まじ！You can rent a Japanese middle-aged man in Japan for about 1000 yen (approx. $9 as of this writing) an hour. Now, if that isn’t a seed idea for a romantic story, I don’t know what is.
There are ground rules. No sex stuff. You often pay for transportation and any expenses (food, drink, entry fees to museums, etc.) for your gentleman. No touching. And no trying to sell your gentleman anything. If you violate the rules three times, you go on a blacklist.
What do people do with their older gentlemen? Well, one lady didn’t have friends who enjoyed spicy foods, so she rented a guy to go to restaurants with her. Some people just wanted someone to talk to. And others did the sit-com thing, where they hired an old guy to play a role. For example, one guy was a sarcastic guest at a party.
In another case, one woman hired an old guy to play her ex- to make her current boyfriend jealous and propose. It’s a little hard to parse the Tofugu article, but the way I read it, she and the old guy found a spark, and are now happy together. (But it could be read as a happy ending for the girl and her boyfriend after a confession – either way, good story material.)
Rent-a-guy is a pretty common trope in romance fiction, and I think it’s a fun one. It can be very transactional, where Our Heroine rents an actor to play the boyfriend, or Our Hero needs to rent an actress. Or, it can be a matter of social bargaining – the protagonist drags in a near-stranger with the promise of a possible relationship, if only s/he will attend this important meeting with the boss/dinner/awards ceremony as a romantic partner. That’s kind of sucky behavior, really. But most often, the social bargaining is about work chances or there’s a consensual willingness to do the thing.
Another related trope is “the bachelor’s auction”. A guy is put up on the shopping block in order to help raise funds for a charity. He’s bought, and goes on a date with the feisty heroine, and they fall in love, but complications ensue. However, love conquers all, and they find a place where they can see Happily Ever After.
I just read a reddit post about a Red Pill guy who did the bachelor’s auction thing. He was very pleased with the result. I found his psychology to be fascinating; he really disliked women, and he was doing this to find a woman that would be pleasing to him. Bachelors often come along with “packages” like a trip to a day spa, or a dinner at a fancy restaurant. This guy put together a sporty package where he would also be the instructor. It sounds great on the surface, but he explains that he wanted to do it that way so the girl who bought him wouldn’t ditch him and take a girlfriend along on the package. It’d attract a girl who liked the same stuff that he did, and he couldn’t be replaced by a friend (in theory). As a result, he went for rather low $1000 (at an auction with a $900 minimum). However, he was happy because for him, it wasn’t about the money, but about getting a date who liked outdoor stuff, and had the wherewithal to spend $1000 at a charity auction.
Spoiler alert: the date didn’t work out. But, as a result, he was thrown in the path of other charity events who invited him to brighten the room, and he was very confident that he’d meet The One (rich, pretty, no deal-breakers ((of which there were many, he implied))) at one of these events. (Does this sound like shades of Mrs. Bennet? I think it does. This guy was definitely in the market for a long-term relationship, even though his approach was very much like how someone would acquire a fine painting or other object. Mrs. Bennet didn’t much care who her girls got, either. Money was good, ethics were optional.)
(-: One of the best things about the post is that I was introduced to the term “taco fest”. Whoo-hoo! I am fond of the objectifying “sausage fest” so I’m glad the women’s term is so delicious and warm.
At any rate, there’s this delicious conflict between money bonds and social bonds in all of these examples. It’s been a successful trope in the past and with our new social technologies, I think it’s going to be a rich source of romance stories in the future. “CraigsList Honey”, “Upwork Hunk” or “Help Wanted Baby Mine” – strangers in the night who find a connection that lasts.