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August 26, 2009

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Hope springs eternal as city's marriage maniacs make a date

AS a Chinese saying goes, "If you reach 28 and are still single, you'd better close your eyes and pick up whoever is available around you."

How about love and romance? Put it aside.

"When I started blind dating, I had convinced myself that love was no longer a poem," says Christine Wu, a 30-year-old office lady at a foreign bank. "I don't have much expectation of meeting Mr Right, just someone who won't easily get me bored."

However, even such a small requirement hasn't been met after countless blind dates.

"I can't give it up," Wu says, "because this is the only chance for me to get married."

Wu is one of Shanghai's so-called hun huo zu or marriage maniacs.

They are eager for marriage and set it as the biggest goal in their life; they have a decent job and are well-educated; their social circle is limited; they actively try every opportunity to find their partner in life, including blind dating.

However, in contrast to the Western idea of blind dating, the Chinese one is actually not all that "blind."

Couples are sometimes introduced by parents, relatives, friends, colleagues or even former classmates.

Details of each party are known even before the first encounter - details such as their jobs, family, education, personality and even financial status.

All the information could be an indispensable prerequisite for a successful date.

However, it can also be misleading when the real person sits in front of you.

"Sometimes," Wu says, "the related information and the real figure form a striking contrast."

Almost every weekend, Wu and her peers hurriedly shuttle among those blind dates introduced by parents and close friends, or attend speed-dating events organized by matchmaking agencies.

The regular routine could get boring if without the belief of the potential possibilities.

It is not easy to be a "marriage maniac."

First, the desire to marry should conquer all. Patience and tolerance are the priority.

"I thought of quitting many times," says Joyce Chen, 28. "Sometimes I felt so frustrated, but I had to be strong as it could be the only way leading to marriage."

An optimistic mind is also the hallmark of a marriage maniac.

"Some men are just freaks," says Chen. "For example, one man kept asking me some personal questions on our first date, like 'How much do you earn?' 'How big is your apartment?' I almost wanted to throw my coffee in his face. Yet all I could do was keep smiling.

"I told myself at that moment, 'don't be disappointed, this is just the toughest and darkest time that I have to go through before the dawn of success really comes'."

One failure after another is all too common for the marriage maniacs.

But they are not beaten.

"Why? I'm already 30, and I really don't have much time to waste," says Wu. "I would dress up and head to the next round. Life is filled with possibilities, isn't it?"

Being one of the hun huo zu also means you have to be realistic and put away those love fantasies.

"Don't expect love at first sight from a blind date. The possibility is almost zero," says Jay Wu, a 35-year-old divorced man. "After several blind dates, I know this would be mission impossible.

"Don't expect to meet Angelina Jolie or Nicole Kidman, they aren't going to blind dates. Now I am more realistic, all I want is a woman with stable mood and good education who can accompany me in the long run," he says.

Chen, who recently got married after numerous blind dates, says: "Chemistry is a 'ghost' to prevent one finding a marriage through blind dating. This is an illusion. Believe me, a marriage resulting from blind dating is not that bad. It is akin to the frozen chickens in a supermarket, not that fresh and delicious, but secure and healthy."

Marriage maniacs are full of hope and confidence.

They never miss a social gathering organized for unmarried people; they dare to introduce themselves to strangers; they are prepared to reject a date and to be rejected.

"I take a positive attitude," says Wu. "I am on a diet and also practice yoga to let myself appear more charming."

The marriage maniacs know the importance of appearance.

"Sometimes I would wear different clothes judging from the information I have been given about the guy. How? Let me tell you, if I am to meet a man in the IT field, normally I will put on some cute and lovely clothes," Wu says. "Dress code is very critical in blind dating."

However, some marriage maniacs may not be as crazy for marriage as it would appear.

Feng Yalan, a counselor at the psychological consultant center of East China Normal University, points out "the hun huo zu is actually not so fervent toward marriage."

"They have not reached their extreme. On the surface, it seems that they are fervent in participating in blind dates or sundry social gatherings. But in fact, it is merely a process of selecting for themselves. They still believe that life is under their control, and of course they still have a bottom line for their partner."

When asked whether they had psychological problems, Feng says: "They are okay. Especially those who want to get married. It is always better to do something rather than sit and wait."

The fast development of society and the difficulties in meeting people in a huge city leave quite a number of young people single.

"I have met too many of them having problems with love and marriage," Feng says. "My suggestion is you need to think clearly. What do you want in your marriage? Peace? Material Life? Understanding? Or merely someone to kill the solitude?

"One thing is for certain, there is not a perfect one or perfect marriage in this world. Everyone knows this, yet only a few really take it in mind," Feng concludes.

Yes, when there is no Mr Right popping up as in novels or movies, perhaps it needs some patience, luck and an optimistic outlook to be a happy marriage maniac.

Are you a marriage maniac?
You could be if you answer yes to the following questions:

1. Is marriage the biggest dream in your life?

2. Does your life become more colorful during the process of hunting your counterpart?

3. Are you willing to participate in various social activities in the search for Mr Right?
4. Do you have marriage in mind even at the first sight of a woman or man?

5. Do you have any plan or strategy for marriage the same as you would adopt for your career?

6. Under pressure from your friends and parents to get married, are you wracking your brains to find every opportunity to make it come true?


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