Dating is hard.
Yes, I know I’m past that stage of life…thank goodness. And you might be too, but let’s all remind ourselves that it is.
Now, in North America, or another western country, your dating plan of attack generally involves going out with friends, meeting people through various activities that you enjoy, and hoping to find a relationship with one of them. Sure, there is also the option of online dating, or being set up, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that those are slightly less common ways to meet potential partners (or at least less ideal, in a lot of people’s minds).
Also, no matter how many times your crazy old great-aunt comes up to you at a family function and inquires as to when you’re going to get married, it’s still largely your own decision. People don’t have an expiry date, right?
But unfortunately for young Chinese people, that isn’t true. They do, in fact, have an expiration date, and it’s somewhere in their mid-twenties. If they haven’t found someone and gotten married by this time, then look out! Here comes the family to take matters into their own hands (it doesn’t help that the family’s big motivation is at least partially “face” and presenting themselves well to others – it’s about tying your family to another, well-respected [or at least rich] family, because let’s face it, to have a son or daughter who is unmarried at 30 indicates that something is wrong with them, and thus, the family).
I’ve known a number of young Chinese people who are themselves in no rush to marry, but because they have hit that magical number of about 25, their parents have stepped in, begun to inquire with friends, coworkers, and acquaintances to find some suitors, and then start setting these people up on dates. Often times multiple dates each week. Each day that ticks by after 25 years old means fewer good fish in the sea, right? No pressure, huh?
Now, what happens in the case of someone who lives away from their parents, you ask? Are they off the hook and free to take their time to find a partner on their own?
Of course not. Often, coworkers step in as surrogate parents and begin introducing dates to them (someone has to do it!).
And the whole thing is really quite amusing to me, because it’s not a matter of simply passing the potential date’s contact information along to your colleague so that he can get in touch. Nor is it about setting up a time for the two to meet somewhere alone. Here’s how it works…
My husband came home earlier this week to tell me that he had to go with one of his friends from work to meet a date. I was confused as to why this seemingly simply (and personal) task would take two people, so he explained further, basically telling me that he was going as the guy’s wingman (for lack of a better term) and that the girl would be accompanied by the colleague who had made the match. The group of four (five, if I had gone – and I was invited, but was unable to attend) would initially meet and chat for a while, and then the two would perhaps go off on a little date to spend some time together.
As he went on, I also discovered that my husband had “seen the girl’s information” (as in, it was all written on a piece of paper, like a baseball card or something), and that in his opinion, she wasn’t too bad. But, he added, she might not be that beautiful. When I asked if he knew this because he’d seen a picture too, he said no, but he assumed it since the meeting was to take place in a nearby park at 8:00 in the evening, after it was already dark (update: he came home from the meeting last night and reported that she was “not bad” looking, much to his surprise).
With the topic of dating now open for discussion, my husband admitted that this had happened to him as well (though I made him clarify whether these coworkers were introducing girls to him only before we met, or afterwards as well – if it was after we had started dating, there would have been some serious trouble). He very matter-of-factly talked about how his colleagues had taken him to meet girls they thought would be good matches for him, and what he thought about each of them.
One was from a very well-off family, but was “quite fat” he told me, and after they talked and spent some time together, he decided not to even ask for her number (the leader who had set him up with her was exasperated with him for a long time after this, saying things like, “Your head must be broken. You can have a car, but you don’t want to drive it. You can have a house, but you don’t want to live in it.” I wonder what he thinks now?).
Another was nice enough, but she hadn’t gone to university and he felt that she tried to make herself seem smarter than she actually was.
The third one was the most amusing story, to me. He told me she was quite tall, at least as tall as he is, which made him a little uncomfortable (he even gives me grief when I wear heels and am almost the same height as he is!). She worked at a China Mobile office as a customer service representative. It’s not a bad job, but it proved to be her downfall with my husband, however.
He told me that as they talked, she said that she liked her job well enough, and told him that they had to stand up to greet each customer as they entered the shop and be friendly and helpful to everyone. When I asked what could possibly be so bad about that, he told me,
“But I thought to myself, gosh, she has to be nice to everyone at her work all day, no matter how rude they are to her. So what will happen when she gets home after a bad day? She’ll take it all out on me, because she can’t do it to them!”
We both laughed for a bit, but then something dawned on him.
“Of course, now I know it doesn’t matter if your wife is a Chinese woman who works at China Mobile, or a foreigner who teaches English, she will still take everything out on you at night!”
Even after that jab, I’m still thankful that none of them measured up to my husband’s expectations, and left him free for me!!