Much like Joey Ramone, there are several gentlemen in China who wanna be your boyfriend. It's going to cost you, though, and their hourly rate starts at the price of a downloaded Ramones album.
With Chinese Lunar New Year and Valentine's Day so close on the calendar this year, ABC News is reporting that Chinese shopping site Taobao has seen an 884% spike in searches for the Chinese characters that translate to "rent-a-boyfriend."
The search results list payment plans that start at $8 per hour for a night at the movies, $16 if it's a horror movie, and a sliding scale of fees for basic conversation, dinner parties, a night out for drinks, or meeting the parents.
The Chinese aren't alone in the friend rental business, as such US websites as RentAFriend.com lend out companions for sporting events, movies, city tours, and even prom dates for a fee. The stakes are a bit higher in China, however, as ABC News notes the parental and societal pressure on women to find a companion and get married is much more intense than it is in the US overall.
The state media refers to women over age 27 as "leftover" women. China's arbitrary societal cutoff for marriage at age 26 recalls the disparaging Japanese term for single women of that age and older: Christmas cake, an item nobody wants after December 25. With single Chinese women heading home for weeks at a time to mark the New Year, the idea of having someone around to get the parents off their back is driving an entire industry.
One rent-a-boyfriend site cited by ABC charges $1.45 per day for wake-up calls and tacks on the cost of "boyfriend" mobile minutes as an extra charge. Want someone to go shopping with you in your hometown? That's $6.42 per hour. The cost of a party pal or drinking partner varies by the length of the party and what you're drinking, but an all-inclusive package goes for $128 per day. Handshakes, hugs, and goodbye kisses on the cheeks or forehead are free.
If this seems a little too Midnight Cowboy
for comfort, just know there are some big paperwork differences between boyfriend services and the escort industry. For one, there are "no sex" clauses in the contract that entitle customers to a full refund if there are unwelcome advances and result in jail time for a handsy boyfriend-for-hire once the cops get involved. If it works out, however, the matchmaking fee can get far more costly than a few dinners with mom and dad.
Editor's Note: This story by Jason Notte was originally published on MSN moneyNOW.
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