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Sat, Jan 09, 2010
The Straits Times
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Speed-dating at 39 or bust
by Chua Mui Hoong

Some people aim to become millionaires by the time they turn 40. Others want to have three children or to do good.

Me, I swore I would try speed-dating before I turned 40.

And I did.

This was over a year ago, just before the marital status of women in their 30s became a national issue in Singapore due to the falling birth rate.

I was a year early. If I did it all over again, I could even get a government subsidy for my dating experiences.

A confluence of personal factors left me single and searching at 39.

I like to see myself as a pretty focused individual. While attached, I was the kind of irritating person who would harangue my single friends into becoming more targeted in their search for love.

If you're looking for a property or a job, you do your research, scan the classifieds, call up agents and headhunters.

In a phrase, you go on the prowl. You don't expect to sit at home or hang around company or condo lobbies or nightspots hoping wistfully that the Right Job or the Right Home will come along.

Ditto the search for the Right Partner: You do need to be actively looking.

I do believe in serendipity and fate and destiny - but I also believe in giving Destiny a helping hand by broadening my social field.

So, better to sub-contract the search to a professional who has a good database of prospects.

If you know you want to get married, find a matchmaker. And if you're only looking to date and aren't sure if you want a life partner, then dating agencies are great.

Among dating services, the two most efficient ways are: computerised matching that can trawl thousands of names to find the right match, and speed-dating where you can meet dozens of people in one setting.

I liked the premise of speed-dating: meeting lots of eligible men in one evening, and limiting conversation with each to three minutes.

Three minutes is enough time to know if I want to see someone again.

In my job, I've interviewed thousands of people and come to appreciate brevity. People who can condense complex, interesting ideas into three sentences appeal to me. The art of repartee is rare in Singapore. Anyone who can't find a rejoinder to one of my barbed questions or comments in three seconds flat would just be treated roughshod and be expected to hold their peace forever.

I signed up online for an event that promised fun and games with like-minded folk.

A friend I asked backed out. As the night drew near, I got cold feet. But I steeled myself: I was used to interacting with strangers. And I was determined to go speeddating before I hit 40, or die trying.

The venue was a Clarke Quay bar. I wore a halter-neck top and jeans, which turned out to be the correct look.

The organiser was an attractive woman in her 30s. There was a dismal crowd - about a dozen of us. As I looked at the trickle of people arriving, my heart sank. At 39, I was about 11/2 times the average age and certainly the oldest.

The men I was supposed to 'speed date' included two very nice nervous young men who reminded me of my 17-year-old nephew. The one guy who caught my attention because he looked to be in his 30s, turned out to be a friend of the organiser's, roped in to make up the male quota.

We played some unmemorable ice-breaker games. Then we had soft drinks, sat around a table and continued with some pen-and-paper quizzes and chatted.

The group was so small there was no need to move around to rotate partners. We just shifted down the long coffee table and talked. The mood was like a casual after-dinner conversation among people who had just met at the host's home.

Within minutes of arriving at the bar, I knew this was a total washout from a romantic point of view.

But the journalist in me became curious and I asked everyone why he or she was joining a speed-dating event.

Two of the men were geeks who worked long hours and didn't have many friends to socialise with. Another two were foreigners who wanted to meet local women.

One guy was there with his two (female) friends. They had signed up at the state matchmaking agency SDU as a group and continued to attend dating events together.

The women were in their 20s, attractive and pleasant. They were not 39 like me. They were not stroppy reporters whose idea of conversation at a dating event was to interrogate the men on their life history. They should be swarmed with suitors. But they still turned to agencies to get dates.

I think one reason for this is that mainstream Singapore society continues to set great store by a date.

Here, so much meaning is attached to asking someone out, that decent young men only try to date women they are already quite interested in. Women still prefer to be passive in romance, waiting for the guys to make the first move.

The result: a date deficit.

This is unlike the Western cultural norm, where a date is seen as a casual way for a man and woman to get to know each other with minimal expectations, and not as a declaration of intent to become serious about the other party.

So if a first date doesn't develop into a second, both parties can continue as friends without rancour.

And both can move on to date others.

Personally, I think that's a counterintuitive way of getting Singaporeans serious about dating: to make it more casual, less serious, less loaded with expectation.

A date is just a date: an appointment to chat with and get to know someone, no strings attached.

And speed-dating is just a way to get through many dates in one evening.

I didn't meet Someone Special that evening. But I was happy to be able to boast to my friends - and to readers today - that I went speed-dating before 40.

The performance-oriented part of me checked off one item on my to-do list.

The coolly analytical side of me thought: Speed-dating didn't work. How about the other efficient method: Computerised matching that trawls databases of people to find the best match?

Worth a try. I decided to give it a shot.

But that's another story.

[email protected]

This article was first published in The Sunday Times.

readers' comments
I think she is hot!
Posted by shylock on Sat, 7 Nov 2009 at 17:24 PM
Must try harder at 40. Mature face is a handicap to a young girl. But guys' sisters, mothers are not all young faces. Guys still love them. The attraction is through feelings with interaction. Don't give up or waste a chance. Some suggestions:
1)Sort out the mind, the must have: tall, handsome, polished, deep pocket, ang mo, too old, too young etc static yardsticks: don't insist. Instead, look at capability, creativity, honesty and kindness etc. Guys of such quality are next to you. Few are handsome.
2)Don't follow the “Play hard to get” rule. Honest guys may interpret it as uninterested to date.
3)Don't insist or recommend posh eating place at date and complain no car. Greed is worst quality guys will avoid.
4)Manageress should mind not to impose standards on others at dates.
5)Dating agencies' pools are complex in backgrounds.Objectives could be .....
Posted by last_laugh on Sat, 7 Nov 2009 at 15:13 PM
I would say all these online dating services are bullshits! I tried before, paid for their fees for screening suitable matches but took them almost 6 - 9 months to get back to me. Reason was they were busy office shifting, other stuff. Worse, they just allow any Tom, **** & Harry to be their members, and some of them were in financial difficulties, they'll get to know u first, then start to borrow money (even though they claim to be in the prestige profession).
Posted by Hersheybar on Fri, 6 Nov 2009 at 17:15 PM
ISD le

Posted by amfreeaccess on Fri, 6 Nov 2009 at 13:18 PM
At 40 should date seriously, so that at 55, when the veins are clogged, at hospital bed, a kid rolling out little tears will ask "momy, when are you coming home?"

However, will a guy enjoyed being probed at "dating" by a woman performing "recruitment and selection" rather than dating?
He is probably thinking of plan B while answering questions: leave.
Posted by last_laugh on Fri, 6 Nov 2009 at 13:03 PM

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