Fri, January 20, 2012
Lifestyle > Society > The Year of Dragon celebrations

Some rent sweetheart to silence parents' questions

2012-01-19 03:15:15 GMT2012-01-19 11:15:15(Beijing Time)  China Daily

A girl cleans her boyfriend's ear in the waiting hall of a long-distance coach station in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province, on Tuesday. [Photo/China Daily]

Are you in a relationship?

That's probably the most embarrassing question single people get asked during Spring Festival.

As young urbanites head back home for family reunions, their parents, especially those in small towns and rural areas, will try to talk them into, even pressure them to get married as soon as possible. According to Chinese tradition, parents of children of marriageable age who remain single lose face.

To deal with the insistent parents, many single people find a simple solution - renting a girlfriend or boyfriend. This year, micro blogs, online shopping sites and group-buying websites have become the platforms of choice for tech-savvy young people to look for the right co-actor.

Search for "renting a boyfriend/girlfriend to go home during Spring Festival" on taobao.com, China's largest online shopping website, and 64 online stores will surface offering girlfriends for rent who can accompany the buyer back home during Spring Festival. And there's no shortage of men - 444 stores offer boyfriends for rent.

A 24-year-old man surnamed Chen is one of those who will be a temporary boyfriend for a price. The stock dealer left his village in Hunan province two years ago and is working in Shenzhen, Guangdong province.

Chen began offering the service two months ago and has already made three deals. He listened to his clients' worries and accompanied them to parties with friends. He might have to comply with sudden demands for hugs and kisses.

Chen said he expects brisk business during the Spring Festival. More than 20 women have contacted him, showing interest in his service, even though it costs 500 yuan ($79) a day.

Chen's got his inspiration for the business from his own experience of being urged to marry. People in rural areas usually get married younger than those from cities. Though Chen is still in his early 20s, his parents are busy arranging blind dates for him.

To avoid dating arranged by parents during Spring Festival, he has decided not to go home this year.

In his opinion, it's a win-win deal if he can rent himself out as a temporary boyfriend. "My customer can be freed from her parents' babbling about finding a boyfriend," Chen said. "I can make some money and have a warm festival instead of spending the long holiday alone in a city away from my hometown."

To assure customers of his sincerity, Chen will arrange face-to-face meetings in a public place and show them his ID card. Sometimes, he will also request the potential client to produce an ID.

"I'm also worried that I may get cheated or run into danger. After all, I have to travel to a new place together with a stranger," Chen said.

Chen is proud of his "work ethics".

"I'll turn down the deal if we don't look like a good match after seeing the customer's photo and talking to her. Because it would be impossible to convince her parents," said Chen, who is still choosing from nearly 30 potential clients.

Serena, 30, who prefers to give her English name, said on her micro blog that she wants to rent a boyfriend who can accompany her home and have dinners with her parents during Spring Festival.

Serena, a white-collar worker in Shanghai, sees nothing wrong with renting a boyfriend. But she said she has turned to this "troublesome" method only because pressure from her parents can accumulate to become unbearable.

"My parents may keep asking when my 'boyfriend' and I plan to get married after seeing the 'boyfriend' I rent. And they will be looking forward to meeting him next Spring Festival. It's unrealistic to rent a different boyfriend every year," Serena said.

Meituan.com, a group-buying website, launched a drawing on Jan 11, and the prizewinner can go home with a single employee from the website on a trip home sponsored by the website. More than 150,000 people have entered the drawing. A winner will be chosen on Friday.

Xu Jingxi contributed to this story.

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