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Monday, 25 February 2008

Love me, spoil me

A survey has found that Singapore women expect their dates to pay for meals, see them home and carry their handbags


By Mak Mun San

CONFIDENT. Assertive. Practical. Not into mind games. That's what 21st-century Singaporean women are, right?

All efficiency in their smart suits, they have rolled up their sleeves and proven their mettle, earning good money as they show their savvy in the workplace, flood into top universities and make their point in politics.

But not when it comes to dating, it would seem.

Whether shopgirl or career gal, these Miss Independents turn into pampered princesses who expect the mere male of the species - as they view him - to be at their beck and call.

That's according to a recent survey of 200 singles by the Social Development Service, which found that women's expectations of their male dates are more like they are going out with Prince Charming than a real, live man.

Get this: The survey found that they expect their men to pay for their dates, deposit them safely home afterwards, initiate celebrations and dress up on special occasions, meet them at least twice a week, open doors to cars and restaurants and - oh - some even expect guys to carry their handbags for them.

Yes, handbags.

The survey didn't say if they were trendy It handbags that can be the size of a chunky briefcase.

But the image of a specimen of today's manhood clutching some huge neon pink, tasselled girl-bag as he stumbles alongside his hot date does seem a strange one.

Indeed, senior marketing and communications consultant Lu Minru, 36, says that such mindsets and expectations set the feminist movement back 50 years.

'Some women are hypocritical as they demand to be taken seriously and treated equally, but when it comes to dating etiquette, they expect their boyfriends to attend to their every need,' she says.

Someone who prefers what some would call a little old-fashioned courtesy is bank clerk Choy Yuanling, 31.

She dryly recalls one disastrous first date. After the meal, the guy she was with glanced at the bill and asked her: '$24 divide by two, how much, ah?'

Sure, his mathematics inability astonished her. But what she felt was worse was his stinginess.

She did hand her share over to her date, but tells LifeStyle: 'I'm fine with going dutch (sharing the bill), but not on the first date. I think it is basic courtesy that the guy should foot the bill.'

And assistant human resource officer Eunice Ling, 32, says she expects men to do everything listed in the survey though she does draw the line at them carrying her handbag.

'If not, what's the point of having a boyfriend? I might as well hang out with my girlfriends,' she says.

For some men, already stressed with the practicalities of fighting bright, clever women at the workplace, it must seem bewildering.

And for others, it must simply seem out of touch with reality.

Mr Joseph Wong, 36, an account director at an advertising firm, declares that Singapore women are 'too pampered and demanding'.

'Some of them are a bit of a nightmare and expect too much from men,' he says.

'There should be give and take in a relationship. If they are always piling on the pressure on men to do this and do that, they'd just put them off.'

Mr Wong, who is married with a baby daughter, adds that he has no problems with opening car doors and paying during dates.

'But if I am expected to do all that, then I feel it is a chore. It should come from my heart,' he says.

Regional sales manager Andy Ow, 37, feels that some women just want to have their cake and eat it, too.

'Women set standards selectively,' he says. 'In certain areas, they want us to perform to their expectations. Yet at other times, they want to have their say. They are sending mixed signals and they confuse us sometimes.'

But spoilt or not, luckily for demanding Singapore women, there are guys who prefer to play the gentleman.

Take civil servant Ben Chin, 27. He says he is more than willing to carry a woman's handbag to make her feel 'respected and loved'.

'Yes, women are more independent these days, but in their hearts, they just want to be loved even though they might not say it out loud,' he says.

Indeed, while the survey found that 80 per cent of women expect their boyfriends to pay during dates, interestingly, 92 per cent of men polled said they would pay.

Still, Dr Ilya Farber, 39, an assistant professor of social science and philosophy at Singapore Management University, says the attitudes revealed in the survey strike him as 'quite old-fashioned'.

Women lazy or what?

'If those are the most important items on most people's date checklists, then the human race is doomed,' he says, adding that the results seem to reflect the traditional image of women as fragile creatures who need to have everything done for them.

'This is rather disappointing, since getting rid of that image has historically been an important step in establishing equal opportunity for women - in education, in the workplace and in government.'

Some would argue that differences still exist between men and women, from physical make-up to earning power.

According to the Department of Statistics, average monthly earnings for men in 2006 were $4,081 compared to just $2,966 for women.

Etiquette and image consultant Teo Ser Lee, 42, feels that women who expect men to pay during dates and escort them home safely are not being archaic, but simply being real.

'These are basic social graces,' she says, adding that she expects her boyfriends to open car doors for her 'even though it is faster to open them myself'.

'I consider myself a modern woman. I'd fight for a contract, tooth and nail. But when it comes to relationships, I will take the submissive role and let the man wear the pants.'

The founder of dating agency Lunch Actually Violet Lim, 28, tells LifeStyle she has come across many female members who declined to go on a second date with a guy despite finding him witty and intelligent because he did not pay for her share.

'No matter how financially independent a woman is, ultimately, most would want to know that the guy is willing to provide for them should there be a need. Hence, seemingly small things like opening doors and paying during dates are tell-tale signs of their future to many women,' she says.

On the other hand, marketing consultant Ms Lu, whose husband is Australian, says that while they were dating as students in Melbourne, she insisted on going dutch, although he did pay for dinner sometimes.

'Both of us were equally in love and wanted to spend time to get to know each other, so I thought it was unfair that he foot all bills,' she says.

Still, whether a woman is all for dutch treats or else like the survey singletons and prefers date treats, some women LifeStyle spoke to nixed the idea of tote-toting guys.

Ms Sue Yeo, the 33-year-old owner of dating agency Drinks At Eight, says: 'Not only do the men look ridiculous, I absolutely do not see how doing this proves an act of love and concern. If women are too lazy to take care of their personal belongings, then don't carry a bag.'

Meanwhile, Ms Mika Fujii, 41, managing director of an advertising firm here, does not understand all the fuss.

'In Japan, many women of my generation don't expect men to do anything special for them. It's nice if he opens doors for me, but I'm physically capable of opening them myself. If he's very rich, he can settle the bill but I will be equally fine with going dutch.

'In fact, I wouldn't allow a man to send me home unless I already know him very well. What if he turns out to be a pervert?' she says.

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