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Welcome to A Millennial's Dating Diary series, where we explore real-life interactions and the hurdles of dating in Southeast Asia. The series will feature the dating stories and misadventures of Arika – a 26-year-old, straight female marketing manager with a penchant for over drinking — and fellow millennials.
I met *Tom, 35, on Tinder. His profile looked a bit bare, and it was missing a bio entirely, but I figured it was something I could talk to him about. I tend to be attracted to guys who don’t take themselves too seriously, so when I saw that he had some silly photos while scuba diving, I thought, why not? Plus, he was pretty cute.
In hindsight, I should have been a bit more cautious and should have definitely done some sleuthing.
After hitting it off on Tinder, we took our conversation to WhatsApp. Through our texts, I learned that Tom traded oil and precious metals for work, invested (his own money!) in startups on the side, and other details about his daily life.
In short, Tom appeared to be an accomplished yet humble millionaire with a successful career, all by the age of 35. While I was clear that I was only looking to date casually, it was nice that Tom was putting in the effort to text me every single day and seemed pretty genuine.
We had agreed to meet on 16 May, but when it was announced that Singapore was going into further restrictions as part of Phase 2 Heightened Alert measures, we postponed our plans out of cautiousness. Still, we kept texting, even exchanging voice notes on occasions as well. Tom would also send me photos he took while going on daily runs.
Two weeks into Phase 2 HA, Tom asked if I was free to meet. We planned to meet for coffee outside and take a nice stroll around my neighbourhood park.
That fateful day, I met Tom at a Starbucks near Fort Canning Park. It was then that I realised I had been, in some way, catfished.
While Tom was the same person in his profile, it was clear that his photos were taken some years ago. Tom looked much older than his profile photos in real life, and it wasn’t just because he had completed a run and was looking warm and sweaty. Immediately, I questioned everything I thought I knew about him.
Instantly, I was turned off. I wanted so badly to abandon the date and head back home; but I figured, you know what, I was going to make the best out of a horrible situation. Plus, he had ordered me an iced vanilla latte with oat milk, and I wasn’t about to abandon that.
Tom and I exchanged pleasantries and made small talk as we made our way to a bench in Fort Canning Park. Throughout our short walk, I was trying my best to hide my disappointment. I was also beginning to question how I had allowed this to happen to me.
I’ve never once been catfished out of all my friends, and I’ve been (mostly) stringent with the people I choose to meet. Before you come at me by saying I was blinded because Tom was a supposed millionaire, I’m not generally impressed by material things.
Trying to make the best out of a bad situation, I decided I’d just try to have a good conversation with Tom and perhaps learn a thing or two about his work and investments in tech startups. Because of the fact that I had worked in the tech industry, and had some experience in how various stages of investment funding worked, the conversation flowed pretty easily in real life.
I also learned a bit more about Tom, his family in the Netherlands, and his life in Singapore. Throughout our conversation, I kept thinking about how unfortunate it was that Tom wasn’t sincere — especially when we had such good bants and were able to talk quite a bit.
After our date, I decided to do a quick Google search on Tom to verify who he said he was. If his LinkedIn profile was anything to go by, Tom was at least 42, and while I was relieved that he was actually who he said he was, I was disappointed that he had lied about his age. Frankly, I was miffed that he thought he could fool me.
I’ve always found catfishing strange. Based on what I was hearing from friends who had been catfished, it appeared that catfishers were generally trying to get dates with fake profiles because they were unable to do so with their own photos. In some cases, catfishers were also using dating apps as an avenue to scam people of their money, While I wasn’t robbed of my hard-earned cash, I was robbed of my time, and I was pretty peeved about that.
Once I had gotten over my initial anger, though; it dawned on me how sad it was that Tom had to lie about his age, and how he must have felt some societal pressure to appear younger even to get matches online.
The truth is, Tom was impressive in his own right, and had he not lied, I genuinely felt we could have hit it off and actually start dating.
A few days after we met, Tom texted to ask if he had done something wrong because I was pulling away. I decided to come clean and tell him what I had found out about him.
Unfortunately, Tom didn’t quite take to me finding out more about him and started berating me about what the concept of honesty “truly” is.
We haven't spoken since, and while it’s easy to dwell on how annoying the situation, I was glad I found out about Tom before things progressed further.
Balancing the New Normal: