he may start working when he graduates from high school. Buying a house in Shenzhen is too hard for us. We will just go one step at a time.
how does CEN think about her style?
M: Can you can tell me about your outfit [you have on]?
I bought it in a store. It is different for a woman of my size to get nice and suitable clothes. I look good in this shirt. It won’t make me look fat.
M: Other than maybe disguising your body a little bit, what about the shirt do you like?
I rarely wear dresses now. I like this shirt because it is not tight on me and I am confortable in it.
M: How did you feel about the color?
I like this color combination with red and blue. This color combination makes my skin white.
M: What do you associate with the white skin?
White skin can go with any clothes.
M: What about the pattern on the shirt?
Nothing special, I just bought it in a regular store.
What about the rest of your outfit? The pants you have on, the shoes, what do you like about them？
I just put on the clothes I saw. I didn’t think much about it [this morning].
M：Your hair, how do you usually wear your hair?
I just do it this way [in a pony tail]. I have really long hair and I don’t want to cut it.
M: Why don’t you want to cut it?
It took me so long to have long hair like this. I don’t want to cut it.
M: What do you think long hair says about your personality?
I don’t know. I just think I look good with long hair.
M: How long have you had long hair?
I have had long hair for a long time. I had short hair when I graduated from school and my father didn’t like it.
M: Why do you think he didn’t like it?
My face is big and fat. Short hair doesn’t go with a big face.
M: What about your glasses?
I have been wearing glasses for 20 years. I started to wear [them] when I was a teenager. I am shortsighted and my glasses are 8 diopters. I can’t see things clearly without my glasses. Wearing glasses is not comfortable.
M: Do you dress according to your mood? How would you pick out your outfit?
C: 没有，看到喜欢的就买，适合我穿的就买，一般选雪纺料的衣服。那种T 恤显肚子。
No, I will just buy clothes I like. I like chiffon so I buy chiffon clothes a lot. I don’t wear t-shirts because they make my waist look big.
M: What do you love about chiffon?
It is a comfortable fabric and it flows. Chiffon clothes can help disguise my body.
M: Are there any other fabrics that you like？
I have many chiffon clothes like this. I will follow the trend and buy trendy clothes. I think chiffon is trendy this year.
M: What other trends do you follow?
I don’t go out a lot these days. I will check [the trends] out next time. I also know about the trends from the Internet.
M：Do you look at pictures or read articles?
Just check out the photos online. I can buy clothes with big size online but I can’t find them in the shopping mall.
M: How do you feel about shopping online?
I don’t buy a lot online. I will just buy things that I need and I buy shoes online too.
M: When you go shopping here or in a market, what would you buy?
I will go to a big shopping mall to get everything I need, including daily necessities.
M: You said that you look at fashion trend online. Do you think about your age and the fashion trend or do you think that fashion transcends age?
No, I think no matter how old are you, you should always know about trends so you can know what to wear at your age instead of buying clothes that are out of date.
M: How has your style changed as you have gotten older?
No, I don’t think my style changes a lot as I’ve grown older. I like wearing clothes that make me look young.
M: What do you associate with being young?
Dressing up pretty. I think all women like dressing up.
M: What do you think is the advantage of being pretty?
It will make you feel confident.
M: How would that help you in your life?
It will make me a sunny person.
M: Have you always been a sunny person?
I have always been outgoing and optimistic. That is why I am fat because I am happy and I don’t worry a lot.
translation by zhu lei