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Thursday October 24, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Thursday October 24, 2013 MYT 8:05:52 AM
by fiona chan
There’s a dating service for married people? And it’s doing well enough to expand from its American base into Japan and Hong Kong? Well, darn it, whatever happened to happily every after?
IT is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man having a meal at a restaurant will check out the hot girl sitting at the next table.
At least, that was my experience a few weekends ago, when I met up with not just one but two single male friends for brunch.
Despite the good food and good conversation (or so I thought), my friends’ attention kept drifting 10m away, to a woman wearing a tight red halterneck dress and sitting with a group of friends.
“That dress is so inappropriate for brunch,” I said in my best priggish voice.
“Huh? Quite nice, what,” one of my friends replied distractedly.
Just then, the woman – she was probably in her early 30s – stood up to greet a little boy and his father, clearly her son and her husband.
“Oh no,” I intoned with the malicious satisfaction of an ugly stepsister. “She has a kid.”
The oglers continued to ogle, unheeding.
“Did you not hear me?” I raised my voice. “She’s married! With a kid!”
My friends finally turned to look at me. “That’s okay,” one said, soothingly. “Don’t you know? The new dating barrier is two kids.”
I stared at him uncomprehendingly. He graciously explained further.
“See, last time, if you were interested in a girl but she was engaged to marry someone else, that was the end of it,” he said.
“But now, the rules have changed. ‘Engaged’ doesn’t mean ‘off the market’ – she can break off her engagement. If she’s married, she can get divorced. Even if she has one kid, it’s still fair play.
“But two kids, cannot already. Too many liabilities.”
Perhaps sensing that the explanation was falling flat, he tried to make me feel better with a friendly leer.
“That means, you are still on the market too!”
I was still unconvinced, but a bit flattered. And intrigued.
The thought of cheating on a spouse may be anathema to most people but the fact is that adultery seems to have been popping up a lot more recently.
In strait-laced Singapore, politicians, top civil servants, businessmen and even church workers have made the headlines for their extramarital affairs in the past year.
But the infidelity itself is usually not the main issue; instead, the controversy has been over “larger issues” such as corruption, underage prostitution or labour laws, while the actual deed goes largely uncommented on.
Press someone for an opinion and he might say, as many of my friends do: “Aiyah, affairs, they’re so common these days.”
It’s not just men, either.
An article in The Sunday Times last year reported that the number of unfaithful women is on the rise. One Singaporean law firm said that for every case of cheating husbands it handled in 2011, it had four cases of cheating wives.
Theories abound as to why adultery has become less taboo in Singapore.
Longer working hours lead to greater distance between spouses and more temptations in the office; greater affluence could result in both partners having the means to conduct their own discreet dalliances; even genetic influences have been blamed, with some claiming that taking on multiple partners is in our genes.
My own take is that cheating has become more common because we have allowed it to.
In my own circle, extramarital trysts and even divorces and remarriages are so far rare – at least to my knowledge – but not unheard of.
In my principled youth, I might have stridently decried all forms of unfaithfulness.
Now, with every story I hear about so-and-so doing such-and-such secretly, I become a little less surprised, a little less offended, a little more knowing, a little more accepting.
That’s why I was alarmed to hear of the recent launch in Hong Kong of Ashley Madison, a US-based dating site for married people.
While I believe people should be allowed to make their own choices in life as long as they don’t harm others, and of course, everyone might have his or her own mitigating circumstances, the mere existence and accessibility of this extramarital dating service helps to encourage cheating behaviour.
Hong Kong is Ashley Madison’s second location in North Asia. Unsurprisingly, the first is Japan – where a TV celebrity once famously said, “Adultery is our culture”.
Having witnessed this prevalent culture over the months that I’ve been in Japan, it’s become more difficult for me to joke with my friends about a trend of adultery that sees children less as victims than as potential obstacles.
I’m not idealistic, or even particularly hopeful, about any eventual decline in marital infidelity. But the least I can do is not encourage its spread by talking about adultery as though it were inevitable. – The Straits Times, Singapore/Asia News Network
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Lifestyle, adultery, infidelity, taboo
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