Young and single, I was ready to meet someone. I had a limited social life back in the UK - my colleagues were attached or married, and my Asian friends had gone home to their respective countries - so I spent many weekends by myself. But I wanted to change that.
Online dating was coming into fashion, and I was excited about giving this new avenue a shot. It wasn't cheap, but I figured it was a worthy investment. A pioneer in online dating Being one of the first among my friends to try online dating, I felt like a trailblazer!
I'm pretty confident, so I was comfortable with posting a selfie and personal profile explaining who I was and what I was looking for. I can be picky, and having studied abroad, I saw myself as independent and well-travelled. I wanted someone with a global mindset, preferably an American-born Chinese ABC who should not be more than five years older. He had to have a decent education, with at least a diploma. I didn't mind taking the initiative to message guys I was interested in, asking about their hobbies or profiles.
I got responses 60 per cent of the time. When guys messaged me, I'd only respond to those who asked about my interests - travelling, reading and cooking. I usually ignored the ones who started with 'Hi, you're really pretty. Can we be friends? After connecting on the site, we'd usually continue chatting on other platforms such as ICQ an instant-messaging service before arranging to meet up - I met about 80 per cent of those I talked to.
First dates usually involved getting to know each other over a meal. If it worked out, we might arrange subsequent dates; otherwise the interactions just fizzled. Falling below expectations Of the first few men I went on dates with, a San Francisco-based Chinese guy came closest to my criteria.
We chatted for six months before meeting up in San Francisco for a meal when I was en route to Mexico for a holiday. I felt a connection. Although we lived miles apart, it wasn't an issue because I was cool with the idea of relocation if it came to that. But midway, he told me rather bluntly that he preferred slimmer girls.
We didn't keep in touch after that. Subsequently, I met other men who were very specific about appearance - and their criteria tended to be 'tall, slim and with long hair'. Frustrated, I posted a dating ad on Craigslist a classifieds website with a personals section declaring that I didn't look or behave like the stereotypical Asian woman. I'm not submissive; I am strong-willed. I'm not self-centred; I'm independent; I'm not meek; I know what I want. The message I wanted to get across was: Otherwise, let's not waste time.
He was an expat here, three years younger, intelligent, into art, books and animals, and we shared great banter. For two months, we saw each other twice or thrice a week, going for walks at Ang Mo Kio-Bishan Park, watching movies and meeting for lunch and after work.
We were dating exclusively and it felt like it was going somewhere. We shared the same relationship goals - we weren't dating ' just to have fun'. That was until he completely ghosted me. I texted him a few times, but he never replied, so I got the hint fast. I was upset, but I backed off to maintain some pride. Dating over the years I picked myself up and continued dating online.
I had a particularly memorable date with an architect from Detroit who was in town for an event. We chatted in a bar until it closed, then continued the conversation in his hotel room until the wee hours. It didn't work out, but we became good friends.
I even went to his wedding years later. Ironically, I made several good male friends in my quest for true love! As for those who didn't work out at all, there was an arrogant and self-absorbed Kiwi who went on about his ex, was dismissive about my job in package design, and tried to psychoanalyse me based on my dating experiences.
I walked out halfway through the date. I widened my options to offline events. I hate the idea of meeting people in loud bars, but I did try speed dating, though it always felt like I was conducting weird, one-sided interviews. Friends respected me too much to set me up with someone, so I signed up with a local dating agency - but it couldn't find me any matches!
My mum introduced me to a friend's son, but it was the most boring date ever. He talked about telegraphic transfers like I cared! I'd been on more than 90 dates online and offline, with only five to seven men being real potentials. My close friends were married with kids; even the singles had formed cliques during the years I'd spent working in Bangkok. While smartphones and apps have made Internet dating a breeze - I no longer have to wait till I'm home and in front of the computer to check e-mails - I now stick to Tinder and one website, http: It's harder than ever to meet decent guys, thanks to cyber-scammers.
On average, three out of 10 guys who contact me seem suspicious - for example, they're too eager to share personal details, volunteer many selfies or are always travelling. I've never been cheated on, but it does feel sucky to chat with someone only to discover I've wasted my time with a potential conman.
Personally, I get a kick out of unmasking their deception. There are moments when I feel demoralised that I haven't found anyone, but I distract myself by learning new skills, which boosts my self-esteem. I've picked up boxing, cycling, art and even writing Chinese poetry in the wake of all my failed dating attempts. I've considered the possibility of meeting someone through my hobbies, but somehow it just never happened.
After all these years, I've considered whether I am the problem. I'm outspoken and independent, but is that a bad thing? Friends have suggested I be less opinionated, slow down by going on fewer adventures and try to look more feminine. Growing up, I was influenced by my feminist mum, who believes ability is more important than looks, so it only recently hit me that I should try harder when it comes to my appearance. But I draw the line at changing my lifestyle or personality to find a man.
I have lowered my expectations over the past few months. Now, I just wish for a pleasant date. Finding a food buddy - to accompany me while I satisfy my craving for, say, Korean fried chicken - instead of hoping for a whirlwind romance.