Hotpot by Wang Kaihao

Updated: 2012-11-28 19:07

By Wang Kaihao (China Daily)

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I was a little nervous with anticipation on my way back to my hometown of Wuhu, a middle-sized city in southern Anhui province recently for my vacation. Shortly after I unpacked my luggage, my mom asked me half-jokingly: "Any chance of you bringing home a girlfriend next time?"

In the next few days when I visited my relatives, the same question resurfaced. Honestly, it was not beyond my expectation, especially since my youngest cousin just had a baby boy.

Although my parents claimed they were not in a hurry to see me settle down, they said their friends have been asking them about it and giving them pressure.

My parents are 57. I am 24 and the only child. To most people in China, marriage should be on the cards already. If I waited any longer, my parents will be too old to help take care of my child.

Most Chinese senior citizens play an important role as babysitters.

If I still lived in my hometown, I would be considered one of the odd ones with no wedding bells in the horizon. Many of my childhood friends in Wuhu are married, or at least planning to tie the knot soon, starting with the purchase of a new apartment.

I had dinner with six old classmates, all guys, when I was home and I was one of two at the dining table without a girlfriend — the other guy lives in Shanghai now.

My single colleagues in Beijing probably share my feelings whenever they go back home. I consider myself luckier than the ladies, who may have a harder battle to fight. They have to face relentless interrogations from their curious relatives.

Chinese people describe finding a lifelong partner as "to solve the personal issue". One's life mission is accomplished only after he or she gets married.

Perhaps our culture is not one which tolerates bachelorhood, even if it's only temporary. If I may speak for the other singles, I feel that the fast-paced lifestyle and hectic work schedule in metropolises have made it tough to date or look for a spouse. Chinese parents thus have taken things in their own hands by introducing potential partners to their children, sometimes even "forcing" their children to go on blind dates and get married quickly so that they can have a grandchild to play with soon.

One of my buddies, a 25-year-old guy, had just broken up with his girlfriend.

The moment his parents found out, they started introducing him to new girls. He didn't even have time to "heal" from his last relationship.

I developed a phobia for blind dates after one of my distant relatives whom I have never met, abruptly woke me up with an early morning phone call to tell me that his niece is also in Beijing.

I remember clearly what he told me: "You should meet each other, and if it is suitable, let her become your girlfriend."

Employers today also seem to care more about their employees' marital status — they organize group blind dates for the bachelors and bachelorettes in the company. Well, maybe it can be considered as part of staff benefits.

I attended one such meeting in late September. The matchmaking session was jointly organized by China Daily and a few neighboring companies. Before I went, I was told that about 30 colleagues had registered, but in the end, only a handful showed up.

The majority were women and I was shocked to find young men of my age. One organizer whispered to me: "Highly educated women may have high expectations of their future husbands, and that is why many remain single."

Each of us was asked to wear a card with a number on it. If we are interested in anyone, we can ask the organizers for the contact details.

The men were required to introduce themselves first before answering questions from the women, an apparent replica of the popular TV dating game show If You Are the One.

The atmosphere was anything but lively. When the host asked the participants to join hands to play games, very few responded. It felt really uncomfortable sitting in front of a group of strangers without names and having to introduce myself as well as share my thoughts on questions like "What is the most important thing in a relationship?"

It is like promoting a commodity or bidding in an auction house.

To break the awkwardness, the host ended the meeting by asking everyone to join a Tencent QQ group in cyberspace.

I breathed a sigh of relief when the session finally came to an end.

What surprised me was when I signed up for the QQ group later — the participants were extremely talkative in the virtual world. They shared their interests and personal stories although we were technically strangers.

I am still wondering why it was so hard to break the ice at the session even though most of us are from the same age group.

Perhaps people are more comfortable communicating with each other virtually, and that may also explain why we are all still single.