Last night I went to see a film called The Girlfriend Experience. It was a very intelligent film with some intriguing performances but it was less interesting to me than the rest of the evening, in which the film played a very minor part.
We’d invited along two of Lanying’s friends who had never met each other, a woman called Mingzhu and a man called Tom. Tom is looking for a girlfriend experience and Mingzhu is looking for a boyfriend experience. Lanying has plenty of matchmaking experience so the film was her idea.
We learned over dinner that Tom had studied Chinese in Shanghai ten years ago and had plenty to talk about with Mingzhu, who was born there. “It has all changed now,” she said. “For better and worse. Anything in the world you can imagine, you can get it in Shanghai.”
Lanying talked in great detail about a massage she’d had in Thailand, which held everyone’s interest for a while.
Then we took the tube to the cinema and Lanying took this opportunity to nudge me (quite hard) in the ribs. “It’s going well, isn’t it?” she whispered excitedly. “They seem to really like each other.”
I nodded. They were talking a lot together and seemed to be hitting it off.
Afterwards we went home with Mingzhu. “Tom is really nice,” I suggested.
“Oh yes,” said Mingzhu. “He’s very easy to talk to.”
“And quite witty.”
“We were talking about the film,” said Mingzhu, “and I told him, it’s really interesting because, speaking for myself, since I can only speak for myself, I have no experience of prostitutes or escorts or anything like that. And he said ‘Is that a question or are you waiting for me to make a comment on that?’ And I said, ‘Oh no, it’s not a question.’ And he said ‘Well, of course, those massage parlours in Shanghai were in my student days.’”
We all laughed about that. But later Lanying got a text from Tom. “Well, that went very badly,” he said. “She took no interest in me at all. The only thing she was interested in was what I did as a student ten years ago.”
Lanying was shocked. Some frantic texts and emails followed.
“She really likes you,” Lanying told him.
“Are you just being polite, or do you really think so?”
“No, really! She thinks you are very interesting to talk to.”
“Well, she is stunning, so I might be interested if she is interested.”
Some texts and emails to Mingzhu followed. “You’d better send him an email to let him know you enjoyed the evening!” Lanying advised her.
“How will he feel if we just stay friends?” Mingzhu asked.
“What shall I tell her?” Lanying asked me.
“Tell her it’s up to the two of them now.”
“I’m glad I’m not dating.” Lanying said.
“Me too. I need all my spare time to practise Chinese.”
“Well,” Lanying told me, “a man stopped me in the street today while you were in the bookshop and told me he thought I was very beautiful, so I’m very happy.”
“Really? What kind of man? Was he old?”
“No, he was young.”
“He wasn’t one of those drunks in a Santa costume was he?”
“No. He was sober and quite handsome.”
“Well,” I said, “Mingzhu told me I speak Chinese like someone who has been studying it for years.”
“You have been studying it for years.”
“And you are very beautiful.”
“But it’s nice to be told.”
“Maybe you should pass on that comment from Tom that he thinks Mingzhu is stunning.”
We both laughed about that. You need to laugh about something. This whole girlfriend experience is terribly stressful.