Wet and wild

Updated: 2015-08-10 07:40

By RAYMOND ZHOU(China Daily)

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So the first gimmick was to have all female participants take off their makeup. The popularity of online dating has created many a bizarre situation, such as couples who cannot recognize each other when they meet in person.

There is the story of a young man who flew across the country to meet his dream girl and ended up beating her as she did not possess an iota of the beauty so tantalizing in the photos she posted online.

The "what you see is what you get" approach offered a nice antidote to all the Photoshopping running amok.

The real culprit was the measuring of bust size, which male participants did to the females. Many viewers were flabbergasted. But since both men and women were in swimsuits, the sight was not really as lewd as you might imagine.

It's much better than the so-called billionaire club flaunting their wealth and having women parade in catwalk fashion.

Of course, it would have been less controversial if the women were also assigned to measure the men's chests-we're living in an era of fitness mania so men have the obligation to buff up their physique as well.

Instead, the organizers had another way of testing male strength. They got each man to hold a woman in his arms and the one who could do it the longest was crowned winner. It was just a pretext to get both sexes into some physical contact.

For those with real difficulties hitching up with a partner, it could well be an icebreaker, psychologically speaking.

Not that long ago, China was a society where a man and a woman, unless they were spouses, were forbidden to touch each other's hands even when one was drowning. I still remember the (re) introduction of social dancing in the early 1980s and the furor it created among the conservative.

The reason I'm much more lenient on the Hangzhou event than many online commentators is its radical departure from the traditional approach to dating.

Yes, we have moved away from matchmakers who placed more emphasis on the compatibility of the two families rather than of the two persons involved.

Yet we still have busybody parents who congregate in public parks and do the dating in their children's stead. Very often, their children are just using their careers as an excuse. They have far more opportunities to meet someone to their liking.

Pathetic is the sight of gray-haired parents holding up plaques and hawking their children's marriage as if it's a yard sale.

Much better is the arrangement of singles, especially the young, getting into a swimming pool and having some clean fun.

Sure, the shift from income and family background to purely physical qualities is a bit disorienting, and the likelihood of a real hookup may be no higher than in other forms of dating.

But if you see it as another form of socializing you'll probably be more relaxed about the gender politics.

The photos issued online show a phalanx of men and women in the bloom of their youth, hardly the demographic that needs to worry about being left behind as aging bachelors and spinsters.

Some of them are so good-looking-even without makeup-that I suspect they were hired by the water park to pose as "regular" people.

The Internet has provided unlimited space for social interaction, yet at the same time has confined a significant number of people to their gadgets, where they display personalities so heavily masked that they dare not go into the real world and meet even kindred spirits.

Or, could it be their online avatars throw light into their souls while their actual faces are shelters?

Either way, a walk in the sun or a dip in the pool may remove some of the invisible shackles.

Contact the writer at raymondzhou@chinadaily.com.cn

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