Karung guni man seeking love says 'I love you' on first date
Karung guni man, 59, who advertised his quest for a partner has no qualms about saying 'I love you'
It was his first date with the 51-year-old hotel waitress, but Mr Steven Chan had already uttered those three words: I love you.
The 59-year-old karung guni man made headlines when he placed a 2m-high banner on one of his lorries earlier this month advertising his search for love, along with a list of criteria and his mobile phone number.
The three words that many people find hard to say are easy for Mr Chan, who has been searching for a partner for almost three years.
"I'm very straightforward and I waste no time. I dare to say it because I like her and I think she's cute. And I think she might feel the same way about me too," said Mr Chan in Mandarin.
Mr Chan got married in 1991, but was divorced a year later. He has a grown-up daughter, whom he has not had any contact with.
News of Mr Chan's "advertisement" was first reported this month in Chinese evening newspaper Shin Min Daily News. Since then, he has received more than 20 calls and has been on two dates with different women.
He declined to reveal details about the women and said only that the 51-year-old, who was his second date, had more potential and "seemed to be willing" to go on another date.
When The New Paper (TNP) met him last Friday, he had already arranged a third date, this time with a 48-year-old engineer.
Speaking to TNP at the KFC outlet where he took his second date two Saturdays ago, Mr Chan said he did not want to reveal her identity, as he was concerned that it would jeopardise their budding romance.
"I'm a gentleman. It's not nice if I tell you who she is, what if we break up? We aren't even 'steady' yet," said Mr Chan.
However, he revealed that she was around his height, is "fleshy-fleshy" and that their date went "all right".
They met at her place first, where Mr Chan helped to dismantle and dispose of a metal bed frame she had before they headed to the KFC outlet at Jelapang Road in Bukit Panjang.
Mr Chan said: "We were supposed to watch Ip Man after that, but the ticket timings clashed with (Chinese reality TV singing competition) I Am A Singer and we wanted to watch it.
"So I sent her home and we watched it at our own homes."
Mr Chan said the ball is now in her court, as he has been waiting for her to call back to reschedule their movie date.
"I asked her to book the tickets, but I will pay. I'm the man, I must pay. How to date if you want to be so stingy," said Mr Chan with a laugh.
He said he would try to approach more "serious" topics for their second date to see if they are compatible.
Mr Chan decided to put up the banner after he hurt his leg last March.
He was bedridden for a few weeks and although his sister came by every few days to care for him, he realised that having a partner would mean that someone could take care of him every day and in turn he would take care of her.
"I am lonely, and most evenings, it is just me, the television and the four walls," he said.
"I have nobody to spend it with. So I want to find a girlfriend, to share my life with her."
CEO and co-founder of dating service Lunch Actually Group Violet Lim said Mr Chan's search for love is creative and "definitely" a way to attract attention.
"People have seen the banner and heard about it, so it definitely got things going for him," she said.
"However, he might attract people with bad intentions. But like I say, different strokes for different folks, and different things work for different people."
Mr Chan said he has indeed received a few prank calls and has even had people calling up to borrow money from him, but he does not mind the inconvenience in the pursuit for love.
He said: "Once I find my Miss Right, I won't need the banner and will take it down."
I am lonely, and most evenings, it is just me, the television, and four walls... So I want to find a girlfriend, to share my life with her.
- Mr Steven Chan on why he is actively seeking love
SINGLE AND AVAILABLE: Karung guni man Steven Chan advertised his search for love by putting up a 2m-high banner on one of his trucks (above). He has since been on two dates with different women and took one of them to KFC for a meal. TNP PHOTO: BENJAMIN SEETOR
Go on dates with 'open mind, zero expectations'
The dating game is never love at first sight, said Miss Sharon Tan, 52, a client of dating agency Lunch Actually. It is about being open and meeting new people.
She is one of a growing group of singles above 40 who are joining dating agencies and apps, hoping to make new friends and possibly find a life partner.
Miss Tan, a divorcee with no children, registered with the dating agency late last year.
She felt it would be a new avenue to get to know men "serious about getting into relationships".
"It's not about finding a husband, rather, it's about finding friends and a potential soul mate," said Miss Tan, who works in the sales industry.
CEO and co-founder of the Lunch Actually Group Violet Lim said: "Usually, people investing in Lunch Actually are like-minded in the sense that they are more serious about finding a partner.
"My advice to them is that dating is a numbers game, so step out of your comfort zone and increase your chances of meeting more people."
So far, Miss Tan has been on dates with two men
"It's not love at first sight, but the experiences have been positive so far. You have to go with an open mind, zero expectations and let nature take its course," she said.
"Don't expect the person you meet to be your potential boyfriend or husband, just treat it as getting to know new friends."
She and her dates usually meet for a meal followed by coffee or drinks. When asked if she has faced any difficulties in dating at an older age, Miss Tan said: "I don't feel old at all, age is just a number. It's nothing to be shy about."
More aged 40 and up seeking dating help
There has been a rise in the number of singles aged 40 and older joining dating agencies and signing up for dating apps, according to industry experts such as Ms Violet Lim, CEO and co-founder of dating service Lunch Actually Group.
Ms Lim estimates that in the past five years, the agency has seen a 10 per cent increase in older singles, 40 years old and above, seeking their services.
She said this could be due to more people putting off marriage to focus on their careers as well as an increase in divorces.
She added that in the past, older singles might be less inclined to continue the search for a partner, but sentiments now have changed.
"Now, people feel that everyone deserves an opportunity for love, and they might be more open to finding dates online or through an agency," said Ms Lim.
"So singles who are above 40 might be taking advantage of this changing attitude."
Singapore-based dating mobile app Paktor has also seen an upward trend of members aged 45 and above, with more than twice the number of such users in 2014 compared to the year before.
Paktor's chief marketing officer and co-founder Charlene Koh said older singles tend to have different expectations in terms of the partners they are looking for.
"For example, as a person gets older, material wealth is not a priority or a criteria they look for in a partner, as compared with younger clients," she said.
Echoing Ms Koh's sentiments, Ms Lim said: "People in that age group are not looking for marriage per se. Rather, they're looking for a companion and might not be so fixated on starting a family."
Ms Lim also advised singles who are looking for a partner to step out of their comfort zones and do something new.
"It doesn't matter whether you're 20, 30, or 40. You have to do something new such as pick up a hobby if you want to meet new people and expand your social circle," she said.
"Don't expect to sit at home and pray that the perfect person comes knocking."