Do you remember back in the day when you were the only one of your friends without a girlfriend, or boyfriend, and you had to make one up and say that they lived far away? Which explained why your friends never met him or her? Yeah, I never had to do that either, but some of you did! Well, apparently, there's an app for that now, so you can prove to your friends that you really do have a girlfriend, or boyfriend, in Alaska!
This past weekend, millions in China headed home to celebrate the Lunar New Year with their families, as we did here in the U.S. as well. 24-year-old Luoluo spent the holiday answering messages on a mobile app from desperate men looking to hire an instant girlfriend whom they can present to mom and dad at their family gatherings. On visits home during the holiday, single people are often subjected to tough lectures from relatives keen on reinforcing the importance of marriage and securing the family bloodline. Trust me, I'm familiar with these lectures. I endured them for almost 40 years.
Some singles have resorted to hiring fake girlfriends and boyfriends to appease their parents and shut them up, but an explosion in smartphone use in recent years means one can now pat for such a date through a handful of mobile apps with just a few clicks. According to Cao Tiantian, founder of date-for-hire app Hire Me Plz, "Over 1,000 users on our platform have signed up as dates for hire for the New Year break."
Subscribers to the app pay from as little as 1 yuan ($0.15) to 1,999 yuan ($299.85) an hour for a dinner date, a chat, a game of mah-jong or even a foot massage. No happy endings in foot massages, but I'm guessing that the latter amount is dinner and a foot massage. Prices surge around the time of Chinese New Years, with thousands of attractive twenty-somethings like Luoluo commanding fees of 3,000 yuan ($450) to 10,000 yuan ($1,500) a day. We have a name for this here in America. It's called Escort Services or Call Girls or Prostitution or something like that.
Apart from Hire Me Plz, there are five major date-hiring apps in China, which make their money by taking a cut from the hires and from subscription fees. Cao said, "Our business model is still new, though an increasing number of young people have accepted the idea of selling their time as a commodity." Cao expects his Beijing-based to become a mulit-billion dollar market in five years. Does this make Cao the new pimp of Beijing?
Since its launch in 2015, Hire Me Plz has garnered a user base of 700,000 and 1.7 million followers. Allegedly, sex is not part of the services offered on any of the mobile apps. Prostitution is illegal in China. But I wonder, what would happen if the sex was consensual? Would the date renter still have to pay his date? If he did, would that be considered prostitution?
Hire Me Plz's Cao said the initial aim of her app was to help overcome the problem of loneliness experienced by young people leaving home to work alone in big cities. I have to be honest, I'm not sure how I even feel about this. To me, it still sounds like just an escort service. Then again, is this just another form of a dating service? Because what if the renter and the date get along so well that they want to start dating for real? Then mission accomplished right? What happened to traditional dating? Also, wasn't China the home of arranged marriages? I'm so happy that I never have to date anyone but my wife ever again! Dating sounds like it sucks in this day in age.