Strangeness: Dating Markets and a Walk in the Park

OK, so I was wrong – well sorta.  I always thought those stories about dating markets in China were, at some level, total bullshit.  That journalists just went to some once in a blue moon gathering and were writing about how desperate moms and dads would meet in the park to try to find “the one” for their aging sons and daughters because they had reached the ripe old age of 33 without getting married.  I had never seen anything like it in Suzhou and just thought it was another ‘China is so different and foreign’ bullshit stories that our media often runs to fuel the fear/hatred/war/xenophobia machine.


That dude in the bottom right sums up my not so warm welcome in the market.

Ol’ Zhou runs smack dab into the middle of one of these markets.  OK, they exist.  I give.  They are, in fact, real.  But the media still has the tone of the whole thing wrong.  Does our media ever get anything right about China?  I want to know where these journalists get their scoops and what strange China life they live to get everything so wrong.

Zhou’s strange day at a Beijing Park:

I was out on a lovely stroll in a Beijing park, taking in the not 40 degree/80 percent humidity I’d left behind in Suzhou when I stumbled upon the singles market.  Hundreds and hundreds of concerned parents looking for potential matches for their single children (who likely want nothing to do with parents setting up dates for them).  Here’s how it works:  Parents find a spot, put out a placard with their kid’s dating information on it and field questions from passers by (likely other parents).  Age, height, whatever – a non-digital e-harmony right in the middle of a park.

Zhou’s take:  Group therapy.  This is collective group therapy for concerned parents.   I think actually finding a mate for the unmarried children is a secondary goal.  Not feeling alone in your misery (a very human need) seemed, at least to me, to be the main goal.  Misery loves company and this was a big ol’ misery shindig. This was the saddest, most depressing groups of Chinese people I’ve ever encounter in all of my years here.  It had all the energy and vitality of a funeral.  Brutal.  A giant pity party of sorts.  And let me tell you, my outsider white ass was not very welcome there.

I have enough Chinese friends to know that the pressure to get married by about 25 is very, very real.  For the young unmarried people, this extra cultural pressure is not fun.  These dating markets/gatherings are clearly a response to that pressure on the parental side of the equation.  But, man, it is a sad, depressed response.  I was fascinated by the whole thing but couldn’t stomach more than 5 minutes.  I bailed after a quick walk through of the edges of the group to go look at some lotus flowers.  That was far more relaxing and interesting than watching this strangeness.

On the strange scale, I give these dating markets a 7 out of 10. (not as strange as American cheerleader culture – I grew up in that as normal and still for the life of me can’t figure that mess out)

Strange, yes.  Understandable, yes.  Should you check them out? Of course!  Just be ready for sad vibes in the air.

The absurdity continues:

You thought the post was done?  That China would stop at one weird thing?  Oh no, dear readers, China is normal for weeks on end and then rocks your world with a one-two combo that will leave you laughing, shaking your head and reminds you of all of the fun reasons you moved to this land – exotic adventures.

I continued my walk through the park, noticing the large number of old Chinese men swimming in the lake and walking around in 80’s style short shorts.  All par for the course.  I then hear the call of nature and find a bathroom.  All seems normal, regular bathroom stuff plus an old swimmer drying himself off with a towel.  I step up to the urinal to do what needs to be done when said old man starts whistling.  What is that catchy tune…oh, yeah, it’s America the Beautiful.  Oh, change of tune…that’s clearly The Star-Spangled Banner.  That’s quite a serenade, old man.  Tip of the cap.  Let me tell you, it’s very strange to have someone whistle your national songs AT you while you pee.  I’m cracking up and debating whether or not I should turn this into a KTV bathroom break (I didn’t but probably should’ve just because why not).  But, brother, that was one strange bathroom experience on so many cultural and song associative levels.

That’s Life in China:

It will be strange.  You don’t know when, you don’t know where but you do know that strange adventures can be a walk in the park away.

Advertisements Share this:
Like this:Like Loading...