Being Single For 26 Years
From eye candies, to crushes and developing relationships, many of us may have experienced the ups and downs of being in love while growing up. Craving the intimacy of a companion to go through life with you is simply human instinct.
Beyond the societal expectations of getting into a relationship, choosing to stay single can also be empowering for certain individuals. We invited our colleague Mandon on an episode of Ask ZULA to share with us why he chose to remain single for 26 years. As a familiar face on social media, Mandon talked about dealing with expectations, his past dating experiences and the challenges of staying single in Singapore.
Reasons to be single
As someone who is “evergreen”, a.k.a never been in a relationship before, Mandon receives a lot of simp comments on his social accounts wondering why he is still single. To that, Mandon questions back, “why would I want to get into a relationship?”. He adds that just because a person is eligible doesn’t mean that they should be in a relationship.
From observing couples, Mandon sees relationships as very self-fulfilling in Singapore. People go into a relationship expecting companionship, attention and affirmation, but these feel like selfish reasons to him. The uncertainty of not being able to fulfil his partner’s needs in the long run doesn’t sit well with him.
Growing up, Mandon discovered many layers and flaws within himself that he doesn’t like. Before committing to a lifelong relationship, he wants to become a better person first. He claims it’s “tedious and unnecessary” to go through breakups and find different people if it can be avoided.
Unlike staying single, Mandon added, “any hurt that you cause [in a relationship] goes 2 ways”. He feels that it’s unfair to hurt someone just to experience the “thrill” of a relationship. As he is currently focusing on his career, getting into a relationship is not a priority.
While we’re seeing more couples post photos of themselves with their BTO keys for the ‘gram, getting a flat isn’t as easy as it appears to be. Hearing his friends’ concerns about prices of BTO and resale flats also scares Mandon, since he doesn’t feel financially stable enough at the moment.
Criteria for a potential life partner
Mandon on a blind date arranged by his friends
Though relationships are a 2-way thing and the burden of financial stability shouldn’t be on his shoulders alone, Mandon isn’t entirely happy with how he currently is. He would rather sort [his issues] out by himself first than to bring someone into his “arena of red flags”. It is unreasonable for his partner if he were to hurt her by getting into a relationship he isn’t ready for.
Just as how most of us have a certain “type” to an ideal partner, Mandon explains that he has a criteria for his future partner too.
The 3 main points Mandon look out for are chemistry, character and life goals. He expresses the importance of couples aligning their life goals, as differing goals will eventually lead to a failed relationship. Mandon’s own criteria include someone who has a similar “edgy hipster” aesthetic to him, enjoys the same interests such as anime and cats, and laughs at his jokes.
The core of his potential partner is essential— she must be her own person first even before getting into a relationship. Think: Inside Out the movie, where experiences and feelings shaped who Riley is as a person.
Mandon hopes for a driven individual who shouldn’t be going into a relationship hoping for him to meet all her needs. At the end of the day, a relationship with him is “really just a partnership”.
Comments from family and friends
Mandon’s cat, Tsuki
Image courtesy of Mandon Lee
And you’d wonder if he gets pressure from his parents. Mandon says his family is “chill” with his choice to stay single, since they know of his stand towards relationships for quite some time now. He also shares his thought processes with his siblings and they understand where he’s coming from.
Instead, Mandon devotes his affection to his beloved cat, Tsuki. Despite being happy to share his love for his cat for now, his friends crudely joke that “the cat can’t suck your dick”. People around him also don’t believe that he has never been in a relationship before through his different phases of life.
While most of us were getting into that young puppy love phase in secondary school, being in a relationship didn’t make sense for Mandon then. As a young boy with no financial stability nor long-term plans, he feels that relationships should last a lifetime— “I prefer to be in a relationship until I die”.
Expectations from society
Oftentimes, Mandon meets people who chide him for “wasting his youth” as he’s “at his prime, still looking good, not even 30 yet and can go and play”. However, Mandon brings them back to the unfairness of hurting someone else based on selfish desires. He doesn’t believe in causing unnecessary harm through “playing” and the potential repercussions to come.
While the quote “it’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all” is relatable to most people, Mandon seems to be against this thinking. He doesn’t see the point in having temporary joys and needs being fulfilled.
“If you’re not mature enough to handle hurt, you’ll combust”, Mandon warns. After all, “any hurt is hurt and any damage is damage”. While he acknowledges that there are couples who are prepared for both outcomes of good and bad, Mandon wants more information about his future partner first before making his choice.
Past dating experiences
Mandon being set up on a date by his colleagues
Whether he’s being set up on a blind date by his friends or going on an episode of ZULA’s first dates, Mandon has had experiences with dating before but has never progressed beyond that.
From one bro to another, Mandon shares some tips that his friends have provided him with, also known as the ultimate “formula for dating”. This includes going out and eating good food, followed by bringing the date to do something thrilling to get their heart rates up. If you ever try this out for yourself and it works, you’ll know who to thank.
One of Mandon’s most memorable dating experiences was when he took his date to a ramen place and they both shared many common interests. Though Mandon felt that they had chemistry, he found out that she was in a spot where she shouldn’t be dating but was continuing to do so. This made Mandon realise that as one gets to know a person more, they may find certain attributes that they cannot compromise, resulting in incompatibility.
From this experience, Mandon doesn’t want to put a label on dates anymore. “It’s easier to make judgement calls when you get to know people as a friend first with no commitment. Going out with someone should be seen as a good opportunity to get to know them better.”
“If they cannot be independent and cannot have a sense of identity, what makes you think that they can be something in a relationship?”
Fear of commitment and getting hurt
Many people have asked Mandon if he chose to be single or if he has a fear of commitment and getting hurt. He explains that he’s not afraid of commitment, but rather of “committing to the wrong person”. Unlike committing to his work, cat and family, sharing his life with someone too quickly is a cause of concern. But through his reservations, he ultimately feels that “commitment should be thought of as a healthy thing”.
While most people want intimacy out of relationships, Mandon mentions that “there shouldn’t be a high degree of intimacy without a high degree of commitment”. He has learnt this through seeing his friends get hurt over both physical and emotional intimacy.
On whether he’s afraid of being hurt, Mandon says he’s “more afraid of hurting others”. He wants to know the other party as a person first before skipping all the important steps and declaring they’re the love of his life.
He’s more inclined to be in a relationship with a friend rather than a complete stranger, since he would have enough information to know if they are aligned in certain areas of life.
Admit it, most of us have dreamt about getting married in a gorgeous ballroom at some point in our lives. Yet when it comes to marriage, Mandon strongly believes that “marriage is not for everyone”. As much as marriage is a gift for some people, being single is a gift too. But as for now, he doesn’t want to get married. Perhaps when he grows older and finds the need to share his life with someone, he may consider the possibility of it.
Challenges faced with being single in Singapore
However, Mandon also acknowledges that choosing to stay single in Singapore is unfair, especially when it comes to housing — singles can only obtain a HDB at 35 years old. Even at that age, it’s not easy as there are many grants, such as family grants, that cannot be applied.
As many of us have played “The Singaporean Dream” card game, we know that the money concerns and social pressures aren’t purely just for jokes and giggles. Marriage in Singapore is portrayed to be part of this “Singaporean Dream”: get a good job, education, marriage and eventually have a house with children. Mandon feels the unfairness of choosing a different route from the norm, as falling off in one aspect would make it difficult for him to achieve certain goals.
Despite that, being single has also taught him to “make plans for himself and be [his] own person”. He shares that if he cannot make plans for himself, then he shouldn’t be suited to be in a relationship. After all, how can he be accountable for another life if he can’t handle himself? Interestingly, raising his cat Tsuki also made him realise how precious a life is.
Tips and advice for people who are evergreen
Mandon in an episode of ZULA First Dates
For people who are single at a later stage in life not by choice, Mandon advises that it is very important to know what you want first. Even before getting a relationship, be “the best version of yourself that is ready for a relationship”. If you’re not there yet, then you’re robbing your partner of a chance to be in a better relationship.
Even so, it’s better to be fair to yourself and “don’t lower your standards”. Mandon urges that if you’re looking for someone to fill up a gap in your life, it will be a “never ending loop” of finding a partner. A person who meets your needs in one area might not be able to meet in another.
For evergreen people, enjoy the gift of being single! Girlfriend blowing up the phone while you’re out with the boys all night? Can’t relate. Mandon is happy that he doesn’t have to ask for permission from a partner and can find the right headspace for himself. This gives him a lot of allowance to work on himself and do what he wants with his life.
“You are the only one who is responsible for your hobbies, upskilling and learning new things right now. Nobody can take hold of your life except yourself.”
Through seeing many relationships succeed and fail, Mandon understands that a healthy relationship is when 2 people are already “full”. This is when they know who they are and who they want themselves to be, coming together in a relationship.
Being Single For 26 Years & Growing To Become The Best Version Of Himself
As most of us venture into adulthood, the pressure to find a partner is real from watching our friends around us apply for BTOs and get married. While staying single may seem like a “curse” at first, Mandon has shown us the importance of being happy with yourself and working to become a better person.
Society is slowly progressing beyond the “Singaporean dream” of finding the right one ASAP, as more people are prioritising themselves first. Your main priority in life should always be you, and one should work towards obtaining a good relationship rather than expecting a relationship to make you better.
If you enjoyed this article, you can also read up more about dealing with tough societal expectations as a trans woman in Singapore in an interview with Antasha Zahra.
Watch the full Ask Zula episode below: