Spring Festival is all about family reunions and that all-important dinner on Lunar New Year's Eve. It is also a time for young eligible people to face a barrage of questions from parents and elders about finding a life partner and settling down. So what do youths who have no plans to tie the knot any time soon do to avoid the inquisition? They rent a "boyfriend" or "girlfriend". And what better place to get one than the Internet, for example, on Taobao.com, China's largest online marketplace, which seems to be the most popular site offering such deals this year.
The current rate for hiring a boyfriend is between 1,500 yuan ($240) and 2,000 yuan a day. The boyfriend has to accompany his "client" to her parents' home, meet relatives and friends, have dinner with them, watch movies, go shopping and even kiss her, if needed. Of course, the client has to pay for his round-trip tickets, accommodation and daily necessities, and provide him good clothes to look presentable as well. Additional services are negotiable. For instance, a kiss out of courtesy can cost 50 yuan and sleeping in the same bedroom as the "client" can cost anywhere between 300 yuan and 600 yuan.
Interestingly, many netizens don't seem to mind discussing even the minute details of the "contract". The online rental service, which started hesitatingly some years ago, has spread to even some leading websites today.
The service sure has its advantages. It will save young unmarried people from facing irritating questions of their parents and other relatives, and allow them to soak in the spirit of Spring Festival without the fear of being embarrassed. It can also make parents happy, knowing their children's marital future is somewhat secure.
But despite its advantages and service providers' enthusiasm, the online "partner" service has few takers. Perhaps for good reason.
Though the purpose of hiring a fianc or fiance is to make parents happy and ease their worries, there is no denying that it is deceit rather than an act to fulfill filial piety. Besides, parents will be hurt once they find out that their children had put up a show to make them happy. The emotional void thus created would be difficult to fill up.
Hiring a boyfriend or girlfriend can be risky, too, especially because the contract between the "client" and the service provider has no legal basis. In such cases, the agreement signed between a customer and service agency is to hire a person of the opposite sex to spend Spring Festival with the former at his/her home, which is akin to an employment contract. But since such a contract runs counter to the basic requirements of social order and custom according to the General Principles of the Civil Law, which stipulates that "civil activities should have respect for social ethics", it is not protected under the Contract Law.
Moreover, it can spell trouble for or jeopardize the safety of a client and his/her family, for it is always risky to bring a stranger home. Since the rental agency and the hired fianc or fiance has to be given personal and professional information, address, telephone number and other sundry details, they can use it to blackmail the client to extort money, stage a robbery and even cause physical harm.
People who offer such service should also be on guard. A lawyer in Jinan, Shandong province, recently narrated the story of a young woman who was hired by a man to act as his girlfriend to a reporter. The woman later filed a complaint with police saying she had been raped by the man. The lawyer, who took up the woman's case, however, said the man could not be charged with rape because of lack of evidence.
The practice of hiring as well as being hired as a fianc or fiance is fraught with danger, which young people eager to please their parents should be aware of.
Honesty and accountability are the basic principles of family and social life, and no responsible citizen can ignore them. Perhaps a heart-to-heart talk with parents and elders is the best way a young man or woman can make them understand the difficulty and constraints of finding an ideal life partner in today's society. By doing so, young people will at least save their parents the embarrassment and hurt they would experience after finding out the truth of a fake arrangement or the dangers they could face later.
Parents want to see their children live a life without pressure and constraints, even if they are not settled in the traditional sense of the term. So it is best for young people not to try to please their parents with falsity.
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