Why all the attention on China? Well, there’s the Olympics of course, along with the nation’s impressive economic growth, its remarkable embrace of broadband Internet and the way it sneaked past the U.S. to become the top emitter of climate-warming gases. But I can’t help but think the success is at least partially due to its unprecedented harnessing of flesh-nibbling fish.
It seems like everywhere you go these days, all you hear is “China this” and “China that.” When did China become Marcia? China, China, China!
So why all the attention on China? Well, there’s the Olympics of course, along with the nation’s impressive economic growth, its remarkable embrace of broadband Internet and the way it sneaked past the U.S. to become the top emitter of climate-warming gases. But I can’t help but think the success is at least partially due to its unprecedented harnessing of flesh-nibbling fish.
I’m referring of course to Garra Rufa, the fish used in hip Chinese spas to nibble dead skin cells off of soaking patrons. So while the fish are chomping away, the Chinese can take the energy usually expended on exfoliation and instead concentrate on the Internet and the gas emitting, whereas in America we’re still reduced to wildly rubbing our entire bodies with loofah mitts. Um … not me. Other Americans.
Not that the fish spa concept doesn’t have its disturbing qualities. Accompanying the article I read about it is a picture of a bikini-clad Chinese woman in a hot tub being nibbled by hundreds of fish, an image that elicits not so much a sense of relaxation as it does the poster for the 1978 movie “Piranha.” (This was the killer fish movie starring Heather Menzies, who prior to that had played Luisa in “The Sound of Music.” “Piranha” was not as good a movie as “The Sound of Music,” but if nothing else it made you wonder how “Music” might have turned out differently if the Von Trapp children had fallen out of the rowboat, only to be instantly skeletonized. Well played, Baroness Schrader!)
But these spas aren’t the only way the Chinese have displayed their unusual proficiency for finding new and effective uses for the country’s fish population. There’s also the new trend of live fish jewelry, in which teenage girls wear pendants containing live fish, along with water, fish food and “two solid oxygen balls.” Solid oxygen balls sound like a blood clot waiting to happen, but I’m sure the people who manufacture live fish jewelry know what they’re doing.
Now, apparently the Sichuan Provincial Marine Life Research Center has condemned the jewelry, labeling it “cruel,” but I’d tend to disagree. The way I see it, at least if they’re traveling around in an earring the fish get to see the world, instead of just hanging out in the lobby of a Chinese restaurant, watching the lobsters in the next tank getting plucked out and figuring the end is nigh.
Besides, after three months (that’s when the oxygen balls run out), the jewelry’s owners are supposed to release the fish into ponds or tanks. Of course, we can only hope they remember to do this, or we’ll be looking at a repeat of the great unintentional Tamagotchi massacre of 1999. (They might be better off recommending that the teenage girls release the fish into their bathtubs, where they can move on to the next phase of their mission, nibbling off dead teenage skin.)
Here again, America is woefully behind its Chinese counterparts when it comes to live fashion accessories, but hopefully not for long. I’m pinning my hopes on the plans for jewelry featuring live hamsters still in their exercise balls, or, barring that, magician David Blaine.
On the other hand, eventually we may just have to embrace a “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” attitude and do what we can to assimilate into Chinese culture. The first thing we should do is all learn Mandarin. And the first phrase we should learn is, “These fish are nibbling a little too close to my oxygen balls.”
Peter Chianca is a CNC managing editor and the brains behind “The At Large Blog” (chianca-at-large.blogspot.com) and “The Shorelines Blog” (blogs.townonline.com/shorelines). To receive At Large by e-mail, write to email@example.com, with the subject line “SUBSCRIBE.”