|A young man walks out of a flower shop with a huge bouquet of roses as a Single’s Day party is advertised on the window in Shanghai in this 2012 file photo. — Xinhua|
Chinese young people, especially women, are under so much pressure to present acceptable boyfriends to their parents that some rent fake sweethearts, as Tan Weiyun reports on the Chinese Single’s Day today.
Clean-cut, bespectacled and financially secure Matthew Fan, 27, started to “rent” himself out as a fake boyfriend two years ago. He’s single.
“I wanted to earn some pocket money when I had just graduated from university and started to work,” says the Chongqing native who works full-time as an accounts manager. “This rental business isn’t bad, especially during the Chinese Lunar New Year when there are family reunions.”
Fan might not be handsome, but he’s attractive enough and he’s definitely reassuring to anxious parents who want their daughters to demonstrate they have a viable marriage prospect, a steady boyfriend.
On Chinese Single’s Day today, Fan and other rentable young men note that as the year ends, there’s more need for their services at New Year’s Eve parties with parents and the endless Spring Festival family parties of the Chinese Lunar New Year (beginning on January 30, 2014). Mid-Autumn Festival is another lucrative period of family reunions.
While some young singles are getting high at singles parties, some are quite low because they’re alone. They know they will soon be faced with ceaseless, annoying inquiries from nosy parents and relatives: Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend yet? When are you going to get married? You’re getting old.
Come on. Not again. But this badgering annual ritual cannot be avoided, especially at reunions, and some single men and women are turning to rent-a-boyfriend/girlfriend services to keep their parents and relatives off their back.
Fan, and advertises online — charges 800 yuan (US$131) per day in China and 1,500 yuan per day in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau. There’s a three-day minimum and his employer pays transport, accommodation, dining and other fees.
“I only rent my time, not my body — you know what I mean,” Fan says. He has a girlfriend who doesn’t know about his moonlighting.
Type the keyword rent boy/girlfriend on Taobao.com, China’s largest online shopping website, and more than 250 search results pop up. They provide a range of services and prices range from 500 yuan to 8,000 yuan per day, or around 50 yuan an hour on average.
Services include accompanying clients back home to see their parents, chatting with parents, attending social gatherings, going shopping and taking part in various other activities.
The price list per hour can be quite detailed. In some cases, dining is 50 yuan an hour (the employer pays), shopping 30 yuan, seeing a movie 30 yuan (double price for a thriller). A by-courtesy-only kiss costs 50 yuan, which will also include a free embrace, free hand-holding and a free goodbye kiss on the cheek or forehead.
“It all depends on how you look at it. If you look at it as a business, then it’s much easier,” says 26-year-old Xu Li from Yancheng City, Jiangsu Province, a postgraduate of Shanghai East China University of Sciences and Technology. He works part-time as a simulated sweetheart.
Usually, he and his client exchange photos online and settle on services and prices. Then they meet beforehand for a rehearsal. She briefs him on her situation and her family; they establish the boyfriend’s job, salary, family background and how they fell in love.