August 21, 2013

Love, Singapore

I wrote a small piece for Elle Singapore (Sept 2013) about what it’s like to be lesbian in Singapore. Available on the newsstands now, page 147.

Mention to someone in passing that you’re lesbian and one or all of the following are bound to happen: intrigue (“tell me more”), surprise (“You don’t look it!”), curiosity (“how exactly does it work?”); very often too, the burning question — how do I meet women who are, and they always fumble here, “similarly inclined”?

I always want to say — the same way you meet your boy- and girlfriends, husbands and wives. “We” meet in school, at work, at business events, we sometimes also experiment with online dating (like everyone else), or meet through friends and relations. We meet when we play sports. We meet at religious institutions, support groups, at school camps, we meet at dinner parties or we are introduced by well-meaning friends. Other times, coincidence intervenes: you see each other for the first time, somewhere, and you just know.

All of the above answers are true, and this causes great frustration to those who were hoping to hear about lesbian dating rituals from an alternate universe, far removed from their own. They also can’t seem to fathom that you can, quite simply, “just know” (or make a very educated guess). The only secret here is there are many of us.

For gay women, the stereotype of promiscuity and endless partying is as far from lesbian dating realities as it gets.

Sure, I go to the lesbian parties once in a while (there are at least two per week), mostly just for a night out without needing to come up against potential male harassment. When I tell people about lesbian parties they also seem to expect hot women having orgies in the door way. Like everyone else’s parties, some parties are fun, others are not. Some people are hot, others are not. There are no orgies. There are just people dancing with each other, chatting up each other, people spectacularly failing at all of the above.

Women seeking out the great loves of their lives across the dance-floor. Never quite finding it. Not too different from any party, really.

What really happens is this: lesbians are the first to want to nest, and be with each other forever and ever. That’s why you almost never meet eligible lesbians at a lesbian party — before you can even put on your party clothes, they’ve already found partners and are at home with their girlfriends, throwing dinner parties, decorating their dog’s socks, watching Grey’s Anatomy together for the third time and still weeping hopelessly.

Being a single twenty-something of any orientation is hard enough —everyone’s getting married, the good ones have been taken, what the hell are you going to do?

Being a single lesbian in your mid-20s in Singapore adds another layer of complexity. Do you move out? Tell your family before or after you’ve “found someone”? Where will you live, if not in Holland Village or Tiong Bahru, now that rent is so crazy? When will I meet someone who loves Battlestar Galactica? Or get to date someone in this country who hasn’t already dated someone else I know (proximity, not promiscuity)?

So many questions, too little time. I am a busy world-travelling young professional who spends most of my time up in the air, and finding someone has been quite low on my list of things to do (other things on it: attain world domination or cult leader status. Buy dog food). So you can imagine how well my dating life is going.

Just the other day I met the first woman to pique my interest in a long time, the traditional way — through a friend. It wasn’t expected, it just happened, and like every other kind of date that exists in the universe, straight, gay or otherwise — I don’t know yet, I don’t want to rush it, I have all these burning questions, I don’t know if she likes me, I don’t know anything at all.

But if I am really a lesbian cliché after all, by the time you read this she would have moved in, adopted my dog, and I would have faded away from public memory, never to be seen again on Thursdays or Saturdays, for something resembling a century and a half.