Unfortunately, the Sleepless in Austin douche who offered a bounty of $1,500 for the first amateur matchmaker willing to help him find a smart/beautiful/clear-skinned/non-pregnant/virginal/thin/long-haired girlfriend is not some sort of weird outlier living in an attic surrounded by Boba Fett actions figures while nursing unrealistic expectations about interpersonal interactions. He’s part of a broader trend of men willing to pay for an imaginary concept — “the perfect woman,” brought to you by pop culture.
There were others before him, and there will almost certainly be more such armchair romantics posting rambling Craigslist ads in the future, but these are really just shots in the dark from lonely men who never learned that women are people, not cars. For truly efficient and cutting-edge perfect-lady locating, one has to travel to China, where billionaires looking for love have taken to hiring so-called “love hunters” to trawl public spaces for an acceptable ladyfriend.
Hunting for love is just as icky and dehumanizing an activity (both for the women who get approached in public and the poor guys paid so handsomely to approach them that it seems extra hard to refuse the work) as you would imagine, but this is what happens when you’re a rich Chinese bachelor and you’ve spent so much time making money that the prospect of talking to a real, human woman baffles you. Here, thanks to the BBC’s coverage of this important cultural trend, is what happens over the course of an ordinary love hunt:
Peng Tai rejoins me by the entrance and sucks dejectedly on his drink. "The girls should not look angry. We do not want one with a sour face."
Suddenly he spots his prey - a very young girl in a sleeveless top with platform heels.
Cautiously he approaches her, all smiles. She listens wide-eyed to his opening gambit and looks intrigued as he takes down her details.
Then, iPhone in hand, he moves in for the kill and snaps her picture in the doorway of the mall.
Peng Tai has a quota of three suitable girls a day. He is what is known as a "love hunter.”
When you’ve managed to turn dating into something that approximates this,
it’s probably a sign that you spent too much time captaining industry when what you really should have been doing was talking to people. Requirements for a suitable love catch are just as picky as the weirdest, most unhinged Craigslist ad, with some of Tai’s clients insisting that any prospective dates look exactly like the actress Zhang Ziyi. And be between the ages of 22 and 24. And have a master’s from one of China’s top universities. You know, your basic “just made a lady up in my head lol, BRING HER TO ME NOW” matchmaking package.
Even though the BBC’s love hunter report points out that China’s economic surge (along with its one-child policy) has led to a massive gender imbalance, putting marriage out of reach for men who don’t have job/car/condo/fancy haircut, it’s hard to sympathize with Tai even if he is just trying to make his way in his country’s mercilessly capitalistic landscape. He says he doesn’t “care about the girls” he approaches at random in malls or parks. Their feelings are immaterial, which is basically what the billionaires are paying Tai to believe.
Image via AP, Andy Wong