Matchmaking is alive and well in China. Not through an official matchmaker, but through everyone’s efforts, especially those over 50. How people meet their significant others and decide to get married is still a bit of a mystery to me, but it is a hot topic of conversation. From what I can gather, online dating in the Western sense is not very common, but being introduced by a friend is. Last summer, I became an unwitting participant in an ill-fated attempt at matchmaking. I changed all the names in this account, to protect their privacy.
An ordinary Sunday morning at church
Me: the unsuspecting, slightly confused foreigner
Uncle: father of one of my good friends, called Uncle because he is in my parents’ generation
Potential Suitor: a man I’ve met several times, but don’t know well. Somewhere between 45-50 years old.
Xiao Wang: my friend, in her late 20’s, single, pretty
Aunt: Uncle’s wife, less into matchmaking than him
During the service, while waiting for everyone for people in the overflow spaces to finish communion. Uncle was sitting on my right, with Potential Suitor on the other side of him. For part of the service, Xiao Wang sat on my left, but at this point was not there. Uncle and Potential Suitor had been talking (at one point, Uncle answered his cell phone while people were taking communion).
Uncle: (to me) When was Xiao Wang born?
Me: In the 80s, maybe 85, 86, 87, but I’m not certain.
Uncle: You’re friends with her, why don’t you know?
Me: I’m an American, this isn’t an important question to us.
Uncle: (to Potential Suitor) She says she’s an American…. (I can’t hear the rest)
In the entryway, after the service, Uncle gives Xiao Wang Potential Suitor’s business card. I’m not exactly sure what he said to her, because I hadn’t figured out what was going on yet. Xiao Wang stepped over to me, handed me the card, and asked if I knew who it was.
Me: (to Uncle) This is the guy sitting next to you?
Uncle: Yes. Do you know him?
Me: Yes, I do.
Xiao Wang: (to uncle) I’m not interested. [This is the point where I start to catch on to what’s happening]
Uncle: But he’s a good man. He has a car and a house.
Xiao Wang: He’s too old for me.
Uncle: continues his encouragement of the match
Walking to lunch at a nearby restaurant
Uncle: more encouragement to consider the match
Xiao Wang: He’s much older than me.
Uncle: He’s 2 years older than my son-in-law.
Xiao Wang: Yes, that’s too old for me. He should consider someone like Sister Liu or Sister Yang.
Uncle: Who’s Sister Yang?
Xiao Wang: She’s the one that brings her daughter.
After lunch, walking back to church
Uncle: more encouragement
Xiao Wang: He’s not suitable for me, tell him I’m not interested.
Xiao Wang: (with increasing frustration) Tell him I’m not interested. I hate him.
Uncle: You shouldn’t hate him. (at this point I entered the church building and Uncle soon followed, while Xiao Wang went home)
The following Sunday. Potential Suitor sat next to Uncle again, and discussed coming to lunch with us, although Xiao Wang wasn’t there.
Uncle: Is Potential Suitor coming?
Aunt: No, I don’t think so.
Uncle: I tried to suggest him to Xiao Wang last week.
Aunt: He’s so much older than her!
[During the lunch, he asked something about my relationship status and/or if I was looking for a husband. I didn’t fully understand his question, but his wife and the other person at lunch with us did and gave him quite a talking to about minding his own business, so I never had to answer.]
The following Sunday waiting for lunch. Discussing the wedding of mutual friends the day before, where he is in his 60s and she is probably in her late 40s or early 50s. Potential Suitor did join us for lunch, but wasn’t present for this conversation.
Uncle: She’s still young and he’s in his 60s.
Xiao Wang: That’s okay for them, but its not suitable for me.
Uncle: I don’t know why not!