Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Looking for Love

Most of the local Chinese women I know are in their mid to late 20s, and many of them have marriage on their minds.

Some are getting a lot of pressure from their parents to get married, while others put this pressure on themselves, as they don't want to be a shengnu, or a "left-over woman".

After breaking up with her boyfriend last year, one 26 year old I know is determined to find a man this year. However, so far she has gone on a few disastrous blind dates.

On one she met a very skinny tall man who told her during the course of their date that he was scared of his mother. This was because she constantly nagged him while he was growing up, and so during their dinner date, he asked my friend to order whatever she wanted on the menu.

Should a guy reveal his fear of women on a first date?

Then she went on another date, with four other chaperones, two of which were children. They went out for lunch, and then her date took the group to the outskirts of Beijing to go fishing. Fishing? On a first date? With so many other people?

As a result, she wasn't comfortable with him, and she felt that he was trying hard to be her gege, or older brother, than a date.

Many men here either feel insecure and think they need to play this role, or they watch a lot of romantic movies and assume this is what women want.

However, women these days don't want an older male sibling, but a friend.

As young women become more capable of looking after themselves financially, young men feel at a loss as to how to demonstrate their manliness, especially when they don't have a thick wallet or many assets to prove it.

Meanwhile I heard of a 28-year old woman, with a Master's degree, works in a public relations company and speaks good English. She has never had a boyfriend before and is now looking for the love of her life. Her mother in Tianjin is also helping her find this Mr. Right online and asking her network of friends.

The other day she went to get a health check and found out her height was taller than she thought. So she immediately contacted her mother to update her vital statistics, in case a few centimetres would make a big difference in finding a man.

She is desperate to get married, but with her good job and academic background, it may be hard for her to find a guy with equal or better qualifications. Women are discouraged (or they discourage themselves) from pursuing a doctorate degree for fears that appearing too smart will make it almost impossible for them to nab a guy!

Then there are those who are not particularly pretty and know it, and have decided it doesn't matter if they get married or not. They are focused on their careers and either ignore their parents' pressure to get married, or they aren't concerned.

As one explained to me, she thinks it's too much trouble to find the right guy, and spend the rest of her life with this person. And then having to save up so much money for an apartment...

Nevertheless, this desperation to get married will just exacerbate the problem. For those who have had no relationship experience at all will not understand or know if a particular man suits them or not and because of pressure may marry the wrong person, or find rejection harder to deal with.

Another 28-year-old friend I know contacted me recently, excitedly telling me that she had found Mr. Right. She said that he is currently studying physics at Chinese University in Hong Kong and she would visit him later in June. But when did they meet? Less than a month ago through a mutual friend.

I asked her, are you sure about this? She said, "We are very serious about this," referring to their relationship. While both may have the best intentions, knowing someone for three weeks does not necessarily mean you know this is the right person for you.

That's why Chinese parents really need to lay off the pressure, as they think that at their age they were already married with children. However, in this generation, it is normal for couples to get hitched and have babies later.

They also need to understand that as their children are mostly living outside of their hometowns, that their social circle may be smaller and thus harder to meet new people.

Meanwhile, men want to find women who aren't too demanding, who are willing to fulfill traditional housewife roles and somewhat pretty would help.

One man in his late 30s complained to me that Beijing women or those who live in the capital expect boyfriends to buy them designer clothes and bags, a car and an apartment before they will even consider marriage. It's a pretty tall order to fill, not to mention very materialistic.

As a result, many men on a budget are looking to Vietnam for wives. There are even "wedding tours" for Chinese men to go to Vietnam, pick out a wife, get married there and then eventually bring them back to China once their immigration papers are set.

This giant disconnect between what women want and what men want will only increase. Love is not enough in China anymore. And that's hard to find already.

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