Love is a game and in Singapore, you automatically play on ‘hard’ mode once you become an adult.
There’s barely enough time left for anything else when you have to juggle work and spending time with loved ones. And when it comes to finding love, it can be difficult to meet new prospects. Your selection is scaled down to the people you work with and even then, there is also the worry of things getting complicated when you mix personal life with work.
Any thoughts of networking or to actively seek out someone to date will be thrown out the door when your life is already exhausting as it is.
A lot of us also tend to spend most of our youth believing that love will come when it comes, and none of us want to be caught looking ‘desperate’. All these reasons can make it seem like life, on the love front, is bleak.
Singaporeans are increasingly turning to meeting people ‘online’. I mean, even when we were teenagers, there were already the ‘OG stories’ of people who met and fell in love through online multiplayer games like Maplestory. In a way, I guess we can say that tools like dating apps are a natural progression for our attempt at love.
Just within my social circle alone, I know many people who have found their partner through apps like Tinder and Coffee Meets Bagel. Some of them are even happily married with kids now.
Most of these friends were initially highly-sceptical of getting anything ‘real’ out of a dating app. One had even consulted me about his fear of falling for a girl he met on Tinder because he just couldn’t “trust anyone who would go on Tinder for love.” I reminded him that he was there for the same reason. Today, they are in a happy relationship.
With that said, there are also many people who still doubt the value of dating apps. It is difficult to trust a dating app to find someone (with the intention to date) authentically, furthermore, when some of these apps are also exploited by people for casual flings and sex. To begin with, the conservative Asian in us already screams ‘danger’ the moment we start swiping.
Maybe we are too conservative or prideful to buy into such an unconventional approach in love. Or maybe we are just too picky. Whatever it is, Singaporeans clearly have a problem with finding love and studies have shown that we are settling down later.
The government never fails to remind us that we need to buck up because of our low birth rates and aging population. In their bid to play matchmaker, the government even has an initiative that gives singles $100 in credit to spend on subsidised dating events and services. Though, whether Singaporeans are actually using this is another question.
Objectively speaking, dating events and matchmaking services are great ways to find love with. If you were to look at it as a game, these are ideal tools that will increase your chances in finding love.
While dating events are still fairly acceptable, most Singaporeans still find it a tad embarrassing, or awkward, to ‘resort to’ matchmaking services. After all, the fees for matchmaking services is still a gamble that one must be willing to take, because you may end up not finding your ideal partner after paying so much.
With that said, there has been an increase in the number of matchmaking agencies in Singapore.
To understand more about the stigma against matchmaking services that I believe exists in Singapore, I spoke to one 34-year-old Clement, who had used different matchmaking services in Singapore. He is also currently paying about $6000 for matchmaking services with local company, Destini IS, which specialises in matchmaking services between Singaporeans and Japanese.
Despite having spent so much money in his attempt in finding a life partner, Clement admitted that he hesitated signing up for matchmaking services at first.
“While matchmaking is common in China, Europe, and the US, many Singaporeans are still shy about it.”
He was initially doubtful of it because of how unfamiliar matchmaking was in Singapore. Besides, he had always believed that meeting people through his own social circles would be easier and more comfortable, since there would already be a sense of acquaintance through common friends.
But the harsh reality is that with every year that passes, Clement’s social circle gets smaller, and so does the number of available singles in his community. It didn’t help that he is working in a male-dominated industry.
“There’s also been pressure coming from peers and family, especially when I get their wedding invites and during social gatherings.”
“It’s what actually made me resolve to start focusing on settling down as well.”
After his experiences in four relationships, dating apps and with matchmaking, Clement no longer sees it ‘shameful’ or embarrassing to use matchmaking services to find a partner.
“When you want to be fit, you would sign up for a gym membership or a yoga plan, and you would make the best of it. You would even invest in relevant gears like sportswear. Likewise, the same logic applies on a matchmaking service. Since I have decided to step out to try it, I’ll make the best of it to succeed in what I signed up for.”
Moreover, there are several matchmaking agencies in Singapore, some of which are officially recognised under the Social Development Network (a government page). It is also increasingly normal to see Singaporean men finding love through other means. There are ‘non-official’ services that operate through all kinds of platforms from webpage services to even apps like WeChat, and I’m sure most of us have heard of the ‘Siamdiu for Life, Siambu for Wife’ motto as well.
There was a time where matchmaking is the last thing anyone in our generation wants. One would rather die alone with their 99 cats (or dogs) than be forced into tying the knot with someone we have no interest in.
However, getting a little help to broaden our horizons in an attempt to find a partner is no longer unusual. It’s funny that in an age where we are more connected than ever with the help of technology and social media tools, building relationships have become even more difficult than before.
Love no longer comes that easily and while I’m glad that there are all these dating apps and services to help us advance in the game of love (and life), I certainly hope that there won’t come a day where we have to rely on these tools to help us maintain all our relationships.
Also read: I Question My Marriage Now That Our Blood Types Are Not Compatible.
(Header Image: Odyssey)
My partner is a B+ and I’m an A, and according to the blood type personality theory, we are a match made in hell.
Apparently, blood type personalities have long been used by the Japanese and Koreans, and this fad has also found its way to Singapore, with some dating agencies here offering blood type dating services.
It made me reevaluate my relationship, because there must be a reason why so many people are buying into this theory of blood type romantic compatibility.
One site explains that my husband and I are the worst match because as a blood type A, I, apparently, need to “be in control in order to have that sense of stability,” and the need for structure and control can “cause tension with Type B’s lively social nature.”
I guess in certain ways, I do like to be in control. It gives me the assurance that the world is in order. However, I am no dictator, and I struggle to think of what kind of a ‘structure and control’ I might have imposed on my partner that is causing ‘tension’ with his ‘lively social nature’—and what does this even mean?
Another site tells me that as a Type A, I envy my Type B partner’s “ability to enjoy things at their own pace.” However, my (Type B) partner “is uncomfortable with [my] doting.The kindness feels intrusive.”
I should be worried about this apparent lack of compatibility between my husband and I, especially since we have a long road ahead of us as newlyweds. Instead, I am trying to figure out what it means for ‘my doting and kindness’ to be intrusive.
I mean, I would have known, right? I would be truly alarmed and worried for the sanity of my partner if he has been quietly suffering from distress from kindness for more than four years.
Despite not being able to make head or tail of the compatibility readings, it’s fascinating that blood type personalities have long been used by the Koreans and Japanese as a way to know each other and to find love. In a way, it is like their equivalent of our horoscopes.
Also known as ketsueki-gata, the blood type personality theory specifies defining characteristics that is unique to each of the ABO blood types, and you can easily find a plethora of sites detailing the personalities of each blood type.
For example, Japanese site Tofugo describes Type As like me as being ‘well-organised’: “They like to keep things neat but can be stubborn and get stressed out easily. They also value harmony with others.”
On the other hand, my partner, a Type B, is supposedly known for his creativity, and Type Bs have “a strong sense of curiosity, but at the same time, loses interest easily.”
Because our blood type is inherited, defining our characteristics by our blood is akin to saying that these are traits that we are born with. If we were to follow that same train of thought, it probably also means that my husband and I are predetermined to be doomed from the start.
It would have been unnerving if there is some sort of scientific proof, but let’s be honest: Defining our personalities (or romantic compatibility) by blood is like buying a 4D iBet ticket—you whack all the combinations in the hope that at least one would be the winning number.
Looking through the profile descriptions, my husband does not sound like a desirable person at at, what with ‘selfish’, ‘irresponsible’, ‘wild’, and ‘uncooperative’ as attributes. I’m no angel either, as a stubborn and wary perfectionist.
Clearly, we would have never been attracted to each other, much less survive the dating phase and gotten married if those traits were true to us, and if we had trusted the blood type compatibility reading.
The accuracy of it, or rather the lack of it, is unsurprising, considering that it’s been 90 years since the blood type personality theory gained traction and there still hasn’t been any credible sources backing it. Even studies that support the theory were said to be flawed. It’s worth noting that even the origins of it is quite sketchy, since it loosely based on a study Takeji Furukawa did with less than 20 people.
Funnily, despite every site preempting me about its lack of scientific credibility, it goes on to share that blood type personalities is wildly popular in Japan and Korea.
In fact, it has become such a culture norm in Japan that you can find blood type horoscope readings on their newspapers and local TV. Companies are known to hire based on blood types, and dating agencies cater to blood types. They even have blood type merchandise like sodas, chewing gum, and condoms.
In Korea, there is even a romcom based off the romantic compatibility of different blood types. The 2005 comedy, My Boyfriend is Type B, “pursued the idea that a Type A woman and a Type B man are incompatible as a couple due to their blood-defined personalities.”
After hours of research into this, the only substantial thing I got out is expert medical knowledge on the antigens and antibodies in different blood types, as well as something called the Rhesus factor.
In all seriousness, I believe our biological build does hold key to information about our body and us.
For example, studies have shown that <a href=" A produces the most amount of cortisol, a kind of stress hormones, which increases the chance of depression and fatigue. By that extension, we can loosely hypothesise that our blood types give us certain characteristics.
Though I doubt that the blood type personality theory is are anything more than another profiling tool for us to quickly and easily categorise people into groups. It's fun, and it should probably remain as just that. Otherwise, I’d need to really consider my marriage, and can you imagine how ridiculous that talk would be?
If you think about it, it would be mind-blowing if profiling tools like blood type personalities were to accurately and consistently illustrate everyone’s personality.
Moreover, there are so many other profile assessments out there. If I were to just put together my readings from some of the more popular profiling types and look at it as an entirety, I, as a Type A Gemini Goat Adventurer, will be pretty much the epitome of an identity crisis. So will be my Type B Gemini Rabbit Commander and our marriage.
There is a high chance that there is someone within your social circles with some sort of kinky sex secret hidden behind the face of innocence.
Surprise, Singaporeans are hooking up.
If you are a Singaporean millennial, you probably would have been living under a rock if you are unaware of how common it is for our generation to sleep around by now.
We all know that the hooking up culture exists in Singapore.
We know of friends, or friends of friends who have had One-Night Stands (ONS), Friends With Benefits (FWBs), and even orgies. Nonetheless, seeing the way we react with the initial disbelief that quickly transforms into excitement, one would think that we had just won the lottery whenever someone spills tea on someone hooking up with someone.
However, despite this awareness, casual sex and promiscuity remain an open secret only discussed in closed circles and in hushed whispers.
It’s an irony, because while our society has grown to be a lot more open to traditionally promiscuous behaviours, there is still a lot of shame attached to these behaviours.
As a Redditor best puts it, our society is one where we can do it “not openly la, [but] secret-secret ok.”
When it comes to promiscuity, we are a perplexing generation to understand.
Perhaps it’s because of the way we were brought up. Our parents and grandparents are people who would wear the chastity belt with pride, but chastity and abstinence are not values that we celebrate. In fact, it’s the contrary: we see it as prudish.
I believe a big part of this has to do with the way we are exposed to content from the West, the influences from Hollywood and American television since our primary school years. I find it hard to imagine us having the same perspectives as we have today should we have grown up with heavy influence from the East (like China) instead.
Overseas exchange trips that some of us have had the opportunity to go for also allowed us to experience the different cultures across the globe.
All of these collectively contributed to our general acceptance of liberal views in Singapore.
As such, we are the generation that grew up trying to make sense of the conservative boundaries surrounding sex that our elders drew for us. Out of curiosity and the desire to ‘rebel’ a little, we dip our toes into these boundaries. As a result, we become increasingly liberal with sex while we still grapple with innately conservative values embedded in us from a young age.
On a thread discussing promiscuity in Singapore, another Redditor commented: “We're definitely fine with sex, but we've been brought up in quite a conservative environment where open discussion about sex is frowned upon, so everyone seems like they're very pure.”
Also ironically, despite our knowledge of a hookup culture in Singapore, we seem to still have a sex shaming culture as well.
A large part of our society remains highly conservative, and I dare say that most millennials would feel uncomfortable with being 100% truthful to their parents about their views on sex and promiscuity. The reason: We either fear incurring their wrath in suggesting something so blasphemous, or we know there’s no point in even trying.
In our society, there’s still a significant amount of shame that’s tied to traditionally promiscuous behaviours, which is pretty much engaging in any kind of sexual activities with anyone else besides our partner.
I spoke to two millennials who opened up about having had multiple sex partners. Despite their belief that it’s okay to have casual sex, both shared the same sentiments that this ‘lifestyle’ is not something that they will flaunt because they are not confident that society, as a whole, will be able to accept their behaviours.
It isn’t so much of a fear of not being accepted by people, but it is the subtle ‘shade’ and shame that comes with being openly promiscuous that they would rather avoid.
26-year-old Lynn*, said: “There are always moments where I judge myself. I think part of it is because we have always been taught that sex is all about love and should only be done in a committed relationship. Another thing is that people will definitely judge you as well, especially if they themselves strongly believe that sex is an act of love.”
27-year-old, Tony*, who revealed that he has had sex with around 36 women, added that it’s important to learn how to separate making love and having sex. “Sometimes I feel [bad] because it’s like a transaction, as if [sex] is the only thing we can offer. But on the other hand, it’s also a human need.”
Despite all the shame and stigma however, there have been noticeable changes in our society.
For instance, Swinging Communities are more prevalent these days, and Swingers are completely open about satiating their sexual desires through ‘unusual’ arrangements like swapping spouses and even sex parties (orgies)—yes, these happen in Singapore. These communities are a lot more accessible today, and you can easily surf forum threads that detail these experiences and join communities like Undertable—Singapore & ASIA Swingers Community.
We’re becoming more receptive of the concept of promiscuity, and some would argue that this is eroding our traditional Asian values. But if we were to look at this objectively, it really isn’t necessarily bad.
It isn’t as if promiscuous behaviours are a new fad. And sure, there’s a growing acceptance in the pursuit of promiscuous lifestyles today. However, it’s also a fact that people are more willing to open up today, which is great because being able to talk about it helps us understand more about sex.
This is also a positive progression because on the other end of the spectrum, there are many who struggle with the guilt of doing something wrong whenever we pander to our sexual desires. I know this because I’ve struggled with it myself.
This fear, guilt, and shame is also what deters us from talking about our struggles, or about sex even, which is really important in helping us understand more about something that is at the end of the day, really just human nature.
It helps to take away a lot of guilt and shame that we really don’t need. And let’s be honest: having casual sex is inherently hedonistic, and we know it.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating for Singapore to be more (or less) promiscuous. Instead, what I’m proposing is for us to think about how much we are talking about sex and how we are talking about it.
Ultimately, I think we need to establish the difference between accepting and glorifying sex and promiscuity. It’s one thing to be more open-minded and to encourage a more liberal society, and another to promote or encourage mindless promiscuity. Let me assure you that I am not gunning for the latter. Neither am I promoting the idea of polygamy or cheating, or for every conversation to be about sex.
What I’m saying is that it’ll do us good to have more acceptance.
Something I’ve learnt from reading up about the Undertable Community is the need to have mutual respect and non-judgment.
With all that said, there are still behaviours that I don’t agree with. But that doesn’t mean that I expect other people to believe in my belief. I’d agree to disagree, because just like how I wouldn’t want others to judge my (sex) life, I believe there’s no win in judging others just for their sex drive.
Despite being inherently conservative, I’d say ‘it’s your life.’ Do whatever you want as long as you keep yourself safe, and you don’t affect anyone who isn't willing.
These days, there’s no more clear definitions of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ as lines are blurred. More often than not, we know that behind cases of infidelity is also very likely a complicated history between two adults.
As the generation that grew up with a mix of Eastern and Western values, we are one that are increasingly receptive of liberal perspectives while we continue to police ourselves with morals of fidelity and monogamy.
Some may think that we are becoming desensitised or that we are normalising promiscuous behaviour and to a certain extent, we are. However, I don't think that this is necessarily a bad thing. It’s just growth. And being part of a society in a first-world nation, I think growth is good.
Going forward, it's probably also one of the things that is going to change a good deal in several generations' time.
* Names have been changed to protect the identity of the individuals.
Also read: Is There A Need For Better Sex Education That’s More Than STDs And Abstinence?.
(Header Image Credit: Marvin Meyer on Unsplash)
We all love to travel, but you’ve got to admit that sometimes, travelling can be a huge pain in the ass too. And one of the times you will feel that pain the most is when you try to travel with your other half.
Somehow, exploring beautiful, new places together brings out the not so beautiful parts of people. But it is also why there’s a gazillion articles out there promoting the benefits of travelling as a couple: It’s the best way to test one’s relationship.
While it’s no secret that travelling is a big test, the bigger test for couples is going on a road trip together.
We’ve seen many stories of couples dropping everything to road trip around the world and it’s really envy-inducing. A road trip is fun, but it isn’t easy at all.
Road trips are not only more challenging to plan, it’s challenging to do the actual road trip, especially if you have never done one before. For a couple, each stop you make on your road trip can also be a test for the both of you, and your relationship!
Take for instance a road trip in Perth, Western Australia (WA)—a popular travel destination for Singaporeans for its affordability, location, ease of communication, and variety of attractions. (Not forgetting how easily you can snag a cheap flight ticket there from Scoot.)
There are a lot of factors to stress over when you travel. Even details like an ideal parking spot can easily be a reason for couples to bicker while on vacation. The real test, however, is when you're facing a challenge, and on a road trip, navigation alone is enough to tip the scales.
It’s easy to get lost, especially if it is your first time driving around in Western Australia. Thankfully, we live in a time where resources are easily accessible through our mobile—there’s always the GPS and road trip guides online.
Another kind of stress test is when you push each other out of your comfort zones, like walking 40 metres above the forest floor in Western Australia’s Southern Forests.
Walk among the majestic giant jarrah, karri, marri and tuart trees on the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk. It’s even ‘better’ if you fear heights, as the stress from feeling vulnerable will help to bring the two of you closer as you overcome the fear (or the nerves) together!
Alternatively, Perth’s marine playground, Rockingham, offers a variety of other thrilling experiences like kitesurfing, jet skiing, wakeboarding and even jet packing! Otherwise, you can dive into the marine world through snorkelling, or enjoy an incredible eco-tourism experience—swimming with wild dolphins!
Home to the finest displays of wild sealife and birdlife, the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park will also give you numerous opportunities to see the little penguins and sea lions!
Money is the root of all evil and it’s the same in a relationship. Financial management is important, and this can become a big issue for couples, especially on long-haul trips.
Fortunately, there are several travel options for couples on a budget, and Perth (or Western Australia in general) is one of the most affordable destinations for Singaporeans. Located slightly over five hours away by plane, flight tickets to Western Australia are usually cheaper than other states.
Those potential savings can be put to better use, like treating your partner and yourself to a romantic stay at one of the many accommodation choices in Perth, or in shopping—one of the vacation must-dos! And when you talk about shopping in Perth, there’s one place that you have to put in your itinerary: Westfield Carousel.
Otherwise as Perth's largest shopping centre, the shopping paradise houses more than 250 shops and features a wide range of fashion outlets, dining spots, and multiple entertainment options. With so many opportunities for pampering and indulgence, it’s easy to get caught up with ‘retail therapy’, only to realise that you have spent a little too much for a day when you return to your campervan.
This is the perfect scenario to test not only your financial management skills individually and as a couple, it also helps to cultivate your understanding and respect for each other. After all, you guys are on vacation, and that means knowing how to ‘live a little’ without breaking the bank.
It’s important to appreciate the little things but amidst our busy lives, we tend to forget what we have.
Take the chance to slow things down with a relaxing walk at Kings Park and Botanic Garden. One of the world’s largest inner-city parks, the park boasts a wide range of flora and fauna, including over 70 bird species!
King’s Park’s stunning location lets you admire the panoramic views of Perth City, and take a stroll around the park after, and watch out for the 750-year-old, mighty boab tree!
Alternatively, pack some sandwiches and have a picnic there instead! And when the sun sets, imagine lying on the picnic mat and gazing at the stars together—simple pleasures in life, and so romantic!
Wrapping up the list of tests is a challenge for the both of you to return to the first day of your relationship: To test how you romanced each other from the start.
Oftentimes, romance between long-time couples fizzes out as each person starts to lax on simple gestures like dressing up or on compliments. Some couples may also find themselves communicating lesser as the years go by, as it will seem like there’s nothing else to talk about after so many years.
Road trips are the best way to fix this. As the both of you are confined in a metal box for hours at a time, driving from place to place, you’ll find yourself having quality conversations with your partner that you rarely get to have on an average day. The panoramic views of the clear, blue
skies, the seas, the greenscapes, the mountains, and the wildlife along the drive helps set the mood for such conversations.
There are plenty of romantic destinations within Perth as well. For example, the 19 metropolitan beaches of Perth’s Sunset Coast are beautiful places to catch an Indian Ocean sunset.
The glorious coastline encompasses the Cities of Stirling, featuring popular Scarborough Beach. Stop by Joondalup for Hillarys Boat Harbour, where you can enjoy a romantic dinner by the marina.
Don’t forget to stop by one of the most iconic landscapes in Western Australia, The Pinnacles! Head there during sun set because when night falls, the place transform into a perfect stargazing spot. Nothing’s more enchanting than looking at the stars and the magnificent views of the Milky Way with your other half!
Perth’s iconic Swan River is another romantic spot for couples.
Park your ride and take a cruise down Swan River instead! Set against the lights of Perth’s cityscape, the various tours from operators like Little Ferry Co and Captain Cook Cruises offers romantic evening cruises down the river, with options for dinner aboard.
For an even more enchanting experience, Gondolas on the Swan will transport you back in time as you sail down the river on a Venetian Gondola, with romantic Mandolin music in the background to boot.
There are plenty of other places in Perth that offers you a chance to connect with your partner through different activities. For example, the famed Margaret River region is the perfect starting point to go on an indulgent tasting journey, where you can enjoy marron, trout, and venison fresh from the farms, as well premium wines, boutique beers, crisp ciders, indulgent truffle and cheeses.
Located offshore, Rottnest Island is a paradise of island activities for couples. Go for a cycle around the island and keep you eyes peeled for the happiest animals of earth—quokkas!
You can also spend a night at one of the dreamy beachfront glamping tents. If you’re there at the right season, you may even catch the sight of majestic whales out Indian Ocean!
Road trips are a lot more challenging but that also means that it will be extra fulfilling when you get down to doing it. For what it's worth, a road trip will help you grow closer with your better half and leave the both of you with a treasure trove of memories.
As we approach yet another year-end, take the opportunity to scoot away for a couples’ retreat!
To help with your planning, you can find some recommended itineraries in Western Australia here!
Scoot will be having a special promo from 4 - 17 September: Fly to Perth from just $129! Find out more about the promo here.
Need more help in planning your road trip in Western Australia? Visit Tourism Western Australia’s website here for more information on the various places of interests.
(This article was written in collaboration with Tourism Western Australia and Scoot.)
Even when you walk up to her humble 4-room flat, you can already tell from the packs of cat litter and assortment of pet accessories lining the corridor that this person keeps cats. A lot of cats.
38, to be precise, of which only 10 are her pets. The rest are strays that she has rescued to treat and rehabilitate. Even the 10 are rescues that she didn’t have the heart to release back to the streets due to their conditions.
When I visited Tiff* last Saturday, it quickly became apparent that this is a real-life Singaporean crazy cat lady—an identity that Tiff has come to embrace.
Her home puts any cat cafes in Singapore to shame. There were literally cats everywhere, and these are cats that clamour for your attention: running up to you, rubbing against your legs, and following you wherever you walk (even without the lure of food). But even for a long-time cat lover, I was a little overwhelmed by how manja the cats were when I first stepped into her flat that afternoon.
I first got to know of Tiff’s rescue efforts through a Facebook page she runs, Purrs & Meows.
Although she holds a full-time job in the government sector, I’d make a confident claim that her real full-time job is caring for the cats. Every bit of her time, besides the government job, is spent on improving the lives of the stray cats she encounters in her neighbourhood.
Contrarily, she used to see herself as a dog person, that was until she started looking out for a cute ginger cat around her neighbourhood. What started off as casual cat feeding sessions became a desire to do something to help cats that are in need of medical attention.
“I didn’t know about sterilising back then and started reading up a lot on it. I read this article that explained the benefits of sterilising, so I decided to bring [the ginger cat] to get sterilised.”
It was then that she started to get increasingly involved in the welfare of stray cats she encounters. That was 10 years ago. The simple sterilisation efforts has since evolved into a noble cause of saving abused cats or those suffering from complicated medical conditions.
A ‘new’ 4-room HDB flat isn’t very spacious and with 38 cats living under one roof, I would imagine it to be a hell of a job to keep the place in order. And it is—a big part of Tiff’s daily routine is spent on cleaning. One full cleaning session alone would take her three hours to complete, which is only possible on weekends. And showering the cats is something that can only be done across a few weeks.
However, her daily routine do include regular cleanings. It is the first thing she does when she wakes up at around 6.30am daily. She cleans again after feeding the cats, and then showers before heading for work from 10am to 7pm.
When she returns home after work, she repeats the same cycle of cleaning-feeding-cleaning again.
“I [also] clean the litter box quite often. I’m a bit OCD because I don’t want the smell to escape [to the corridor].”
And indeed, when I stood at her doorstep before entering, I didn’t pick up any trace of odour at all. Although, there was a faint scent that’s reminiscent of a typical pet shop with dogs or cats, and the floor did feel a little clammy when I walked around.
After her night routine at home, she would head out to feed the strays at three locations: Northlink Industrial Park, the area around Sembawang Shopping Centre, and Woodlands industrial area. It is also the time where she goes on the occasional cat rescue missions, depending on whether she spots any cats in-need, or from any public tip-offs.
By the time she cabs back to her home, it would have been 2.00am to 2.30am. She would clean again if required, and unwind a little by catching up on Netflix shows. Every weekday night, she gets an average of three hours of sleep before the whole cycle of caring for cats-work-and caring for cats repeats.
Even thinking about such a lifestyle made me feel stressed out.
A single woman, Tiff runs her cause independently. Although she does get the occasional help from friends who also do cat rescues, most of her rescue and rehabilitation efforts are handled by her alone. This includes the funds that are pumped into it.
Over the years, almost all of those efforts are self-funded. The money goes into everything from essentials like cat food and litter, to hefty vet fees to treat the cats. Sometimes, she gets donations from kind souls who supplement her with assorted items that help with daily maintenance.
She appeals for financial help for cats that require expensive surgeries or treatments and occasionally, she does get monetary support in offsetting the expensive medical bills. These bills can range in the thousands, and it is not unusual for her to be forking out $4000 just to treat one stray cat for one issue—which is what she had recently done for two cats, one with Parvovirus and the other fighting an autoimmune disease.
When I asked her how much she has spent on Purrs & Meows over the years, she trailed off after a “wah…”, pondered over the question for awhile, and explained that she has lost track. But she estimates the figure to be over a hundred thousand.
“I hardly have any savings,” she tells me, “but I do have a savings plan for myself.”
She went on to tell me about how she has cut down on a lot of things, and only sets aside money for transport, as it is one aspect that she needs in order to continue her cat feeding and rescue efforts. Unlike ten years ago, food, leisure, and material goods for herself are hardly a priority now.
Being a full-time ‘cat guardian’ has also drastically changed her social life. “I don’t have any friends,” she answered me flatly when I asked about it.
In a way, it made sense considering the amount of time she spends on her cats, whom she sees as her babies. But even as a cat lover myself, I can only imagine the kind of deep love she has for the cats in order to give up almost everything that makes up an average person’s life, and devote in to improving the lives of these strays.
Tiff’s extreme devotion has also been a cause of many squabbles between her mother and her. Although, things have improved and her mother, who lives with her, do help her with the daily feeding and cleaning.
I asked Tiff if she had ever wanted to give up, to which she instinctively answered: “Everyday.”
“It’s very stressful, but at the end of the day, this is how they show that they love you,” she continues as one of the cats gave her kisses and cuddled up to her. “At the end of the day, they just want your company.”
For Tiff, this is something that she has invested way too much into to have second thoughts. What more, when she wakes up everyday to more than 30 cats meowing for her care and concern, it is impossible for her to just stop doing what she has been doing. She just cannot bear to.
Although she had never started Purrs & Meows with the intention of being a crazy cat lady or an avid rescuer, it has, over the years, morphed into that today.
“My aim is to rehabilitate the injured cats, get them well and get them adopted. For those who are terminal, I just want to treat them well and give them a comfortable home before they pass on. If I turn a blind eye to these cats, they will probably just die and they will probably die sooner. If they die just like that, nobody will know, and I think it’s just really very sad.”
*The name has been changed to protect the identity of the person.
Also read: “I See Myself In Them”: This Once “Wannabe Beng” Now Helps S’pore Youths Live Limitless.
First comes the proposal, then the wedding, and then the house. This was once the norm, but not anymore.
In Singapore, when you’ve been in a relationship for a reasonable amount of time, you can expect your partner to ask you one crucial question: “Want to BTO?”
Today, many couples apply for a BTO (Build-To-Order) flat before proposing. Marriage comes a little later, and it can happen before or after getting the keys to their home.
Logically, it makes more sense. It's pragmatic, as the wait for a BTO can be (dreadfully) long. The completion of BTO projects can take around 2.5 to 5 years. And let’s face it. Getting a house in Singapore is stressful. In fact, it’s downright terrifying.
It doesn’t matter if you’re in a relationship or if you’re single, buying a house here is crazy expensive despite the various grants available. It’s also incredibly difficult because you’re competing with hundreds of other buyers bidding for the same flat you wish to get. And when you are getting something which you will most likely have to continue paying for for the next 20 to 30 years, you can expect everyone to 'fight' for their ideal choice.
This competitiveness for a BTO forces many young Singaporeans to commit themselves into a relationship when they may not exactly be ready.
Because of the amount of time it takes for you to successfully get the keys to your new home, it means having to find the person you are 'meant to be with' a lot faster.
I know of singles in their mid 20s who are still working on finding the right person to date, let alone have a relationship with.
Dating itself has become a more daunting task than before. From the get-go, we start thinking about whether we see a future with this person, because we no longer have time to spend on someone whom we’re not going to spend the rest of our lives with.
A lot of singles in their mid and late 20s go into their first date hoping that it’ll be their last first date. We’re no longer dating to date, but we’re dating for marriage. I’ve even heard a couple of my singles friends tell me, “I want my next boyfriend to be my last one.”
Sophia, 25 and single, shared how she goes into every first date subconsciously analysing everything about her date, to get a sense of whether she sees herself spending the rest of her life with him.
“First dates used to be about having a good night out while getting to know someone,” she shares. “Now I find myself thinking about stuff you’d usually only start thinking about after knowing someone for a couple of months like “Does he want kids?” and “How religious is he?””
As much as it stinks for people like Sophia, who thought dating would be “fun and enjoyable”, buying a house in Singapore means having to think about our future a lot quicker.
It's not a bad thing to date with the purpose of marriage of course, but it may not necessarily be a good thing to be bogged down by the practicalities of what is seemingly a talk for much later on. While applying for a BTO is a great way to get us to plan for our future early, it also, in a lot of ways, ruin romance.
But it’s not just the singles who are stressed out. Couples are having to commit to the person they are with a lot earlier in their relationship. And while that’s not exactly a problem, it does provide immense pressure to someone who's not ready for that level of commitment, while facing their partner who is.
No longer do we have ample time in our hands to enjoy the ‘honeymoon phase’ of a relationship. While there are the lucky few who stay with their school sweethearts for 10 years, a lot of us only find “the one” somewhere in our mid 20s.
But there are instances where despite having your lives planned out together, relationships simply don’t work out.
What happens when you have a BTO on your way, and you realise that you can no longer see a future with the person you are with?
I was surprised to find that there wasn’t a lack of post-BTO breakup stories within my circle of friends alone.
Alvin, 27, went through a breakup with his girlfriend of four years after they had successfully balloted for their home last year.
“She said that she didn’t see a future with me anymore and just needed some time for herself,” he shared. “It was later that I found out there was another guy.”
“I guess no matter how much you plan for something, sometimes life just kicks you in the nuts,” Alvin laughed.
A breakup was the last thing he had expected to happen, especially at a stage of his life where he thought he had his future all planned out.
What makes BTOs all the more scary are the implications that cancelling your application causes.
There’s no doubt that you end up forfeiting the money that you’ve invested, depending on how far along in the process you are.
You also lose your first-time applicant advantages, and if you want to apply for a BTO with your next partner, or as a single, you have to wait at least a year to be able to do so.
“It sucks that the implications of forfeiting a BTO are so costly, literally,” Alvin says. “But at least it’s taught me to take my time and not rush into settling down with someone.”
Samantha, 25, whose boyfriend also broke up with her after applying for their BTO together, believes that a BTO is an expectation created by society.
“Instead of asking, 'Proposed already ah?', people ask, 'BTO already ah?' which I think indirectly gives couples a lot of pressure to get a BTO.”
It seems like we assume getting a BTO guarantees a relationship. But there rarely is ever a guarantee on anything.
“A lot of couples rush into getting a BTO because they think that might give them some ‘security’”, she shared. “But that shouldn’t be case, you should apply for a BTO because you’re secure about your relationship.”
It’s normal to feel unsure about your relationship and stumble onto rough patches along the way. The stress that comes with the BTO doesn’t help either. What was meant to be a significant part of a couple’s life has become a stressful endeavour instead.
Couples who have successfully gotten their house have had their own share of rough patches along the way. But these couples found a way to set things on track to start building their future with their partners.
Mabel, 28, who has now secured her home through Sales of Balance (SFB), wasn’t sure if she was ready to commit to her boyfriend of 3 years before they applied for it in May 2018.
“I didn’t know if I was ready to commit,” she shared. “Because it’s not only about committing to a house, but committing to the rest of my life ahead of me.”
“Whenever we spoke about applying for a BTO, a part of me wanted it, but the other part was also scared.”
Today, Mabel and her fiancé have the keys to their house, and will be getting married in a few months' time.
“When I told my fiance about my fears, we talked about it and decided to make it work together,” she continued. “I saw his efforts in trying to make our relationship work and I just wanted to do the same.”
For Alexa, 25, applying for a BTO was a natural next step in their relationship. When they applied for their BTO, they had been together for two years and knew they were ready for the commitment.
Yet, it was after they were successful in their ballot that Alexa’s relationship hit a rough patch.
“That ‘ready’ feeling became very different as we went through a seriously rough patch that really made us think if we should move forward,” she shared.
Like anyone else in her position, Alexa didn’t want to go through the hassle of withdrawing their application.
“There was definitely a lot of pressure because this was an investment we had gotten ourselves into.” she continued. “This really showed me that the BTO system can really be a burden.”
While in many ways, having a BTO on the line does encourage you to make things work with your beau and give your relationship another chance, it doesn’t allow you to consider your relationship rationally.
“We had to tell ourselves to consider the future of our relationship as if there was no BTO involved,” says Alexa. “Because we knew that if we let the BTO decide our future, we wouldn’t be happy.”
Fortunately, Alexa and her boyfriend managed to get past their rough patch and are eager to start their life together today.
It’s normal to have the urge to jump on a bandwagon that everyone around you is on. We all want to have a great home by the age of 35. We all have an ideal ‘plan’ of where we want to be by the time we’re in our late 30s.
Despite being single for the past two years, Jason, still has no qualms about rushing into a relationship at 27.
“I get that in Singapore, settling down with someone takes a lot more time. But I would much rather wait until 35 and get my bachelor pad than get a BTO with someone I'm unsure about,” shares Jason. “Singlehood doesn’t scare me, being with the wrong one does.”
BTOs should be a mere stepping stone into the future you want to build, it shouldn’t be the foundation of it.
“Your future shouldn't depend on getting a BTO,” says Alexa. “It’s better to be 30 and single than to be with someone you’re unsure about.”
Also read: Hustle Together, Stay Together - These Singaporean Couples Prove That Office Romance Can Work
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