Embarrassing, but essential
For many parents of older unmarried children, the park corner has become an indispensable part of their lives.
“To a great extent, the matchmaking corner meets the parents’ own needs. They’ve made it a mouthpiece of their common concerns,” said Xue Yali, a researcher with the Family Research Center at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.
After years of field studies at the matchmaking corner, Sun Peidong, a sociologist at Fudan University in Shanghai, wrote a book about the phenomenon. “Hundreds of anxious parents gather in this public space and share their concerns with others in the same situation through regular meetings and thus get special social support,” she wrote.
“People born in the 1950s share a collective anxiety because they experienced instabilities, such as food shortages, during their teenage years and being laid off during the prime years of their life. Therefore they’re scared of uncertainty in the future and are afraid that their child will choose the wrong person.”
Many of the parents are embarrassed about attending the matchmaking market regularly, and would never dream of admitting it to their friends or relatives. As if to underline that point, one mother who had just told me that it was her first time was greeted by another parent: “Hello Mrs Cao. You’re here again!”