I met a S’porean lady who went through 20,000 dating profiles to find true love. It was intense.

Soft truths to keep Singapore from stalling.

Tanya Ong | June 9, 02:00 pm


I recently turned 25, an age where I’m starting to see an increasing proportion of my friends getting engaged.

Relatively chill when it comes to marriage

For someone with mostly no chill when it comes to many things, you can say that one thing I am relatively chill about is marriage.

Having been through several rather serious relationships, I certainly am not averse to the idea of marriage.

But I never wanted marriage enough to actively search for a partner to settle down with — if a relationship happens, it happens.

This means that I have never taken dating apps seriously, let alone considered going for dating events.

Many of my friends share the same sentiment, preferring a laissez-faire ‘just-see-how-it-goes’ attitude when it comes to romantic relationships. And apparently, this view isn’t really out of the ordinary.

According to a Marriage and Parenthood Survey conducted in 2017, 83 per cent of singles in Singapore aged 21 to 35 years old intended to get married.

But out of the singles (aged 21 to 45) surveyed, 59 per cent were not dating seriously with a view to getting married.

And out of these (people who were not dating seriously), four in 10 preferred to leave dating to chance.

This is precisely why I sat up and took notice when a colleague told me about an acquaintance he had recently met.

We’ll call her ‘S’.

‘S’, and her intense approach to dating

S is a 31-year-old Singaporean university graduate working as a fund manager. What’s interesting about her, however, is her clinical take on dating, and discipline in searching for a partner.

She explains that according to demographic data, female graduates aged 25 to 35 will find it very hard to settle down with male graduates because there are just way more females than males in that sub-group.

And so, in order to “beat the odds” and find a partner, she apparently nearly finished swiping all the Tinder profiles in her demographic.

My interest was piqued. And so, I decided to meet her to find out more.

Those who were approaching 30 and still single started panicking

Like me, S tells me she never thought much about settling down while she was studying in university. She assumed that it would all work out somehow in her late 20s — she would easily find someone, date for a bit, get married and live happily ever after.

By the time she was in her late 20s, though, she realised this wasn’t going in the way she envisioned at all. Panic ensued.

She wasn’t alone in this experience, she said. Many of her female peers, who faced the same issue of still being unmarried by the time they approached 30, were feeling anxious about being single.

So, why are these women having difficulty settling down?

There could be a wide variety of reasons. However, S had an insightful statistic to share.

Far more uni-educated women than men, aged 25-34

According to data from the Department of Statistics (SingStat), there were 76,000 graduate females aged 25 to 29 in 2018. In the same year, there were only 60,300 graduate males in the same age range.

And if we look at the university graduates in the age bracket of 30-34 in 2018, there are 79,000 females but only 70,100 males.

The SingStat data dates back to 1990, and tells us that there have been more female than male graduates, for the age bracket of 25 to 34, for at least the past 30 years.

The data does not provide further breakdowns on the proportion of those who are married or single, but the fact of the data is that there are far more female university graduates than male university graduates aged 25 to 34.

Okay, cool. So what does this mean?

Assuming that female university graduates in Singapore are looking to marry male university graduates of a similar age range to them, the prospect of dating and marriage appears to be skewed against female graduates.

Other criteria and expectations working against your favour

Well, what about those who are willing to date non-university graduates, or willing to date men younger than 25 or older than 35?

S acknowledges that of course, these women exist, and further clarifies that that particular demographical statistic is but one challenge facing graduate females.

She highlights yet another: Singaporean women can sometimes be rather picky.

Based on her observations, she notes that many women have (overly?) high expectations of their ideal partner. This includes and is not limited to being

  • tall,
  • kind,
  • funny,
  • earning a stable income,
  • eloquent,
  • filial, and
  • preferably looking like Chris Hemsworth.

In addition to this insane list, there may also be other deal-breakers (S, for instance, is not willing to accept a partner who smokes).

As I considered my own expectations for an ideal partner, I realised that there may just be some truth to what S is saying. Perhaps I really am just far too picky.

However, I firmly believe the person I end up with need not be my ideal partner.

After all, my ideal partner likely does not exist — it’s just a question of who I’m willing to accept and work through a long-term (lifetime?) relationship with.

The real challenge for me, hence, is deciding who I’m willing to stay and taKE SH*T from!!!11

I’m sure S is prepared to agree with me, but she is also convinced that most good men are taken by the time we turn 30.

“And this is why you should start looking early!” she emphasises. “By the time you hit 30, it’s not so easy to find someone.”

The clinical approach of mad swiping

Given the variety of factors making it so tough to find someone, S thinks it is important to maximise one’s chances of meeting (promising) people.

She mentioned going for singles’ mixers, but said it was largely ineffective for her because it didn’t give her a “critical mass” of suitable people.

This is why, in her view, dating apps are a perfect platform to meet suitable partners.

When she was on several dating apps at once, she gained access to a wide pool of suitable candidates, and could (depending on the app) filter criteria of the profiles.

In a bid to find someone, she claims to have diligently assessed over 20,000 dating app profiles over a span of three and a half years.

That works out to slightly over 5,700 profiles a year, or at least 15 a day — certainly doable, but requires an impressive amount of self-discipline.

Standard “template” of responses

A portion of her day is dedicated to the endeavour of viewing profiles and starting conversations, she told me.

Wouldn’t this be extremely exhausting, I asked?

She acknowledged this, but also offered a solution in the form of “templates of interaction”. So what this means is she has a list of prepared answers to common questions that she would copy and paste in response.

This includes introductions and responses to questions on her hobbies and interests, for example.

Whenever a response or question piques her interest, she would then take it from there to further develop the relationship.

Currently, S is in a happy, long-term relationship with someone she met on an app.

They’ve been together for over two years now.

Which is great for S, considering her history of endless swiping and slew of dates, both successful and unsuccessful.

Can I really bring myself to do the same?

Talking to S made me think about the lengths I would go to just to search for a partner.

I’ve tried Tinder once, several years back, and went on a handful of dates. A few months later, I deleted the app because I was too drained from the repetitive conversations and shallow interactions. Nothing seemed particularly meaningful or worth it.

For someone like me who can hardly be bothered to download a dating app now, let alone start and sustain (sigh) conversations with people, I wonder if S’s approach to dating is sustainable.

She has no qualms laboriously poring through profiles, consistently meeting and getting to know new people, and getting emotionally invested with people fairly quickly.

I’m not sure if I can do the same.

For S, her end-goal of finding true love ASAP trumps all. She said to me:

“If I can meet a good match, I think I will be happier than a happy single.”

Part of me feels the same. But I just don’t feel the same anxiety and sense of urgency to settle down.

I’m willing to wait until I’m 35 or maybe even 40 — if that’s what it takes for me to find my soul mate.

At 25, I think I still have some time… or do I?

Top photo by Joshua Lee.

About Tanya Ong

Tanya hopes to own a roller skate disco one day.

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