In our brand new series — Love Island Singapore — Mothership brings you on an exploration of different aspects of love as it is expressed and felt by folks on our sunny island.
You will find authentic anecdotes of love and relationships, as told to our writers by Singaporeans.
This month, in the very first story of our series, we explore the feeling of relief — experienced in the course of navigating the initial stages of online dating.
It wasn’t long after Sarah (not her real name) started using Coffee Meets Bagel that she matched with Jon (not his real name either).
She’d been on the online dating app for about a week after deciding to restart her romantic life.
Tinder, which she had previous experience with, was a bit too superficial. But Coffee Meets Bagel, or CMB as it’s commonly referred to, seemed a more conducive platform for connecting with people who harbour genuine intentions.
Not my type?
As she swiped through the day’s offering of profiles (CMB restricts the number of profiles you get to see in one day), one man caught Sarah’s eye.
Jon’s photos showed a man who clearly cared about his appearance.
Nice sneakers, fashionable clothes; “a bit hype beast,” Sarah said to herself as she assessed his profile.
Then there were photos of him goofing around with other guys, in a way that blurred the lines between fun-loving and douchey.
The actual written part of his profile, where he answered questions about himself and his preferences, didn’t have anything noteworthy apart from a few attempts at wit.
He’s not really my type, Sarah thought.
But then again what was her type? Does she even have a type? Would that type be on an app like CMB? What was she doing on CMB? What was her goal? Why does she always have to make everything in her life so goal-oriented?
“I don’t know,” she answered. And against her usual prudence, she brought her finger down on the “tick” button floating above Jon’s profile.
Half a second later — that’s the time it took for her phone’s 4G network to relay that information back to CMB — they matched.
Sarah was no stranger to the usual superficial drivel that is a fixture of any dating app’s chat page.
In one sense it could be forgiven; trying to make small talk with a total stranger is awkward no matter what the circumstance, what more when you’re trying to convince them of your romantic competence?
But there was one thing that Jon said which stood out:
“I bet I can guess what you studied at university just based off the vibes your profile is giving me,” he wrote.
That’s one I haven’t heard before, Sarah thought.
“Sure, go ahead.”
“You were from FASS right?”
He was right — Sarah had studied political science at the National University of Singapore's Faculty of Social Science. She was intrigued.
Not impressed, but definitely intrigued.
Taking it off-app
If navigating the initial awkwardness is the first milestone of online dating, the next is negotiating the migration from dating app to actual phone-texting.
Success in the latter usually indicates that your match is at least interested enough to furnish their phone number.
It also means that both parties have intentions to continue talking and getting to know each other, and would therefore appreciate the convenience — and for some, the dignity — of communicating via regular channels.
As an intensely private person, Sarah prefers to stretch the length between the aforementioned milestones.
Jon, it appeared, did not: One day after they matched on CMB, he asked to take their conversation off the app.
Escalating 200km per hour over the speed limit
Under normal circumstances, this would have been noted as a red flag in Sarah’s books but this dating thing that she had abstained from for a quite a bit now felt exciting.
And so Sarah acquiesced, once again, ignoring her usual prudence.
Yet, just another day later, the red flag — gently hoisted up the flag pole in the first instance — found itself dive-bombed by overly aggressive and enthusiastic falcons and ripped to shreds, raining a million tiny strips of red fabric on Sarah, screaming for her attention.
“So do you want to meet up?”
The message — a bolt from the blue — came over Telegram.
Meet up? Like in real life? That’s 200km per hour over the speed limit, thought Sarah.
But then again, some people do prefer to meet up quicker, she rationalised. Maybe it allows them to gauge efficiently and effectively if it is worth spending any more time on the other party.
Proceed with extreme caution, that’s what she would do.
“Sure, what do you have in mind?”
“How about two days from now? You said you were taking leave then, right?”
"Don't worry, I won't rape you"
Working out the where, when, and what of a date may seem like a frivolous exercise. The truth is, it’s anything but.
Meeting after dinner just for drinks? To some, that may suggest some appetite for promiscuity.
How about an afternoon movie? That's another way of saying the other person is so boring that you’d rather stare at a screen for two hours than talk to them.
Maybe a morning hike? If you want to send signals that you’re ready for marriage, it’s a good option.
“How about my place? It’s quite alright one,” suggested Jon.
What the f**k kind of signal is he sending, Sarah screamed silently. It was pretty obvious, but still, his forthrightness took her aback.
Before she could think an appropriate response, he texted again:
“Don’t worry I won’t rape you. Or is it you I should be afraid of?”
Caught off guard and wanting to buy time, Sarah replied:
“Technically, it’s not possible under the law for me to rape you.”
No sooner had she sent the message did she realise, with a sinking feeling, that instead of halting the brakes on this runaway train, she might have inadvertently accelerated it.
It was a misstep, but now that she had a few extra minutes to regain her composure and clarity, Sarah decided that a direct approach would be better.
“Anyways I don’t think that’s a good idea,” she texted.
Somewhere in Singapore, at that very moment, a young eager male Singaporean felt a sudden drop in his attraction to a female he had yet to meet in real life.
Eventually, the pair settled on a casual late-afternoon appointment at a bar in Clarke Quay.
For Sarah, the arrangements were borne out of courtesy and strategy.
Having already agreed in writing to at least one physical meeting, she felt obliged to deliver.
Yet, in planning to meet her friends afterwards, Sarah had ensured a clear escape plan; she had a 90-minute time slot and two-drink limit before politely announcing that she’d better head off or she’d be late to her next appointment.
You know how significant events sometimes have a tendency to creep up on you?
That’s the opposite of what the next two days were like for Sarah. Every hour that passed brought her closer to the dreaded meeting with Jon.
Generally nervous about meeting any new person, the thought of having to sustain an actual conversation with the physical embodiment of a red flag was lighting up whatever part of her brain was responsible for anxiety.
Many lesser beings might have caved and cancelled. But Sarah took pride in her ability to keep to schedules and honour commitments, anxiety notwithstanding.
One and half hours before they were due to meet, Jon texted Sarah to say that he was probably going to be late.
“I have some urgent shit,” he said, explaining that he had to handle some things at home before meeting her.
"Do you think you'll be alright if I don't make it?"
“Yeah, don’t worry about it,” she said.
Already out of the house, Sarah arrived punctually at the bar they had decided on. She didn’t mind being there alone — she enjoyed it, actually.
She ordered a beer, found herself a comfortable chair and settled into Jeannette Winterson's Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit.
Apart from some half-hearted apologies, Jon never texted her again.
Sarah was relieved.
If you have a story about love or relationships that you would like to share, write in to us at [email protected] with the subject line "Love Island Singapore".
Top image made from a photo by Onesave/day via Unsplash