I'm reading a book, snappily titled The End of Cheap China: Economic and Cultural Trends That Will Disrupt the World, by Shaun Rein. Cheap China as in the country, not the material used for making cups and toilets. Geddit?
When the author arrived in China in the mid-1990s, he was struck by how even provincial prostitutes were dazzlingly beautiful and strikingly young. Fifteen years later, he wrote that the hookers were "middle-aged, bloated women wearing cheap make-up" with "propped-up cleavages" that made them look like "overstuffed, raw sausages".
In the book's introduction, Rein uses this regrettable trend to illustrate how the mainland's economy and job opportunities have changed for the better; the diminishing number and quality of hookers shows that the young and beautiful girls are now choosing careers other than prostitution.
Alright, so perhaps the author and I visit different places and perhaps I don't scrutinise Chinese prostitutes as keenly as a red-blooded, male China-market researcher/author does. But in my experience, the pool of young mainland prostitutes has, if anything, increased.
Every karaoke bar, hotel bar, hair and beauty salon, massage parlour and not a few street corners are crawling with platform-shoe-tottering, long-legged, unusually busty, micro-mini-clad, rhinestone-glittering beauties with varying shades of orange hair.
If they're not prostitutes, I'll eat my own shorts.
Then there are the cards pushed under the door of most hotel rooms I've stayed in during the past decade. These show shiny-haired, big-eyed lovelies in what could charitably be called "various states of undress" but is in reality "completely undressed with scattered pieces of flimsy fabric". A telephone number and phrases like "Hot! Hot! Hot!" and "Very soft and gentle" tend to be printed underneath.
Maybe these girls are accountants or bakers advertising their skills. What do I know? It's possible. What they are not is middle-aged or fat - although fat, middle-aged hookers could theoretically be printing these cards using photos of others, calculating that when a guy turns up for a session, he won't care.
I have nothing against prostitutes per se. But I do get bothered when, while staying in a mainland hotel room, the phone starts ringing off the hook. This usually happens at about 11pm. The caller invariably hangs up when I answer in my increasingly irate female voice, and I finally have to yank out the plug so I can get some sexless sleep.