Having deemed the swipe-right game a waste of time, HOE I YUNE gave three dating services a go.
In the 2016 rom-com How to Be Single, Alison Brie’s New Yorker character uses peanuts to illustrate the dismal dating prospects every bachelorette faces in the big city. The Big Apple’s population may exceed eight million – think of that as a fistful of peanuts, she explains to a hapless bartender – but weed out the women and those who are out of your age range, married, gay and less educated, and you’re left with... one pathetic peanut. Make that one crushed peanut after factoring in kids and looks. “I’m on 10 different dating websites to increase my odds,” she concludes. But is dating just a numbers game? It sure seems that way based on my experiences with Tinder, where you need to sift out creeps and scammers, and converse for a while to gauge compatibility before you finally meet up. Then there are the terrible pick-up lines and the questionable photos. It’s exhausting! “So why not give traditional matchmaking a go?” I thought. Let someone else screen for quality. Unlike faceless algorithms, a matchmaker is like a friend... who, unlike an actual friend, doesn’t have to choose sides when a pairing goes sour. So I put on my best dating game face and tried out three dating services. How would they fare in the swipe-right age?
IT’S JUST LUNCH (IJL)
Brought over 12 years ago from the US by Anisa Hassan, managing director at IJL Asia, IJL has 150 offices worldwide. Expats make up half its Singapore database – an indication of its membership mobility – and of its users, 3,000 are considered actively dating locally at any time. Since I’m perpetually preoccupied with work and the same social circles, the phrase “dating for busy professionals” appealed. A consultant explained the service to me over the search “MATCHMAKER, MATCHMAKER... FIND ME A MATCH!” Having deemed the swipe-right game a waste of time, HOE I YUNE gave three dating services a go. THE DATING SPECIAL phone and scheduled a face-to-face consultation – this hour-long get-toknow- you session is one of the ways IJL screens its clients. After I filled out a form that included questions on religion and values in the IJL office, I verbally recounted my background and shared what I was looking for in a partner. Tempted as I was to state “the combined charm of Ryan Gosling and Chris Hemsworth”, I kept an open mind in line with Anisa’s advice that the “element of surprise can only be uncovered when you are fully open and fiexible to the experience”. Within days, I received Nick’s* profile. A multilingual Ivy League graduate who works for a tech startup, he sounded like the 21st-century dream guy. The expert at IJL shared the qualities he was looking for in a significant other and described him – “intelligent, spontaneous, fit and with a great smile” – as well as outlined his hobbies. However, “we don’t divulge specifics, so people can’t Google each other,” says Anisa. That weekend, I met Nick at a restaurant IJL had helped make reservations at. “Date with the intention of making a new friend” was the agency mantra I attempted to psych myself into. In hindsight, I should’ve just ordered wine. We breezed through our interests and talked about concerts. Shy as Nick was, he was open about his exes; with marriage in mind within the next two years, he was sussing out which stage of life I was at. Before we took off , he didn’t hesitate to foot the bill and offered me a lift. Looks like chivalry isn’t dead. Honestly, I didn’t think Nick and I clicked, but I could see how we could have been matched based on, among other things, the fact that we had both ventured abroad.
Verdict: The matchmakers at IJL are friendly yet professional, unlike mutual friends who find it hard to remain impartial. However, I’d imagine that it’d take more than a single consult before they can better understand my quirks and preferences.
Cost: $2,600 for the Regular Platinum membership; $10,000 or $5,000 for The Elite membership (inclusive of photos of matches and a personal consultant). Find out more at www.itsjustlunchsingapore.com.
A DANCE DATE (ADD)
Anyone who has seen the Step Up film franchise can attest that dancing is a magnet for passion. After all, Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan-Tatum, the two leads in the first movie, got married in real life! Set up in 2010 by Choo Yanqing, who has been organising dance events for singles since 2005, ADD is accredited by SDN Trust, which certifies, among other things, local dating agencies’ commitment to ensuring gender balance at events, that all members are genuine singles (ROM records are checked) and that all dating practitioners are certified. While ADD organises events across interests, including tango, pilates, yoga and cycling, salsa lessons are the most popular, so I went for one. The first half of the class involved learning basic footwork while the second explored steamy variations. There were four guys, and partner changes every five minutes nudged me to interact. Immersed in choreography perfection, I had to remind myself to look up at my partner, read his body language and laugh at my own mistakes. Ladies, the men usually have a steeper learning curve in the beginning as they’re the ones who have to lead, so just work those hips. Worried about two left feet? Stepping on toes was a true test of tolerance and everyone was surprisingly nice about the fact that I was an uncoordinated newbie. Break time afforded a good chance to mingle and conversations were friendly. I may not have found love, but salsa dancing did make a fun Friday night out, and the shared experience itself was a conversation starter. The romantic element came into play almost naturally, given the close physical proximity.
Verdict: Yanqing and her team make it almost too easy for a girl to be swept off her feet. I’m not the best when it comes to getting up close and personal with strangers, but the instructors eased me out of my comfort zone. It did not feel gross the way it does in clubs!
Cost: $130 for 10 weekly lessons. Find out more at www.adancedate.com.
Piqued by the interesting past 100 something events organised by the SDN Trust-accredited Love Express – such as the popular escaperoom- themed affairs as well as the age- and religion-segmented ones – I slicked on red lipstick and headed to The Fullerton Hotel Singapore for its Mix and Mingle session. A total of 16 men and 14 women were expected to show. Each table seated seven and the men were to rotate around the room every 20 minutes. Two other girls present were friends who had come together. We ordered drinks while we waited for everyone to show up. At 7.45pm, the event started proper. Dialogue flowed naturally about work and hobbies; exercise was frequently brought up as a pastime. There were two fairly goodlooking guys, and everyone was incredibly approachable. Most of the guys were in the finance or IT industry and in their 30s or 40s. There was A.J.*, who can cook and wasn’t afraid to admit to crying in cinemas, and Howie*, an older man who travels to Paris for work. The facilitators left at 10.30pm, but we stayed on; a couple of them suggested Sunday plans. By the end of the night, I had spoken to 13 guys and exchanged numbers with eight; I received texts from five as soon as I arrived home. One kept sending me photos of his house in Australia, which was a little odd, but I’m open to remaining friends with all. Interestingly enough, of all the guys that I met, the one type missing was The Jerk. And I’m not sure that I miss him that much!
Verdict: This is the closest thing to Tinder in real life due to the sheer volume and speed of finding matches, but with the bonus of being able to suss out chemistry face to face. My fave of the lot!
Cost: Event prices start at $39. Find out more at www.loveexpress.com.sg.