It is the same for every Chinese woman in China; when a mother starts telling her daughter to solve her “personal problem,” she is referring to her daughter’s single status. Her singlehood starts to become a personal problem at age 25. After all, a Chinese woman is supposed to already be married by the time she’s 27 and the entire process that leads up to that can be very long and hard these days.
It is not just the fear of her daughter becoming shengnu (a leftover woman) that weighs down on a Chinese mother. Her anxiety stems more from the fact that her daughter’s life is not going according to plan. And she is used to life always being carefully planned and to following that plan to the letter. She still comes from a time when life was more or less charted out and everybody did what was expected of them.
It is not just the Chinese woman’s mother who feels seriously concerned about her personal problem; her grandmother, of course, is equally worried. Her ayis, or aunts both by blood and from her mother’s social circle, also involve themselves one way or the other; so do her female cousins, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and even the street sweeper. Mostly, they try to play matchmaker, especially the ayis. They also constantly give her advice about their ideas of what a good husband is and how she can successfully find one.
Matchmaking is still alive and well in China. Arranged marriages may have been made illegal decades ago, but the matchmaking business is thriving very well in China’s current marriage market atmosphere of tough competition and high demands. In an effort to give her mother and grandmother some level of assurance, and to get the others to lay off somewhat with their constant nagging and questions, a Chinese woman explores numerous matchmaking options.
She tests the waters of online matchmaking sites; she tentatively attends matchmaking and speed dating events; she allows her well-intentioned ayis and friends to set her up on blind dates. In other words, she lets everybody around her push her toward the direction that they all say she’s supposed to take and the destination she has to reach very soon.
More than anything else, she wants to remain filial and to maker her mother and grandmother happy. They sincerely want to see her settled down with a good husband and to know that she will have a secure future, which they also honestly believe she can only get by finding a suitable husband. Of course, they also want to be able to experience the joys of being a grandmother and great-grandmother. A Chinese woman genuinely wants to be able to give these joys to the most beloved women in her life.
They all mean well; they are all only looking after her well-being. They only want what’s best for her and they believe that marriage is what’s best for her. Sadly, nobody bothers to ask her what she wants. Of course, having a good husband and a family is also a Chinese woman’s desire. So is love and time to find it.
Being of the modern world, being educated and independently stable, a Chinese woman believes there is no need to rush into marriage and that doing so because still being single by age 27 is supposed to be a death sentence on her ability to find a mate is simply ridiculous. She believes she should take the time to look for a good man that she can love and who will love her back, and to nurture a relationship that will provide a solid foundation for a happy and lasting marriage. For a modern and more enlightened Chinese woman, being single in her late 20s is not a personal problem; it is a choice and a wise one at that.
But her values and especially her high regard for filial piety also means she is not selfish and that her family’s happiness is important to her; seeing them happy also makes her happy. So she continues to dive into the world of Chinese matchmaking online, to sign up for local matchmaking events and to go on dates that are arranged for her by well-meaning family and friends. She continues to work on her personal problem.
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