The high price of love

(China Daily)
Updated: 2007-02-06 09:10

Some would argue that today's youth, women in particular, are too driven by material wealth, and thus seem mercenary.

But Wu Ran, a stage director, thinks it is normal and legitimate for a woman to want to marry a man having a house and a car. "You don't have to own a villa and a BMW," Wu says, "but a car or a house shows a man's stable status."

The stage drama, D Style Life, which Wu directed recently, shows a young man who bought an apartment in an upscale community and who secretly works two jobs in order to pay off the mortgage.

He doesn't tell his girlfriend the truth for fear that she would leave him once she finds out that he is not the wealthy man she wanted. "So many girls are like that in real life," says Wu, adding "for me it's absolutely a must to have a house and a car before I marry the girl I love. I want to provide a stable life for her."

Wu points out that those who marry for love rather than money are investing their youth in the husband. Basically, they are no different from those wanting to marry money.

In this regard, to a woman, being mercenary doesn't mean selling out for money, but just being your own best friend.

Unlike a love relationship, a marriage involves two kinds of social relations: material and ideological. Therefore, "it is necessary and natural to have material demands when it comes to marriage," says Wang Wei, deputy director of the Beijing Marriage & Family Institute.

In fact, material desires always exist, varying in different social groups and different times, he says.

Take the period of the "cultural revolution" (1966-76), a most ideological and fanatic time. Many women looked for future husbands with good political backgrounds, ones that had a bicycle, a watch, a sewing machine, and a radio as the preconditions for marriage.

Back then, one needed commodity ration coupons to buy these items, thus making them a symbol of power.

Things have changed. "You cannot expect your children not to be materially minded when society is full of advertising, and the "no-free-lunch" philosophy has infiltrated our social life," says Li Dun, sociologist from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Last November, Shanghai, reputed as China's most material city, ran its first exclusive "Love Boat" party on "Captain One" cruise to hook up local millionaires with rich and pretty women.

The cost to attend was 28,000 yuan ($3,500) for the chance to find a dream partner. The meeting party required male participants to have assets worth at least 2 million yuan ($250,000). The women were expected to be "pretty and desirable."

"I don't see anything wrong with that. It's a fair game, men and women get what they look for. Really, nothing is free. The wedding ceremony alone can cost you thousands dollars," says Ms Yang.

In her 30s, she is looking for a man who drives a Porsche. Indeed, the latest figures from the Shanghai Wedding Service Industry Association suggested that the average wedding spending in Shanghai hit 187,000 yuan ($23,375) in 2006, 271 times of that in the 1970s.

The most money is spent on apartment decoration, brand name products, and the honeymoon. That spending certainly amazed Zou Junyuan of Changsha, capital of Central China's Hunan Province.

Zou, 76, still remembers her wedding ceremony "was very simple".

"We stood in front of Chairman Mao's portrait, exchanging vows before relatives and the invited friends and relative. Our major spending was our bed, sheets, and other living necessities."

Though it seems to be common sense that money won't guarantee happiness, Bi Jinyi, a divorce lawyer and marriage & relationship consultant in Beijing noticed that most of the divorce cases she has handled "are related to financial problems".


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