Some things are certain about Valentine's Day in Beijing: set menus with the word "love" attached to every dish, beflowered Chinese girls wearing sweaters that match those of their dates and copious gazing.
Valentine's is a stilted exercise. For those in relationships, it's the best time of year to feel bored, claustrophobic and prone to strangling. For singles, it's a chance to reflect on how much lonelier and less attractive you've become since the last time somebody loved you. The only people equipped to enjoy the holiday are those either starting a romance, or actively entertaining the prospect.
Not to despair, Beijing has a few vehicles (Nan Jie aside) for meeting that special someone. The Speed Dating Specialists put on monthly parties, complemented by games and alcohol, which give 14 single boys and 14 single girls the chance to talk just long enough not to make a terrible impression. "We pride our events for having well-rounded, out-going participants," says specialist Allison Johnson. "The goal may be to find a romantic interest but with Beijing being a networking city, many leave with new friends." If speed dating is too high pressure, "Dinner for Six" might be more your soiree. The dining club, exclusively for singles, meets every Friday at restaurants around town. "The concept offers a way to enjoy being single by increasing your circle of friends," says organizer Hellen Gao. "People join because they have married friends or friends in relationships, and are sick of trying to meet other single people in bars."
One last outlet for Beijingers who prefer the schadenfreude of other's misfortunes to make it through this lovers' holiday is China Dirt, the notorious blog chronicling the shortcomings of expat men in the capital. Back in operation, the site asks "Could the men living in China get anymore retarded?"
With Valentine's Day nearing, I am sure we will find a way.