Elite Single Chinese Face 'Leftover Lady' Discount

Sunday, September 11, 2011

At a mass-matchmaking session in Hangzhou, China, some parents of unmarried, well-educated women express desperation at their "pickiness." One single woman says she'd like to be married, but her work gives her a strong "inner universe."

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Society Coming to Terms

But society has yet to come to terms with that. As Ni points out, the Leftover Ladies term-- recognized in 2007 by the Ministry of Education as a new addition to Chinese vocabulary--reflects a stereotype that judges women's success on their marriage.

Wei, who has gone to numerous arranged dates, says these dates connect her to reliable young men outside her own social circle. Indeed, parents such as Li take pains to screen a boy's background before arranging a date. Many require the man to hold a white collar job and own a house.

But economic status alone cannot promote marriage, Wei says. For her, these arranged dates lack the spontaneity for romance to breed.

"It's not a bad way to know more people," she says, "but the format is just wrong."

Though she's not hopeful of meeting her true love in these dates, Wei continues attending these "awkward meetings" out of a sense of guilt. Her mother, who used to take pride in her master's degree, now calls her a "tragedy of idealism."

"At the end of the day, she thinks a woman's happiness comes from her family," Wei says. "Her colleagues and friends are all grandparents now, and she feels she's left behind."

Though she struggles with loneliness and parental pressure, Wei says her career gives her comfort. "I take pride in feeding myself with my work. It keeps my inner universe strong."

Women such as Wei represent a new generation who have developed a sense of independence, Ni says. They are pushing society to accept diverse choices in marriage and relationships.

"As these women pursue their individuality, they have to go through a phase when they rebel against marriage," Ni says. "It's a good thing for women and for society."

But not so to Li, who ends another Sunday morning without a phone number for her daughter. She says she's coming again next week.

"My daughter has just turned 30," she says. "It's not too late yet."


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Jia You, currently reporting from China, is a rising sophomore at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

For more information:

"China Love Report: 'Leftover women' look for younger men," CNN:

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