I've just seen a piece on the Beeb about a new thing coming into Britain from the States (where else?) whereby it's possible to 'hire' a friend for an evening out. Sweet baby Jesus and the orphans. What. The. Fuck?
The Collins Dictionary defines 'friend' thus:
A person known well to another and regarded with liking, affection, and loyalty, an intimate.
An acquaintance or associate.
An ally in a fight or cause, supporter.
A fellow member of a party, society etc
A patron or supporter.
Now I know that the everyday, rather than dictionary, definition of a friend is much broader than it once was, especially in the era of virtual 'friendships' and the like, but somebody paid for for the evening is surely none of the above? What you're actually hiring is a complete stranger that you'd, at best, hope was a good conversationalist. Not even that if you're going to the flicks.
I realise that I'm far from being down with the kids, but this I just don't understand at all. We're in an era where there is, rightly, no stigma attached to, say, meeting your partner through the internet. Does this development imply that there's sufficient stigma still attached to going out alone that somebody feels there's a need for this 'service'? I'm most interested to see if the business takes off. It does raise some interesting questions of exactly what's being contracted for, as well.
What happens, for example, if you get on so well with your hired 'friend' that you end up going for, er, a 'lie down and a game of scrabble' that night? Do you have to wait until the contracted period has expired before you do this, in order to avoid them becoming an 'escort' rather than a 'friend'? Now that really would be stretching the definition to new horizons...