Forever Alone... CNY Aftermaths

Zameen Datta, 6 February 2017

What it’s like being single on Chinese New Year

Millions of 20 somethings look towards the Chinese New Year with dread each year. While many of them enjoy the chance to meet up with their families, it also means having to sit through all the questions from various older relatives, including the inevitable…

“Why aren’t you married yet?”

Social commentator Yolanda Wang believes that a lot of this pressure to get married is due to cultural reasons. “In Chinese culture people really care about how others look at you, how they judge you. If you are good enough, why are you still single?” Wang said. For some people, the problem comes from relatives who may be a little too old fashioned.

Image: Carbonate.TV

In an interview with Asia One, 44-year-old Singaporean Miss Ng spoke about her relationship with her own parents.

“It’s natural for parents to worry over their children’s marital status, and my parents happen to belong to the traditional type who think that a woman’s job is to marry and have kids. So being successful in your career and being self-sufficient mean nothing to them, unfortunately.”

So why aren’t people getting married?

The answers can be boiled down to two main reasons: money and power. Specifically, the fact that young people have less money and more power than their parents did.

At a time when so many young people are struggling to own a house and car, most 20 somethings are more focused on their careers than their love lives.

“I can always find someone later,” they think.

Apart from that, young men and women are no longer content to remain stuck in a bad relationship. According to Professor Dr Low Wah Yun, a chartered psychologist with University Malaya’s Faculty of Medicine, views have altered dramatically over the years.

“Before, you had to stick to being married whether you liked it or not. But these days, people look at it differently because so many more people are getting divorced. Parents are slowly changing to accept divorce, especially if that’s what makes their children happy.”

Dr. Low pointed out that modern young women are much more willing to be picky about their choice of husbands. “Women are becoming more liberated and educated,” she said. “So they are braver about speaking up and saying, ‘hey, I’m not gonna put up with this anymore!’”

As a result, people are taking longer and longer to get married. In the 19740s, the average age of marriage in Malaysia was 18. In the 1970s, this had risen to 22. By the time we reached 2013, the average median age of marriage among Malaysians is 26.9 years old, one year younger than the United States (27.9), and a few years younger than most European countries like the Netherlands (32.7) and the United Kingdom (32.5).

1940s

1970s

2013

Average marrying age over time

Being a “leftover”

In China, they’re known as “sheng nu” (剩女:leftover women). In Japan, the term “Christmas Cake” is often used (because they’ve “gone bad” after the 25th birthday). Whatever you call them, Asian culture tends to frown upon women who have reached a certain age without getting married.

On the flip side, men are also under a lot of pressure to get hitched, with older unmarried men being given labels like guang gun” (光棍:bare branch) – branches that don’t add to the family tree.

Tired of the questions and prodding, some young singles have gone to extreme lengths in order to satisfy their families.

Boyfriend for rent

In 2015, a man called ‘Liu’ from China’s northeastern Liaoning province was arrested for kidnapping a woman he intended to take home as his wife for CNY. For those who aren’t quite as desperate, websites like rent-a-girlfriend.com allow you to choose between thousands of profiles to find the right (fake) partner for you this Chinese New Year.

The idea of hiring someone to pretend to be your boyfriend may seem like the plot of a bad comedy, but the emergence of international online agencies like Rent-a-Gent is a sign of just how big this business can be.

A spokesman from Rent-a-Gent explained why people use their services, mentioning that while some people hired escorts to spend the holidays with, others “specifically use our service to get their families to stop asking them about their boyfriend and marriage plans”.

Before you get too excited, you should be aware that most of these agencies have a strict “no touching” policy. Hand holding and hugs may be acceptable, but kissing is a bit iffy and anything further is considered a big no-no.

Rental lovers don’t have it easy either – not only do they have to act like they’re in love with someone they barely know, they also need to keep up with all their client’s requirements, some of which can be rather unusual. One of the job descriptions from a woman looking for a fake boyfriend includes a request for someone who “can play mahjong and drink a lot”.

On the bright side, the job pays pretty well.

Prices for a rental boyfriend or girlfriend starts from at least USD200 (RM625) an hour or USD3,000 (roughly RM 9,378) a day!

Would you ever consider renting a lover? Tell us!

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