After news broke about Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o’s nonexistent dead girlfriend and the popularization of MTV’s "Catfish" show, which exposes people faking their identity online in order to dupe others into a relationship, the American public has been exposed to an increasingly familiar fake-girlfriend (or boyfriend) trend. In China, this has been happening for a few years, and some men have even made a business out of it. And that's men only, because the demand is for fake boyfriends.
The single women of China have made a market for men willing to sell their time and pretend to be the perfect boyfriend to take home to meet the parents. Especially during the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday season, when enormous numbers of Chinese people travel home to be with their family, women are spending their money on more than train tickets and gifts for their relatives; they are spending thousands of yuan, or hundreds of dollars, on fake boyfriends.
This new "man market" phenomenon is a result of the growing population of Chinese women who, in their late twenties, are still not ready to settle down, despite what their parents want. In the Confucian tradition of filial piety, which includes keeping a strong bloodline, nosy parents eagerly wait for their children to settle down and give them grandchildren -- historically by their early- to-mid-twenties.
During the Chinese New Year holiday, families gather to celebrate, and the pressure to settle down is at an all-time high. These single, career-driven women in their late twenties and early thirties are faced with unrelenting parents urging them to get married.
But these busy women have found an easier solution to quell their parents' nagging need for them to get married and have children: fake it. Two years ago, the New York Times reported about women turning to Internet message boards looking for their own eligible bachelor.
“I’ll be 28 this year, which I think is a normal age to be single, but my parents back home have been harassing me every day to get married. I promised I would bring home a boyfriend for New Year’s, but I’ve been too busy with work and haven’t found one. I don’t want to let my parents down, so I’ve decided to rent a boyfriend to come home with me,” the unidentified woman explained on the message board.
And because she was willing to pay 5,000 yuan for the 10-day holiday, she expected a high-caliber rental.
Some of the criteria: educated, employed, well-mannered, tall (between 5’7 and 5’11) and “not too skinny.”
Now, two years later, the men have taken a liking to the business and are selling their services on Taobao.com, China’s version of eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) or Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), to meet the demand.
Under "product description," the men detailed the costs that different additional services will set a buyer back. Aside from a base fee ranging from 400 to 800 yuan per day and accommodation and transportation costs, women can pay for kisses for 50 yuan each and “talking to old people” for 30 yuan per hour.
Women should not worry though; their investment does come with some perks. This particular man (below), who says he’s a university student in Shanghai, will throw in hand-holding and hugs free of charge!
Another seller is offering himself up at a discounted holiday rate of 800 yuan, 20 percent off the usual price of 1,000 yuan. He does, however, charge for very specific situations, including watching a movie (10 yuan per hour, double if it’s a horror flick), drinking alcohol (price depends on alcohol content) and being dragged along for a day of shopping (15 yuan an hour, with a two-hour minimum).
To the parents' dismay, however, these fake relationships will not be producing real grandkids anytime soon.
“We will not sleep together,” the woman clarified on the original message board posting.
So, in a land where the people’s demand is always supplied, a new market -- beneficial both to young men hoping to make some extra money and women hoping to defuse pressure from their parents -- has the potential to thrive.
Perhaps Manti Te’o should have taken a page out of these ladies’ playbooks.