Forlorn empty nesters in the twilight of their days: shall they be content with long days parked in front of televisions, and long evenings that might include a stroll here or there, to sit on street corners and chatter? Or finding a Chinese chess game to watch, while grasping their hands behind their backs? For some elderly locals, the routine process of getting old isn’t good enough, and you can find them twice a week at the Shanghai IKEA on Caoxi Road in Xuhui district, looking around for one last chance at love.
They’ve recently made the news, with outlets reporting that IKEA finds them all to be somewhat of a nuisance. Locals between 45 and 65 descend on the store on Tuesdays and Thursdays, consuming enormous amounts of coffee (free to holders of the IKEA Family membership card), and also driving down the business of the in-store restaurant by 20% percent. Store employees say that the crowd of lovelorn Laorenjia can reach up to 700 patrons. Extra security has been called in to deal with the numbers, and a special cordoned-off section has even been instituted for the middle-aged meet-ups.
Though we find it easy to laugh at the ostensible silliness of the story, or chuckle at the idea of fights breaking out at the IKEA restaurant like it’s a hormonal high school cafeteria (signs have been put up urging patrons to refrain from arguing, to protect the image of Shanghainese), there is a serious aspect to the bi-weekly get togethers.
Tradition has it that the widowed and divorced are simply not meant to find anyone else after their marriage ends, out of deep-seated conservative notions of shame and propriety. In another era, women were simply supposed to shut off whatever emotional or physical needs they might have if a husband were to die, and anyone acting on their impulses would have suffered extreme ostracism if found to have dishonored their deceased husbands.
But of course that’s all in the past, and we think the new refusal from middle-aged men and women to just pack it in and put their love instincts out to pasture should be applauded. After all, we certainly plan on playing the field long after it’s socially acceptable when we get to be of a certain age. Geriatrics in search of romance, we salute you!
Photos from Yahoo China.