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Self-Improvement & Hobbies

New rites for date nights

Organisations here are using unconventional methods to help singles loosen up.
The Sunday Times - November 11, 2012
By: Cheryl Faith Wee And Huang Huifen
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New rites for date nights

 

Instead of chatting up a potential date, accountant Chantel Liew will be doing it the old-school way - by writing notes.

Ms Liew, who is in her 30s, will do so in a new ice-breaking dating event in which participants communicate by exchanging notes with one another.

Organised by six-year-old dating agency Clique Wise, the 2½-hour event, aptly named Silent High Tea, takes place on Nov 25 and is open only to people who work in art and design, IT, engineering, healthcare, financial and teaching.

"The event suits these people who are good at expressing themselves through words or drawing, or they tend to be more introverted," says Clique Wise founder Lydia Gan.

Ms Liew says exchanging notes is better than awkward first-time conversations. "It will create better rapport when we meet each other face- to-face," she says.

Since Clique Wise advertised the event on its website last month, more than 10 people have signed up.

Organisations here are using unconventional methods to help singles loosen up, from dates where people gaze into each other's eyes to karaoke sessions where blindfolded women pick men based on their singing. Such events cost between $20 and $58 to attend.

Dating gimmicks are not new. Eyegazing parties, where people spend three minutes looking into each other's eyes before switching partners, reportedly started in the United States about seven years ago and also takes place in Britain.

Dating agencies here have also come up their own quirky activities to lure singles. Singles community network Singles Mingle has a half-day event, Singapore Romance On Wheels, which started seven years ago. It now takes place about four times a year.

A convoy of between six and eight cars travel to scenic spots such as Labrador Park, Mount Faber and HortPark. Each vehicle usually carries two men and two women. Drivers stay put but the passengers get into a different car at each location.

Mr Kelvin Ong, 39, founder of the eight-year-old Singles Mingle, says: "About seven years ago, we were doing a lot of speed dates where people were just sitting down. But they started asking if we could organise something like a car rally.

"On the road, they might be able to talk about things that are more personal in a confined space."

Some people prefer to let their eyes do all the talking.

Financial trader Boey Yeong Kit, 35, was among the 10 participants at an eye-gazing party held by clinical sexologist Martha Lee in April.

Participants go through two rounds of eye-gazing. They will first gaze into the eyes of a member of the opposite sex for three minutes and move on to the next person. The group then take turns to gaze into one another's eyes, regardless of gender, for less than three minutes. After that, each will write one good thing about the other party and put it in his envelope, and move on to the next person.

After getting past the initial awkwardness, Mr Boey realised that maintaining eye contact helped him connect with the other participants on a deeper level.

"I could pick up what the other person felt. I sensed loneliness in one woman and sadness in another. I don't think I can connect this way in a pub or club because all we want is to have fun, so conversations do not go so deep," he says.

He exchanged numbers with two participants and met them for coffee, though nothing has blossomed yet.

Private tutor Pearly Phua, 37, did not get get far with a man she met at the eye-gazing party, but has learnt to use her "eye power" on a financial manager in his mid-30s whom she has been dating for five months.

"I tend to look more into his eyes and it helps him to focus his attention on me and vice versa, and for me to gauge how he is feeling," she says.

Another agency, Champagne JSG, has a Croon A Love Song event, which is a karaoke session with a twist.

It starts off with a singing session in small groups. Later, the women are blindfolded and the men take turns to sing individually. The women choose duet partners based on what they have heard and finish off the date with a sing-off in pairs.

This event is almost always full, with up to 18 participants. It has become so popular since it started last year that it is now held every month or so.

Mr Todd Yap, a lawyer in his 30s, went for a session in September. "In speed dating, there is this awkwardness if there is no chemistry between two people. Activities such as karaoke are a welcome distraction from the tension of trying to impress one another," he says.

Such unconventional wooing may give singles that extra push to sign up for dating events, says Ms Paulin Straughan, 49, associate professor of sociology at the National University Of Singapore.

"In a formal meeting, participants are constantly reminded that someone is matchmaking them. Injecting an element of fun might make people sign up because it sounds interesting rather than because they need help," she adds.

"But you have to be sensitive and ensure dignity is maintained. You do not want to embarrass them."

Mr Raymond Giam, who is in his 30s and is managing director of dating agency The Dating Breeze, makes it a point to think up creative ice-breakers for his company's group dates.

Although the agency focuses on one-on-one dates, it organises group dates about four times a year.

One ice-breaker involves pairing people based on their personal accessories. Items such as bracelets and other trinkets are gathered from the women. The opposite gender then picks one of the items and has to guess who it belongs to.

In February this year, Mr M. Goh, who is in his 30s and works in the logistics industry, attended one of The Dating Breeze's speed dates where there was such an ice-breaker. It was his first time at a dating event.

He says: "The activity made things more fun and easier to start a conversation later on. It was better than just being thrown into a date."

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