Singles Day in Asia

泽楠

光棍节

I was browsing through advertising agency news when I stumbled upon this article concerning China’s equivalent to Black Friday in the United States.

11.11

In other words

Single’s Day

Leave it up to the Chinese to create a holiday that is, utterly, pointless.  “Single’s Day” was supposedly devised up by some really lonely college students in a dorm, and somehow the craze has spread to the national scale–with the entire country recognizing this bizarre phenomenon and celebrating it much like the Moon Festival or even New Years.  There really is no deeper meaning to the day other than the fact that 1 is a lonely number, and 4 of them lined up together makes it even lonelier—thus, ensuing commiseration.

Alibaba, the B2B e-commerce giant of China, took 11.11 to a whole new level.  They devised a marketing strategy to warp 11.11 into a gigantic free-for-all online shopping event to rake in the profits.  And rake them in they did.  Alibaba made triple the amount of profits that the U.S. hauled in for cyber Black Friday deals; hell, all of the transactions online even caused one of the largest banks in China to malfunction.  Even now, I see my co-workers scouting Chinese shopping sites like Tmall, Taobao and JingDong (360buy) like hawks, scoping out the potential savings that they can score on 11.11.  I wouldn’t doubt it if they have a timer set up at home, counting down to the second when they can hop online and start shopping.

But, why is it that we need to shop on Single’s Day?  In a country where you become a leftover woman at 27 (me, cry) and have the social obligation to be married before 25… or else, I guess the only way to console your single self is to shop until you drop (which reminds me, maybe I’ll order 20 tons of ice cream from taobao).  But really, instead of just shopping, I want to know why China needs yet another holiday to make us feel bad about being single.

I mean, China already has two Valentines Days; the first one being the traditional western Valentines Day on February 14th, the other one being “七夕” somewhere in July.  I mean, poor guys, having to take out their highstandard-assertive-pushy-scary-gonnakillyouunlessyoubuymeluxurybrandstuff girlfriend twice a year is pretty rough.  The expectation is enormous.

And if you’re single, instead of just going through one day of self loathing on Valentines Day, you have to go through another one in July and try your hardest to restrain yourself not once, but twice a year from karate chopping every happy couple holding a giant teddy bear or a bouquet of roses on the subway.

Don’t even get me started on Chinese New Years.  There’s a reason you can rent boyfriends and girlfriends during the New Year holiday and take them home in China—its so mom and dad will get off your back about being single.  If you don’t have the extra funds to hire a boyfriend for 5 days, then get ready for mom and dad to grill you, gut you, and roast you on a pike.  I’ve had friends break down and cry during New Years, calling me in tears and sobbing: “Mary, my family says I’m weird and ugly and that’s why I’m still single at 25.  I’m doomed.  I’m a failure.”  I guess since I’m 27 and single, I must be like Quasimodo in the eyes of Chinese parents.

So it leads back to the question of…. why does China have to add on yet another holiday to make single people feel bad?

Why Mope?

I realized that, instead of go into self loathing and feeling alone, I’m going to make 11.11 a, “I’m badass, I’m single, and I’m hot” day and induce envy into the hearts of all my married friends.  Much of China, too, has turned 11.11 around into a dating day of sorts, with a slew of ‘single get together’ events being hosted in Shanghai. Instead of watching rom-coms while sobbing into their laptop buying candles and teddy bears on Taobao, women are out on dates—as they should be.  Single’s Day can be a day for you to change, to go on a blind date, and to find that mr. right.

Actually, the first time I heard about this holiday it made me chuckle.  In Chinese the holiday is called “光棍节” which literally means “Bachelor/Bachelorette Day.”  I thought, what a cool ass day, it’s for all the bachelors out in China to go out there and get some! (But later, I realized it was geared more toward singletons that go home, cry on their computer and shop out their romantic woes).  Luckily my friends also recognized it more as a “go out and get some” day, so last year they even hosted a “guanunjie” party and finished the night with bar hopping.  Back then I was taken, so I had to beg them to let me join.

But this year, Mary is single.  Mary is a guangun (I have no idea if that is a good or bad thing); I’m going to take full advantage of the holiday and, instead of Singles Day, recognize it as Pocky Day.  Oops, I mean, Hot Bachelorette Day.

Guanguns Love Company

“J,” I rang up J as soon as I had this brilliant idea.  “I know you’re, like, kind of sort of not single and very ambiguous right now, but you have to join me for Hot Bachelorette Day.”

“What’s that?”

“11.11.”

“Ohhh.  Isn’t that Single’s Day?”

“Whatever.  Anyway, you have to join me on Hot Bachelorette Day and get sloshed like you just turned 21 in Vegas.”

“But we can drink from 18 in England.”

“Well, pretend you’re American for a second.  We gonna get so hammered, we’ll be hungover AND blind the next day.  Then go to work.”

“Count me in,” I could feel her giving me a handshake from the other line.  “I may only be half single, but I will be the other half of your 11.  When we combine, we’ll be 11.11.”

I felt the tears coming on, but I held strong.  You meet few people like J who will stick it out with you to the end (i.e. drink with you on a workday).

“I’m honored to have you as my other 11.”

A night out isn’t a night out with only a J.  It needs a Z.

“Z,” I call my best friend in China, a Chinese girl from Ningbo. “You gotta come out and drink with me until you wake up half naked in a gutter near Jing’an temple.”

“That sounds horrible,” Z said aghast. “When? Like Next weekend?”

“On 11.11.  It’s Hot Bachelorette day.”

“That’s a Monday, girl, 你疯了!  I have to work the next day.  And isn’t that single’s day?”

“No, it’s hot bachelorette day.  And so do I.  But sometimes, Z, we have to do things for the greater good.”

“And what ‘good’ is that?”

“This is for all the Single Women in China.  This is for us.  This is to show that we’re hot, young, 27 year old bachelorettes and we can still get some.  That, and the fact that I’m actually single this year on Bachelorette’s Day and I’m not spending it on Taobao shopping for ice cream.”

“…. You’re right, Mary.  Let’s do this.”  She paused, “but I’m not going to drink that much.”

Little does Z know.

So happy Hot Bachelorette (and bachelor) day to all.  And while I highly doubt I’m going to drink until I’m blind or get some (here’s to hopin!) I know that I’ll have an amazing time—because I’ll be with J & Z, and—well, being a guangun isn’t so bad.

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