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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.
Fresh out of a relationship and a toxic long-term situationship (a bit more about this next time), I was eager to head out with my best friend *Natalie for a couple of drinks at a cocktail bar we’ve meant to visit on Wednesday night.
As a newly single 26-year-old, I was excited to spend quality time with my friend and, of course, savour the cocktails from this legendary New York outpost. It also helped that I had absentmindedly left my phone on the counter of my apartment in my rush to get ready, leaving me no choice but to live in the moment and take in all of my surroundings.
We were seated at the counter at the bar, giving us perfect access to our friendly bartender, who attentively topped us up each time we were done with our drinks.
Across the bar, I noticed a guy — who looked about 30 or so — wearing a baseball cap, staring at me and clearly not paying any attention to the stories his friend was sharing. Mature, handsome, and obviously confident, I was pretty intrigued by this man and how boldly he was acting. I was also trying to figure out where he was from based on his thick accent.
In a world where dating apps ruled supreme, getting hit on at a bar seemed like a foreign concept but, I was determined to just enjoy the night with Nat while nursing the free shots we kept getting from our bartender.
Balancing the New Normal:
Throughout the night, we kept making eye contact. It was odd that this man and his male friend were being really affectionate with each other, hugging each other every few minutes and laughing about something I couldn’t hear anything about.
Nat and I immediately assumed they were a couple.
Towards the end of the night, the guys got shifted slightly closer to us — while still maintaining social distance — to make way for other guests at the bar. It was then that they took the opportunity to chat us up. Baseball cap man immediately introduced himself to me.
I learned that *Matt hails from Wales and that he was, in fact, a heterosexual male who happened to just be really affectionate with his friend. “Honestly, I’m here just to point girls his way,” said Matt’s friend while showing us a photo of himself and his three kids on his phone.
For the rest of the night, Matt and I made socially distanced conversations. We bonded over our job sectors (we both work in IT), had great banter, and just hit it off naturally. At this point, he asked me from my Instagram handle. I hesitated a little before deciding it was OK. Instagram, to me, was less personal than a phone number.
Soon, we realised it was almost 10:30pm, and after the bar had served us their signature complimentary chicken soup to end a night of drinking, we made our way out and went our separate ways.
Back home, I was reunited with my phone and was low-key excited to see that Matt had already slid into my DMs, asking me out.
A quick few moments of sleuthing later, Nat and I deduced that 33-year-old Matt seemed like a decent man. From his LinkedIn profile, we learned Matt worked at an MNC and has an illustrious career — something most guys my age lacked. Interestingly, though, was that, on Instagram, we saw that he actually has a daughter back in Wales.
Sceptical, I quickly asked him about it. He confirmed his daughter’s identity and assured me that I could ask all about her when we met for our first date.
“I think you should meet him. He makes me feel like he could be really responsible. After all, he’s a dad! And he’s really transparent with you,” said Nat, obviously excited to see me finally going on a date.
Resisting my better judgment, I agreed to go out with Matt and meet him that very Sunday. “Awesome. Let’s meet around 5pm; I’ll plan something. Have a great night! x”, his last message read.
Truth be told, I had always preferred older men, especially ones who carried themselves well and wasted no time deciding where to eat and what to do.
In the days leading up that fateful day, Matt would react to my Instagram stories — to me, this indicated interest. What was strange was that he never actually followed up with a text to let me know where we were going.
The day before our date, Nat and I enjoyed beers at a beach club when I told her how he had not actually texted. “Maybe he’s just waiting to see you in person to really get to know you better,” said Nat. I won’t lie; I did think it was strange he had not texted, but I figured she was probably right.
That Sunday, I woke up early and dropped Matt a text to just confirm we were, in fact, seeing each other that day.
After brunch with Nat, I noticed that Matt had not responded.
“Give it some time; he’s probably out cycling around the city,” said Nat. This was a fair point. Instagram had shown us that Matt is an avid cyclist who woke up early to clock miles on Strava.
By noon, Matt still hadn’t responded. I then went to check Instagram just to see if he had posted his whereabouts.
It was then that I noticed that I could not actually find him in my list of followers, and neither was I following him.
Matt had both removed me as a follower and unfollowed me. It was then that I realised that I had just been ghosted. Ghosting is essentially the act of ending something suddenly without explanation. In its “traditional” sense, ghosting happens through text messages and is usually reserved for personal relationships.
While I wasn’t hurt, I found it extremely cowardly that this man wasn’t able just to come clean and admit he wasn’t interested in seeing me. Perhaps he thought I was the type to get attached easily and wanted to avoid a messy confrontation? Or, perhaps he wasn’t even that interested, to begin with, but relished in the challenge of getting the contact details of a girl at the bar.
The truth is, I’ll never fully know Matt’s intentions. Months of dating various wrong guys have also taught me that there really isn’t a point in figuring out the details and driving myself crazy second-guessing everything I had done leading up to this point.
Old me would have inspected the conversation repeatedly and looked through every Instagram story to see if I had posted something off-putting.
Because I had close to zero expectations on the upside — except maybe for a great meal — I wasn’t even hurt by this experience. Dating someone with a child could have been messy, and I wasn’t ready to deal with those emotions either.
*Names have been changed to protect their identity
Balancing the New Normal: