China Elevator Stories

1980 Or The Year That My In-Laws Tied The Knot

What was dating like for my in-laws?


Ruth Silbermayr
Ruth Silbermayr


On a Sunday afternoon in Shenzhen in February 2014, while I am pregnant with our first child, my husband and I sit in our living room, drinking tea and chatting. My in-laws have gone to the market and we enjoy some alone time. When they come back, we are still sitting on pillows on the floor, drinking tea, talking about this and that.

The following day, my mother-in-law confides to my husband: “When I saw you two sitting in the living room yesterday, drinking tea and chatting with each other, I was a bit envious. This is something I never had. If only I could be young again today.”

In 1980, my father-in-law had just come back from the army, while my mother-in-law had come back to the city from the countryside where she had been sent to do hard work. Two years before that, China had introduced its Reform and Opening Up policy. In the early 1980s, my in-laws were around the same age I am in now, in their mid-twenties. 

They had been working at the same company, at that time, and a colleague offered to introduce them to each other. They both agreed to his suggestion, met, and tied the knot only a little later. My husband was born in 1981. My in-laws didn’t have tea and conversations on Sunday afternoons, and their marriage surely had its ups-and-downs, but they were determined to go through hard times together. Or, as my father-in-law puts it today: “We were introduced to each other by a coworker, but this doesn’t mean we were not allowed to say no to marrying the other person.”

Do you think it’s better to be young nowadays?

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