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【The Star Online】 Mother, father, matchmaker

27 May 2013 3:41 AM | Anonymous

Monday May 27, 2013

Mother, father, matchmaker


I need cupid: Young people attending Shanghai’s biggest matchmaking party recently. undefined China DailyI need cupid: Young people attending Shanghai’s biggest matchmaking party recently. undefined China Daily

In China, finding the perfect partner can be a family affair.

ON a recent Saturday afternoon, an unsuspecting Wang Liwei was surrounded by 12 middle-aged women, mostly from Shanghai, in search of husbands for their daughters. Wang was in the middle of Shanghai’s biggest matchmaking party, held in the Chinese city’s Qingbu district.

Advertisements for the event promised the 28-year-old Shandong native an unparalleled opportunity to find his perfect partner among 18,000 attendees.

“Compared with the number of contacts I’ve made with young women, I’ve given out my number to many more of these desperate mothers who are hunting for sons-in-law, even though I tried my best to turn them away as politely as possible,” said Wang, who works in information technology.

Wearing wide smiles, the women badgered Wang about his age, profession, income, whether he owns an apartment in Shanghai, and which side of the city his property is located – Pudong or Puxi?

“Even though they’d murmur that I’m too young for their daughter once they knew my age, they still insisted I write down my number. Why don’t parents bring their grown-up children with them, rather than date on their behalf?” wondered Wang.

Unconventional approach

Well, they do. But when their bashful offspring are too shy to approach a potential partner, eager Chinese parents decide to step in.

“My daughter is waiting outside the gate. She feels embarrassed because I’m too well-prepared for the event,” said Lu Fang, 67, referring to the long plastic banner he’d set up in the centre of the venue, which displayed personal information about his daughter, a 40-year-old doctor at Shanghai’s Huashan Hospital.

Her ideal groom is a “responsible man with a stable income” and who ideally “owns an apartment and a car”.

Lu was concerned: “My daughter actually holds a master’s degree but I didn’t use that information because I was worried it might scare off men with lower educational backgrounds. I just wrote that she has a bachelor’s degree, so hopefully more men will approach us.”

He said some of the young women in the venue had noticed his unconventional approach and copied the idea, writing their personal information on an A4 sheet of paper and hanging it out for all to see.

“Unlike me, they immediately attracted the attention of a few men,” said Lu, his face etched with anxiety.

According to Zhou Juemin, president of Shanghai Matchmaking Agency Management Association, which organised the event, out of every 100 attendees, there were 46 men and 54 women.

Participants interviewing their blind dates at the event. undefined EPAParticipants interviewing their blind dates at the event. undefined EPA

Zhou called the disparity “a big relief” because “we don’t have to limit the number of female participants and there’s been no need to mobilise male members from matchmaking agencies in our association to even up the gender gap”.

Up until last year, the organisers of events of this nature agonised over the uneven gender split. There were six females for every four males at the 2011 event, which attracted 10,000 singles.

Women were charged an entry fee of 100 yuan (RM48), but the men’s tickets were paid for by their labour unions to encourage them to attend.

Data from the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics shows that the number of men aged 30 or under outstrips women in the same age group by around 20 million.

Approximately one in five women aged 25 to 29 is unmarried, while the proportion of unmarried men of equal age is around one-third higher.

“But that doesn’t mean they will easily match up, because Chinese men tend to ‘marry down’, both in terms of age and educational achievement,” said Zhou Xiaopeng, a national-level marriage and family counsellor, who is also a consultant for the popular dating website Baihe.

“Women tend to have a stronger sense of emotional need, compared with men, especially women aged 30 and older. The pressure to become a wife and mother comes from their family or society,” she said.

She added that both males and females have a physiological requirement: “More than 70% of singles told me during consultation that they have sexual partners, but once that need has been met, women still long for marriage. Men, however, regard it as something attached to the provision of material goods, which can result in mental stress.”

Most desperate corner

Outside the venue for the Shanghai event, there was a strong sense of desperation as lines of parents flocked to the lane next to the entrance, and – baulking at the entrance fee – exchanged notes on their progress.

This impromptu matchmaking market is an extension of Shanghai’s People’s Park, or “the most desperate corner” as it’s been dubbed by web users.

The city-centre park is Shanghai’s top matchmaking haunt at weekends, a place where parents present information about their unmarried sons and daughters in interesting and innovative ways.

Details such as age, height, educational background, profession, income and what their children are looking for in their partners are inscribed on A4 sheets of paper, which are then slipped into clear plastic folders and displayed on high objects or hung from tree branches.

However, no photos are shown until a parent expresses a serious interest.

Sun Peidong, a sociology professor with East China University of Political Science and Law, was confused over the popularity of the format, despite its low success rate. She went on to conduct a field study at the spot and spend almost a year interviewing more than 40 “desperate” parents aged between 48 and 73.

“In big cities such as Shanghai, choosing a mate is more than a personal choice for singles,” said Sun. “For example, Chinese parents are insecure about the social safety net, including pensions and health care, as the country’s current system can’t take good care of them, and so, their only child needs to do the job instead.

“Therefore, picking a son- or daughter-in-law is like purchasing reliable life insurance for the future of their children and themselves.”

Yin Peiyong, 65, a frequent visitor to People’s Park, admitted that many other parents back off when they hear that his son earns only 5,000 yuan (RM2,400) a month.

“They think it’s too little and inevitably focus more on material issues such as income and housing, rather than personality and temperament,” he said.

Hurry or be ‘leftovers’

Back at the matchmaking party, Xu Meng giggled when a man took the initiative to strike up a conversation. However, he turned away on learning that she’s just 22.

“He said I’m too young for him. To be honest, I didn’t come to find a ‘future husband’, it’s just fun to attend such an event,” said the Anhui province native, who works as a software test engineer in Shanghai.

“The media seems to give the message that we need to hurry up and find ‘Mr Right’, otherwise, we’ll become ‘leftovers’ in a few years, and that stings.”

Xu was not the only person from the post-1990 generation hunting for novelty at the venue. Her view was shared by 20-something Nicholas Torres from the United States.

“It’s as cool as going to bars,” he said, as he took a break from a series of eight-minute “speed dates” during which he spoke to six girls.

Torres, who studies in Shanghai, organised a trip to the event and invited three Japanese friends – also exchange students – plus some Chinese friends to act as “tour guides”.

However, just as the post-1990 generation and expats have started to embrace the matchmaking concept, some slightly older, unmarried Chinese women are rejecting the idea and are happy just being single.

Qian Wentao, 30, a confident, personable woman who earns a good salary, has her own apartment and holds a master’s degree from an overseas university, said being single at her age isn’t half bad. “If I’m happy with my life right now, why bother to go on blind dates to find a so-called ‘better half’ who may lower my current standard of living?” asked the Shanghai hotel executive.

A believer in the theory that A-grade guys will find B-grade women, B-grade guys will find C-grade women and C-grade men will find D-grade women, Qian said all that’s left are A-quality women and D-quality men.

“Therefore, I’m proud to be a ‘leftover’, but that term is disrespectful. To make it worse, the media aggressively disseminates this idea in all kinds of reports and surveys, putting pressure on us indirectly.”

Qian said she’d love to meet the right guy, but believes there’s no need to set a deadline or hurry things along. – China Daily/Asia News Network


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