Blind Dates

There are few things worse for a young Chinese woman than being forced to go on a string of soulless blind dates with family in tow…


Let’s be clear, we are not talking about the kind of fun and exciting blind date arranged by a friend because she knows some cute guy you might get on with. Oh no. We are considering one of those pitiful and horrible meetings arranged chiefly by a Chinese family in the hope of marrying you off. Today single Chinese have many ways to meet new people, such as online dating, speed dating, or even dating TV shows. Stll, as far as the parents are concerned there is only the inevitable blind date as arranged by, you guessed it, them.

This kind of blind date is not a real date, but more like a business meeting. It doesn’t involve any romance—the only goal is marriage. It’s not about finding a someone you care about or anything resembling love. Accompanying parents and relatives stifle any potential excitement of the date and increase any embarrassment and boredom tenfold.

It usually starts with a call: “I got someone for you,” from some old aunt that you only run into once a year. In a state of near-orgasmic delight, she says, “He is really great and only a couple of years older than you.” As you rack your brains for an excuse to politely turn it down, your aunt continues to lecture you about your age, “We will meet him tomorrow,” she finishes matter-of-factly. You hang up the phone. You just got yourself a blind date.

With or without hope, you dress-up nicely and get in the car with your aunt, your mother and your older brother, and anyone else in the family who faces joining the fun and drive to a restaurant. The guy is sitting with his middle-aged female matchmaker, father and little sister, and slowly drinks his tea without much expression. The matchmaker introduces the man and woman; one of the very few times your eyes meet. As conversation spreads between the two families—living address, education, occupations, hobbies for family background—you find out the guy is actually nine years older than you. The “adults” seem relaxed and start to laugh and joke, while the “kids” stay stone silent, mostly. The man nods along and says something unimportant once in a while. The woman, even when she has her own opinions and thoughts, should not speak up too often. She should pretend she is shy because that, apparently, is the sign of a good woman.

But most of the time, you stare at the speakers as if they are talking about some life from another planet, certainly not yours. That’s when you realize how different you are from these people, and you swear to god you won’t ever do it again.

Talk of income and property is an unavoidable, yet tricky topic. The woman does not necessarily have to be rich, but if she is, it’s a great plus. While the man, well, if he doesn’t have his own property and a car, it is a big issue and he has little chance. Although it’s rude to ask the exact amount of income during the first time of meeting, you can get a general idea about how rich or poor the man and his family are through his job, his parents’ experiences, and the latest purchase or trip abroad that they “incidentally” mention. A rich family would never conceal how much they have. They immediately become the dominant party and are able to set the terms if they so wish.

Time goes slowly at the dining table. You eat carefully and smile whenever they mention you or the man. You get bored quickly, after you have heard general background of the other family. Sometimes you empty your tea cup fast to see if the man is aware enough refill it for you. Yet, most of the time, you stare at the speakers as if they are talking about some life from another planet, but certainly not yours. That’s when you realize how different you are from these people and you swear to god you won’t ever do it again.

This is not even the worst part. Over the next few days, you start to receive a miserable dribble of phone calls from each family member present at the “date.” They check if you are doing the right thing (talking to the guy) and express how satisfied they are with the man and his family. They “encourage” you to put down your shyness and make the moves. Pressure is, less than gently, exerted.

One can imagine the low chance of success on such a situation. Yet, people keep going. Why? “Because I want to get married,” says 32-year-old singleton Zoe Xu from Shenzhen. Since the age of 25, Zoe has been on endless blind dates arranged by friends, relatives and dating companies. As an experienced blind date goer, she no longer gets embarrassed or bored. She concentrates in the meeting to find out what to know. “I have been unlucky,” she says. “None have met my simple standards: a decent, regular income, not divorced or handicapped and responsible.” The people she meets are never quite right, so far there has been a Dickensian rabble: a girly man, the jobless guy, an orphan, two dwarves and the skinniest man alive. She keeps up this bizarre practice, though. It keeps the family happy, you see. And maybe one day she will meet someone normal.