The question, ‘When will you bring our son-in-law home?’ is tempting some women to hire a stranger for a lover to appease parents who are keen to see them hitched
Betty Muindi @BettyMuindi
Christmas season is here; a time for family to gather, enjoy and catch up. And in the catching up, one question will invariably pop up for women who are planning to visit the village and are in marriage bracket: “When will you bring home our son-in-law”.
If you have hit 25 and above, before you can look forward to seeing your family, there’s something you have to take care of; a boyfriend or some prospective son-in-law to your folks.
In Kenya, where traditional family values are still as relevant as ever, the pressure on women in their late 20s to get married can be so overwhelming. So overwhelming that women may be tempted to go to extreme lengths to appease their parents.
A man recently went on social media to advertise his services to single city women who need a boyfriend for hire while travelling upcountry for the Christmas festivities. The man created a banner indicating the various categories of his services and cost for each.
He wrote, “Do you have inquisitive relatives who keep asking about your love life? We have a solution for you, Rent-a-lover.” The unidentified man further pointed that services are offered in packages from ‘holding hands’ to ‘one night stand sleepover’ and so on.
He may have started it as a joke. But the stigma is heavy, and if posts going viral on social media are anything to go by, the rent-a-boyfriend business is booming.
Marriage counsellor, Elkana Njagi, says Kenya is a conservative and patriarchal society and thus marriage and family is critical. The current average age for women to marry is 25.3.
The pressure on those that are within this marriage age is worse and can be a source of shame and anxiety for many women who are not yet married by their so-called ‘expiry date’, usually their 30th birthday.
“The stigma involved with not marrying within this age bracket is so deeply embedded in our culture, that although more women are educated and career-driven than ever before, they are still expected to adhere to these dated social norms,” he explains.
Njagi describes ‘rent-a-boyfriend’ concept as a product of young women who are fighting these pressures and remaining financially independent and career-oriented, despite what society thinks. For the women who wish to reject society, but keep their parents happy, it appears that a fake boyfriend is the perfect solution.
The concept began on one of China’s many online rent-a-partner websites. Here, personal details, special services and other specifics are discussed and negotiated.
Many of the customers (and fake boyfriends) note that they only require to provide ‘green services’, meaning no kissing or sexual favours are involved—a dinner with the parents is usually enough.
There are also other services on offer such as the unique skill of answering complicated questions about future plans, marriage and children. Once an agreement is made, the couple must begin getting to know each other to make sure their stories are nosey-aunt-proof.
Although renting a boyfriend seems a pretty good solution, there are some complications involved in choosing this route to appease your family. On top of being slightly morally questionable, the whole performance is not cheap. Renting a fake boyfriend will cost you as much as Sh50,000 per day.
Of course, this price rises the more qualified, handsome and experienced the guy is. You would also have to cover his travel expenses and any other costs he may incur whilst playing your partner.
But to satisfy your pestering parents, and thereby allow yourself to carry on with life on your own terms, it seems the rent-a-boyfriend service could be worth every penny. Because when you’re young, successful and at the prime of your life, old traditions can wait.