The Marriage Market
In life, I think it is safe to say that everyone wants to be loved in some way or another. In Shanghai, I know it is safe to say that every parent wants their kid to be loved in some way or another. So much so that they are willing to take matters into their own hands. Forget e-harmony, forget VietnamCupid, forget the idea of stumbling upon your future hubby/wifey yourself. Mom and Dad brought you into this world and in Shanghai, they exercise the rights to full involvement in your love life.
Cut to Marriage Market at People’s Square and you will know exactly what I am talking about. Every Saturday and Sunday, parents congregate in this park in hopes of finding that special someone. While some may for searching for themselves, the bulk here is interested in a potential spouse for their offspring. The park transforms into an offline dating sight, with paper profiles that describe the suitor – age, height, interests, education – lining the fences. You like what you read? Jot down the phone number and set up the date. Many parents chat it up with the other moms and dads here, exchanging contact information if they see themselves being in laws.
Walking through the park, it felt like an in person e-harmony with parental controls, literally. There were so many matchmakers with their own database of suitors filling their section as well as individual pitchers pasting a profile on an opened umbrella, waiting to see if anyone took the bait. This seemed to be the norm but there was one gentleman that really stood out. He was young in age compared to the crowd, maybe late twenties/early thirties. He stood in the park promoting himself with his profile in hand as a sea of future in-laws flooded around him. He had a few inches on the elders at some points so it was quite the sight to see. The image that kept coming to mind was him as a paperboy back in the day. “EXTRA! EXTRA! Read all about it!” But instead, “EXTRA! EXTRA! Read all about it and get a husband!”
I strolled up and down through the different paths of the park. I had one man come up to me and start speaking Chinese but I flopped like a fish out of water, simply nodding and smiling, ending the “conversation” with a handshake as we parted ways. When I took a quick break on a park bench another similar encounter occurred. I couldn’t help but wonder if they interpreted my presence as potential. Who knows. Maybe I’ll go back if my Chinese speaking ability grows enough and see for sure.
As I continued on, I noticed there was one variable that was missing in this equation – the dating candidates. While the age of what was up for grabs was much lower, the park was filled with people on average of 50s and 60s, with the occasional outlier like myself. While I read elsewhere that this method may not yield the highest success rates, I feel that its an proactive strategy that the parents take on and clearly enjoy. You can see them exchanging stories, perhaps boasting and bragging about their daughter’s or son’s greatness. They laugh and chat with each other as their Saturday or Sunday rolls by. It may be “out-dated” in its methodology but its a tradition. A tradition, in fact, that shows parental involvement and interest which in some way or another translate into parental love. I may not enjoy the idea of my parents actively searching for my husband but you can’t help but feel the love walking around the area. Maybe these parents are no Patti Stanger (a shameless Bravo’s Millionaire Matchmaker plug) in terms of their matchmaking rate and maybe they do cause their kids a great deal of annoyance but if you pull all the initial reaction aside, you see hundreds of parents taking their weekends to find their child marriage and security. And if love and happiness follow suit, even better.
Saturday and Sunday 12-5
North end of People’s Square, Metro 1,2,8, or 10