Rented boyfriends keep parents at bay
Updated: 2013-01-18 23:58
By Xu Lin(China Daily)
Taobao.com, China's largest online marketplace, is never short of bizarre offers.
And here is the latest one: boyfriends for rent.
A rental boyfriend can do the following: accompanying the girl to visit friends and families, go shopping, having meals and even getting a kiss out of courtesy. The charge is by the hour.
The services became hot with the approach of Spring Festival, the most important festival for family reunions.
In China, parents especially worry about unmarried daughters.
Single women will have to face the same old question at the family dinner table: Have you got a boyfriend?
And for those who haven't found their Mr Right, renting a boyfriend emerges as a solution.
So, which men are willing to offer that service?
"I offer such a service only because I'm bored and know fewer female friends at work," said Ding Hui, 27, a salesman in the plastic industry in Shanghai, with a monthly salary of more than 10,000 yuan ($1,600).
He leased himself twice last year during Spring Festival and National Day.
His customers were two 28-year-old women.
He charged 3,000 yuan each, and the customer had to cover his round-trip tickets, accommodations and bought him clothes to make him look smart.
More than 260 rent-a-boyfriend services can be found on taobao.com, with the number climbing.
An anonymous female netizen, who claimed to have rented a boyfriend, said on the website: "My parents are very satisfied, so that my pressure is greatly reduced." Another comment reads: "It's good that I've fulfilled the wish of my parents".
Ding said trust building is very important, and the job is all about acting, which proved to be tough for him.
"I was exhausted as I had to flatter others for seven days and had to think before I spoke. I don't want to do it anymore," he said.
According to him, he only held hands with the customers. As it's awkward to share a room with the customer, he would ask to sleep on the couch.
"Safety counts," he said.
Chen, a 27-year-old from Huizhou, Guangdong province, who only gave her surname, couldn't agree more.
She opened an online agency on taobao.com last year, to offer fake girlfriends or boyfriends. She has more than 20 part-time workers all over the country.
"Mutual trust is a must. I have to ensure the safety of female workers," she said.
She had about 20 orders in 2012 and only three this year. Many called to consult, but few make orders for fear of being deceived. Fees depend on the places and the length of time, ranging from 600 yuan to 1,500 yuan, with an additional agency fee.
She said most customers are from the countryside, because parents in big cities don't mind as much about their children being single.
According to Chen, customers had various reasons for renting a partner. One man broke up with his girlfriend a month before Spring Festival, and he had promised his family he would bring his girlfriend home. He turned to Chen for help.
Beijing Normal University associate professor of psychology Lin Xiuyun said it's not a good idea to rent a boyfriend or girlfriend to meet one's parents, who will be concerned about more questions, such as when they will get married.
"It's better to communicate with parents, who will be hurt more if the white lie ends with a break-up between the fake couple," Lin said.
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