The proliferation of dating apps such as Tinder and Coffee Meets Bagel offer women more opportunities than ever to meet a life partner. Little wonder then, that we've become super selective.
"For me to swipe right (on a dating app), I have to find him attractive. He has to be a Christian so that we share the same set of values, has to have a steady income and be at least 1.75m tall. Oh, and preferably be a podiatrist or dentist," said my friend Kate*, a 23-year-old business executive.
Kate seemed particularly exacting in her quest for love and I wondered: what if we were less picky and simply gave people a chance?
I decided to see if an open mind would increase my chances of finding love. Removing all age, height and religious parameters, I swiped right on every guy on Coffee Meets Bagel for a month.
To play it safe, I only met the guys in public, and always made sure at least one friend knew where I was and who I was with. Here's what went down:
Conveyor Belt Sushi
Before the date: I would ordinarily have given 23-year-old undergraduate Sam* a miss, what with him being younger and of a different religion. But with my mission in mind, I swiped right.
After chatting for a bit, Sam asked if I wanted to check out a party. What I didn't know was, Sam had issued an identical invite to Kate!
After hedging his bets and landing dates with two girls at the same time, Sam bailed on me. He claimed he was unwell and suggested that we meet the following day instead.
It was a lie - I found out he was still planning to meet Kate for the party. Let's just say Sam never got the chance to make it up to me.
Not Quite Into You
Before the date: Having removed the age parameter, I matched with 39-year-old Charlie*, who is 14 years my senior and works in finance. The first thing I noticed was that his texts were straightforward and at times, curt. I would come to find out that he was no different in real life.
The date: The conversation resembled an interrogation by a friend's dad, with none of the casualness of a first date. Upon finding out that I had studied overseas, Charlie asked about the ranking of my school and my school fees, and how I had managed to afford it.
Tact was not his strong suit. When the meringue pineapple tart I ordered arrived, he asked: "Is that all cream?" And then muttered "fattening" under his breath.
Charlie continued his relentless questioning throughout the date - which dialect group do I belong to? What do my parents do for a living? And, bizarrely enough, had I ever dated men outside of my own race?
It made me wonder if he had a checklist of sorts, and was keen to settle down with someone who ticked all the boxes. Sadly, there were no sparks between us.
After the date: A few days after the date, Charlie sent me a text asking if I was keen on dating him. When I turned him down, he suggested an open relationship, or becoming friends with benefits instead. How's that for not being able to take a hint?
What do women want?
We polled 54 women aged between 25 and 35 on the factors that would compel them to agree to, or initiate, a first date:
52 per cent said they'd decide based on a guy's age.
58 per cent said it's his looks that will seal the deal.
67 per cent pointed to his intelligence, occupation or financial stability.
72 per cent said it's a man's charm and sense of humour that will do the trick.
Before the date: Shaun*, a 32-year-old IT engineer, isn't someone I'd typically find physically attractive, but his profile, which described him as "analytical, observant and witty... with a high fat percentage" piqued my interest.
I'm usually drawn to charismatic men, so his self-deprecation felt like a sharp contrast - especially when he reminded me midway through our conversation that he wasn't a good-looker.
However, he was nice and initiated conversation based on interests I'd indicated in my profile, which showed he'd done his homework.
The date: We caught Damien Chazelle's La La Land - which I later found out wasn't quite his cup of tea.
Shaun suggested catching it at independent cinema The Projector and afterwards, shared that he chose it because he felt it would be nicer than the usual cinema chains - a gesture I found thoughtful.
Quite the gentleman, he waited with me for my ride and even bought me a bottle of water.
After the date: Sweet as Shaun was, I felt we lacked the chemistry to turn this into something more. I'd like us to be friends though. Hopefully, he feels the same.
Before the date: When I noticed that 30-year-old civil servant Justin* and I shared a mutual friend, I decided to suss him out. That friend reassured me that Justin was a nice, sensible and understanding guy. It sounded promising.
The date: We made plans for lunch and a movie over the weekend. I was 30 minutes late, but Justin was nice about it and even presented me with a cute keychain.
He was quieter than I'd expected, but had a good sense of humour.
After the movie, I had to run errands and didn't expect him to stick around. But he did, and offered to help carry stuff when my hands were full. I got good vibes from this one.
After the date: The next day, Justin dropped off a box of tarts, after finding out I hadn't had a chance to try them before. I have to say, food is the way to this girl's heart!
He also volunteered to help me brush up on my tennis, so I'm crossing my fingers that things keep going well.
Before the date: I'm usually quite calm before meeting a new man, but I had first-date jitters for this one.
I guess it's because 28-year-old Adam* and I hit it off while chatting online, and found we had a lot of common ground when it came to books, films, art exhibitions and travel. He also described himself as a bookish person (a big plus in my book!).
The date: Adam arrived early for our coffee date. He was smiley, confident and maintained eye contact (so far so good). More importantly, he was a good conversationalist. I liked how he managed to ask about work and personal life without seeming as if he was prying.
I also liked how he was candid and didn't hold back. In fact, he shared that he had been chatting with someone on a dating app and had assumed she was single, only to suddenly eceive a text from her to cease contact because her husband was furious. I guess guys get two-timed too.
After the date: We've gone out a second time. I'm not sure if this will go further than friendship, but I'm happy to take things slow and see where it leads us.
*Names have been changed.
And after all these dates...my verdict:
Meeting men I normally wouldn't have swiped right on helped me realise there's always room for pleasant surprises, and that zooming in on what I define as my type could prevent me from meeting some interesting people.
Having said that, there's nothing wrong with having standards. I'd say just give it a shot. If it doesn't work out, then don't be afraid to move on.
This article first appeared in the March 2017 issue of Her World. Her World is now available in both print and digital formats. Log on to www.herworldplus.com to subscribe!