Why Many Chinese Women Are Renting Fake Boyfriends for the Coming New Year
Which is worse? Showing up at your younger sibling's wedding without a plus one or being single and going back to mom and dad's alone on Chinese New Year?
For many Chinese women, the second prospect is so terrifying that many single ladies rent fake boyfriends just so they can dodge the grief and humiliation they are sure to get if they go home without a husband or at least boyfriend.
Chinese New Year is just three days away. This Sunday will mark the biggest celebration on China's calendar, when the entire country shuts down for people to celebrate with food, fireworks and family to welcome the 2013 Year of the Snake.
While most people look forward to the New Year, millions of Chinese "leftover women" are dreading it.
According to a recent BBC report, many young women, especially those without husbands or boyfriends, get depressed during this time of year.
"I'm pretty old - I'm almost 30 - but I'm still single. I'm under lots of pressure. My sisters and my relatives all ask me why I'm not married," Ding Na, a young woman living in the northeast of China told the BBC. "When they call me, I'm scared to pick up the phone."
In China, young women face a strict societal deadline to get married by the time they turn 30, and the pressure to settle down surges around the New Year, Zhou Xiaopeng, a consultant with one of China's biggest dating agencies, Baihe.com.
"Picture a scene where people sit around a table," Zhou told the BBC.
"Chinese people love to get together for dinner. On New Year's Eve, everybody is sitting in pairs, your brother with your sister-in-law, your sister with your brother-in-law, and so on. If you're the only one left behind, you can imagine the pressure and frustration," she said.
However, not all is lost for these poor souls with no one to love. For as little as $50 a day, these single women can rent out a fake boyfriend. On China's most popular online version of eBay, Taoboa, there are hundreds of advertisements that promise to provide a male companion for the holidays.
"Not getting any younger and still dreading facing the nagging parents? Need a boyfriend to face the family?" reads one advertisement on Taoboa, according to The Daily Telegraph.
Some of postings also advertise a full menu of possibilities like charging $5 an hour to go with a girl to dinner, $8 an hour for a kiss on the cheek and if the fake boyfriend stays overnight with his client's family he charges $80 a night to sleep in his own bed and $95 to sleep on the couch. There's even an extra charge for these male escorts to "talk to old people" during family occasions, according to TNT Magazine. Sadly, for single women looking to get the full boyfriend experience, sex is not on the list.
Li Le, a full-time salesman and a boyfriend-for-rent on the side, insists that he is not doing it for the money. Instead, he told BBC that he's doing it to find his soul mate.
"It's an exciting thing to do," Li. "I might find someone who shares my interests and it would make both of us happy," adding that "the best result" would be for him to "find someone to marry".