Rent-a-Friend Business Booming in Japan

One of my favorite episodes of How I Met Your Mother involves Barney and his hired "family." The eternal playboy (played by Neil Patrick Harris) wants his mother to think he has settled down, so he pays actors to play his wife and son, concocts an elaborate backstory with details including his son's "catch phrase," and plays along for years every time he visits his mother with his fake family in tow.

Well apparently, Japan has turned this sitcom plot into a reality. Japanese rent-a-friend companies allow people to pay for pretend friends, relatives, work colleagues, or even best men! Sometimes single mothers hire fake husbands so kids stop bullying their children at school for having absent fathers!

Just like Barney's family, the "agents" are trained to know an extensive backstory. If rentees give any hint that they're aren't really the people they're pretending to be, it could mess up the clients' lives. Creepy! Apparently the need to look like everything is perfect in your life is so important in Japan that some people are willing to rent these actor-CIA-agent hybrids for about $250 per appearance.

While it might be tempting to hire a stand-in boyfriend for awkward situations, like when you're the only single girl invited to a dinner party filled with couples, this still seems strange to me. What do you think?

Photo courtesy of CBS

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