The other day on the radio I heard an interview with Dominic Johnson-Hill, a British entrepreneur here who set up the Plastered T-shirts shop in Nanluoguxiang hutong.
He's lived in China for 16 years, most of them in Beijing. He has three daughters and they live near his shop in a courtyard home.
Fluent in Chinese, he says he loves Beijing because it's very masculine. He said it's got huge buildings and wide roads, and the people are very straight-forward, which is what he likes.
And hearing that for me was a eureka moment.
It's been difficult for me to understand this city, and describing it this way has made me realize what my relationship with Beijing is about.
It's a city that wants to give the impression of machismo, one of power and pride.
But it has a soft side too. Once you get into the warren of alleys or hutongs, you find the heart of the city, the people and the interesting buildings of a much smaller scale.
Dominic-Hill also describes Shanghai as feminine because of its intimacy. He also finds it difficult to decipher exactly what the Shanghainese are thinking.
I've never heard of cities given a sex before, but if you were asked to describe Beijing in one word, masculine is probably the one I would use too.
Now that I'm enlightened, I'll try to work on my relationship with the city, looking past the macho appearance and find its true face.