Need somebody to hang with

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Subscriber active since. I'm the kind of person who arrives at a party fashionably early and then keeps milling about until all of the other guests, Yellow Tail wines and hummus dips have disappeared. But despite the fact that I frequently blur the taxonomic distinction between social butterfly and household pest, it never occurred to me that I could actually monetize the willingness to just, you know… chill. This uniquely capitalist take on camaraderie began its life back in in Stewartsville, New Jersey.

RentAFriend founder Scott Rosenbaum was inspired by similar companies in Japan, such as Family Romancea "substitute attendance service" that employs nearly professional actors — ranging from young children to senior citizens — who can be hired to portray relatives, coworkers or ificant others. Family Romance owner, Ishii Yuichi, claims he's personally been called upon to play the role of the loving groom at a closeted lesbian's sham wedding, the intimidating yakuza boyfriend of an unfaithful woman whose husband demanded a confrontation with his wife's lover, and even the affectionate father of a young girl who never met her real dad.

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And in much the same way that HBO's robotic " Westworld " amusement park distinguishes between its lifelike android "Hosts" and its human tourist "Visitors," RentAFriend makes capital-letter distinctions between the overprofessional "Friends" available for leasing worldwide, and the dues-paying "Members" who purchase their time. If you have more people skills than money, though, you're probably wondering: How much cash could I make by being a paid "Friend," and would it be worth the awkwardness?

The first few Friends I interviewed over the phone had largely similar origin stories — they were mostly twentysomethings, who were often still in college when they initially stumbled upon RentAFriend while Need somebody to hang with for ways to make some spare cash. Martin not his real name was earning his Ph. He ed up for a free profile on RentAFriend and after a couple of weeks, he began getting notifications from Members looking to go out. Because Martin identifies as gay on his Friend profile, he seems to hold a unique appeal for women looking to hire a male companion they can trust not to try any funny business.

He once received a request from a young woman going to a dinner that she knew her ex would be attending with his new girlfriend, who wanted Martin to pose as her own freshly rebounded beau. On another occasion, a girl started blowing up his phone with increasingly frantic texts, begging him to her and a friend on short notice for a Friday night out on the town.

On Martin's train ride down to Midtown to collect what promised to be easy money, the Member texted him the fictional details of their relationship, establishing an elaborate backstory in which he was to pose as her friend from work. Though she was a bit "shy and awkward" when they first met, Martin said he actually had a good time after another guy ed up and the trio all went clubbing together.

Although his real enjoyment, he claims, came from trying to figure out why he was being so handsomely paid just to act as a third-wheel. Although originally from Northern California, Tara has been living and working as a professional athlete in Los Angeles for the past two years. Not long after moving to the city, she heard a female Friend being interviewed on a radio talk show, and decided to try the site out for herself.

Her first experience was a coffee shop meet-up with a seasoned RentAFriend veteran who had been "doing this for ages," which she found reassuring. Tara has found older Members tend to just want a casual conversation partner, while younger Members typically request her because they're "not very socially outgoing.

However, there's less diversity when it comes to gender, as Tara admits most all of her renters are men. That isn't surprising, especially given the demographics of the site. This glut of guys, combined with the fact that Members can search for Friends by age, gender and sexual orientation, may make some people wonder whether RentAFriend is actually one of the gig economy's newest side hustles, or simply a modern update of the world's oldest profession. Tara said she's never felt pressured by Members to make things more than platonic, thanks to the website's clearly defined rules and her own precautionary measures: She only meets Members in public, always has someone who knows where she is going and uses Need somebody to hang with same screening technique each time.

It's always 'friend,' 'friendship,' that sort of thing. This is in addition to fringe benefits like being treated to drinks or dinner at a fancy restaurant. Tara said she hasn't yet had to cater to those aforementioned weirdos. Even though I've yet to create a free profile of my own, I feel I talked to enough RentAFriend "Friends" to get a good sense of what it's like to put yourself on the friend market. As bizarre or shady as the concept may sound, most of the meet-ups seem particularly anodyne, with "grabbing a few drinks" or "going to a movie" appearing as the most common requests.

There are the occasional odd proposals, but they're more mildly interesting than indecent one Temple student in Philly says a girl paid him to stand in line with her at a book ing — he didn't hold an extra item for the author to autograph, just kept her company. Even though all the Friends I talked to insisted their experiences had been entirely platonic, many had also been hired before to act as the proverbial "plus one" at a wedding or other event in which their good looks were an asset. And perhaps they feel a stigma attached to that "arm candy" perception, considering that almost everyone I chatted with requested some degree of anonymity as a condition of our interview.

Still, as far as I can tell, there's nothing unseemly actually going on. While it won't make you rich, being a Friend seems like an honest way to make a few extra bucks — and, if you're lucky, a few good stories.

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Need somebody to hang with

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Examples Of Various Ways To Invite People To Hang Out