On Dating

blind date imageFortunately, my own parents have never been the hovering type in my love life. My mom never lectured me unless I asked for it, and she never tried to get information from me with the whole, “Let’s talk about boys!” routine some moms pull. And, apart from my dad’s jokes on getting out his rifle whenever I left the house with a guy friend, he’s always been pretty chill about both his daughters dating.

Thank you, Mom and Dad.

I’ve recently become aware that not only did I avoid Dad’s interrogations and Mom’s shameless girl talks, I also avoided the pressures of the, sometimes obsessive, “matchmaking” parents. You’re probably thinking, well, yeah, it’s 2014. Matchmaking was buried with oil lamps and corsets. If you see matchmaking now, you’re either watching Fiddler on the Roof, you have an online dating profile (or two, or three–I’m not judging here), or you’re Chinese.

The dating scene in China is a bit different.

Chinese matchmaking is real; I know because the teachers at my school complain about the blind dates their parents set them up on. Normally, when you turn 25, your parents, uncles, aunts, and grandparents start in on the probing questions: When are you going to get married? Why don’t you have a boyfriend? …And then the set-ups.

Putting a whole new spin on “play-dates,” some parents are even dragging their toddlers to meet potential husbands and wives (Read this: baby blind dates)…because it’s never too early.

Sound like a competition to you? It is. And here’s why: Because of the male-favoring one-child policy introduced in the late 1970s–forcing over 300 million women to get abortions (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/22/opinion/chinas-brutal-one-child-policy.html?_r=0)–consequently, an enormous inequality in gender ratios exists: about 30 million more boys than girls.

So guys, you better be at the top of your game.

Earlier this week, Vera (one of the college counselors) talked to me about her dating life. She had just returned from a wedding for a friend of her family’s (a Chinese wedding lasts all day, even for the guests) and Vera was in the bridal party, which cannot leave the bride’s side (it’s good luck for a bride to have eight single women in her bridal party).

Vera said she felt down, but confessed she didn’t really want to get married as much as she wanted a dress and makeover. “The bride was so beautiful,” she said. When I asked her if she was dating anybody, she told me about the blind dates set up by her parents. From what I’ve heard, this is how they typically go:

  1. You’re mother tells you you’re getting too old and will turn into a lonely hag with no money or teeth.
  2.  Then she tells you of an uncle’s neighbor’s friend’s son that she is going to set you up with. Of course she spills the essentials: how much money he has, his job, where he graduated from school, how many cars/houses/shops his family has, etc..
  3. After refusing this one, it happens again and again until you are shamelessly guilted into going on a date with somebody you have nothing in common with. (Vera said she hasn’t liked any of the guys her parents set her up with).

After listening to this, I suggested she find a guy by herself, but this just confused her. I explained dating in the U.S.: going out with friends and meeting people until you find someone you like talking to, who you have something in common with.

I told her we should go out this weekend and meet a guy, even though I knew that was a definite “no;” in Jiangyin, like most smaller China cities, most women don’t go out to bars unless they are working for one.

I’m too busy with my job to meet a guy, she said. Maybe I should have suggested Match.com, since it’s what my busy, working friends at home do. But I don’t know if there even is a Match.com in China…It seems like it would put a lot of parents out of business.

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