Dating is hard, particularly when somebody else is putting pressure on you to “succeed” at it (i.e. find someone and marry that person immediately). Whether it’s your parents, friends, siblings or whomever else, the feeling of everybody around you pitying you or “hoping for the best” (again, the best = a wedding) feels very uncomfortable. But what if even the media calle you a “leftover woman” simply because because you’re single and over 26? That’s be horrible, right? Chinese women are presently facing this exact sort of generalization and criticism, and a new rent-a-boyfriend business is taking the country by storm as a result.

The concept for the rental boyfriend business is simple: single women pay an hourly rate to go out with a guy. According to an entrepreneur taking advantage of this booming market who was identified only as Mr. Gao, women use his rent-a-boyfriend business for some rather depressing reasons:

“There are many reasons why women pay for this service,” Gao said. “Some are trying to make their boyfriends jealous. Some want to bring a boyfriend to attend their company’s annual dinner party to show their bosses that they are settled and stable. The women who rent a boyfriend to bring home for the Lunar New Year are wealthy women around the age of 25. Their parents fear losing face and worry that no one wants to marry their old single daughters.”

The price varies based on what the pair does, such as special events like the rental fellah acting as a date to the female’s office party or even just traditional date activities like dinner and a movie. (Funnily enough, ABC reports that the price doubles when it’s a horror movie.)

A wakeup call goes for 9 RMB ($1.45) a day (cell phone charges extra). You can rent a boyfriend or girlfriend to accompany you shopping for 40 RMB ($6.42) an hour; going to parties, dinners or just chatting (pay by the day, or by the hour). The cost of renting a drinking partner depends on what you drink, with different rates for wine, beer and liquor. An all-inclusive package goes for 800 RMB ($128) a day. Handshakes, hugs and goodbye kisses on the cheeks or forehead are free of charge.

Goodie, you get twice the awkward cheek kisses for double the money of a real date!

The men themselves have to fit certain requirements. Rental boyfriends must be poised, well-mannered and able to communicate with parents and coworkers. They must be at least 5’6″ and have a willingness to wear glasses because apparently, “some parents consider [it] a sign of erudition.”

Oh, and in the event that the two actually enjoy one another’s company and decide to date? Gao is less than romantic about the notion: “If they both like each other and become real boyfriend and girlfriend, they need to give me a big red envelope full of cash for being their matchmaker.”

While the rent-a-boyfriend biz sounds funny and kind of endearing, it’s not rooted in pleasant, healthy self image and dating habits. Instead, it is the result of society disregarding women after their mid-twenties because suddenly, they’re not marriage-worthy, and becoming a wife is incredibly important to a woman’s value and esteem. Sadly, rather than being some safe, nonsexual (it’s in a contractual clause) gigolo service for women who either don’t have time or the desire to date but desire NSA sex, rental boyfriends in China are much more related to the need for approval by one’s families and society. Until women all over the globe — including the United States — are not pressured into having a husband, we’ll continue seeing the sad ways in which females are led to cope with that tension and stress.

Photo: Snow Kisses Sky / Flickr