Published: 02nd September 2018
Rent a Boyfriend App: Are we seriously hanging 'For Rent’ signboards on people too now?
Can a boyfriend on rent cure mental health problems like depression?
Have you ever watched The Wedding Date? In this 2004 Rom-Com, Debra Messing’s Kat Ellis heads back home to be Maid of Honour at her younger sister's wedding. In a desperate attempt to not be the single older sister, Kat pulls a rather off-centre move. She hires a male escort, Dermot Mulroney’s Nick Mercer to pretend to be her boyfriend. Considering you're watching a rom-com, it's no surprise that there's a good amount of comedy and some sappy romance when Kat and Nick fall in love (cue the ‘Awwww’). I aww-ed for sure when I was 16 years old. But now, 14 years later, when I think about it, what Kat did, to strip it down to simple terms, was rent a boyfriend. And somehow, I'm not in 'aww’ of that.
I think while I had my eye on Dermot Mulroney's perfectly scarred face, the concept of a male escort service must've been what caught Kaushall Prakash’s fancy. That's the only reason I can think of for why he created the Rent a Boy Friend (RABF) app. Yup! Someone in India, the same country that frowns upon a married couple hugging in public, just launched an app where people who seek companionship can rent themselves a ‘boyfriend’. And apparently, the founders intend for the app to also be a service used by those who suffer from depression.
Now I don't mean to be ignorant, but how is getting a boyfriend going to stop someone from feeling depressed? Maybe it's meant for those who suffer from depression caused by loneliness. In that case, are these men really to be trusted with your vulnerability? In an article that I read, Kaushall offers assurance that the men, who will fall under one of three categories — Celebrity, Model or Aam-Aadmi - are run through thorough background checks to ensure that they come from decent, educated backgrounds and respect women. That sounds great, theoretically, but come on Mr Prakash, what's the guarantee?
And please, please don't say money back guarantee!
Safety is one thing that I am sceptical of. Most of the time, you can't even trust the people in your life, so how are you supposed to trust someone you meet through a dating app or a boyfriend renting app, in this case? I realise that we live in an era where trust isn't easy to find. But maybe that's exactly why someone would opt for a service like RABF. Because the company assures you trusted men.
Which brings me to the one thing I appreciate about RABF - that Kaushall insists that this isn't a dating app. They aren't trying to hook people up and insists that the relationship is purely platonic and is based on support-companionship. I love that idea on paper. But to me, if you're offering companionship, it becomes contradictory when there have categories like Celebrity and Model. Are they suggesting that depression can be treated by a square jaw and chiselled abs? If your service is to be someone's shoulder to cry on or a friendly ear, then offer people not models. If you're offering ‘companionship’, then why not provide a service that's not exclusive to male models?
Dr Sonali Prakash, the co-founder, goes on to stress the importance of physical appearance as a major criterion when choosing a 'boyfriend’ in the same article. By doing this, aren't they planting false expectations in the minds of their clients? It isn't a given that everyone's Mr Right has to be a ‘good looking’ man. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't it true that a man doesn't have to be good looking to be a good boyfriend? I, for one, would rather have a man who listens with his heart. And plus, ‘good looks’ is rather subjective. Why not hire men primarily because they are keen listeners?
As much as this app and the thought behind it puzzles me, I'm going to put this all aside and tell you what troubles me the most about this concept. When did we forget that having a boyfriend means having someone who cares for you, knows you and appreciates you? When did it become a rentable commodity? People should be getting out there and having conversations with others, both like-minded and polar opposites. I'm not suggesting that it's easy, but renting someone just can't be the answer.
Nowadays, people pay for food, clothes, education, hell, we even pay for followers on social media, but I think we need to draw the line somewhere. The tweens, teens and young adults of this generation have become somewhat obsessed with 'being’ with someone. It's like you're uncool if you aren't.
People are getting in and out of relationships faster than you can do the Hokey Pokey. They dive heart first and they don't realise that with every broken relationship, there's a piece of you that breaks too. People should invest time and energy in a relationship, and even those that last for years aren't guaranteed winners. By renting a boyfriend by the hour, you aren't even forming a meaningful relationship.
Maybe I'm just misunderstanding the concept that Kaushall and Sonali are going for, but the more I think about, the more it sounds like you can pay for anything. Now, call me a prude or super old-fashioned, but I believe that in this entire 'everything can be a business’ world, companionship should be one of those things that you shouldn't sell. I honestly don't know where we as a generation are headed. We've got everything from path-breaking scientists to heartwarming social activists to street-smart entrepreneurs, but we lack simplicity. To all those who find the idea of this app novel, I implore you to be wary of where you place your heart. In today's world, money can buy anything. But it doesn't mean that it should.
(The opinions expressed here are the author's own)