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Home / Brunch / Cover story: all about single people

Cover story: all about single people

What makes them tick? What do they want? What will they settle for? The Floh-HT Brunch Singles in the City Survey has answers and perspectives. It takes all kinds of people to make the world – the wedded, the bedded...

brunch Updated: Feb 09, 2013 18:19 IST
Saudamini Jain
Saudamini Jain
Hindustan Times

What makes them tick? What do they want? What will they settle for? The Floh-HT Brunch Singles in the City Survey has answers and perspectives. It takes all kinds of people to make the world – the wedded, the bedded, friends, lovers, daters and maters. Scattered in large numbers in between are the single people, the unattached. These magical creatures all seem to be looking to gravitate towards others like them. It’s not an easy process.

To make matters worse, men and women do not understand each other! When they’re a couple, they get attuned to each other’s quirks (after a while). But when they’re single? Nobody really knows what they want – not their parents, not their friends and certainly not themselves!

We decided to figure out just that. Brunch along with Floh, an exclusive singles network, conducted the Floh-HT Brunch Singles in the City Survey. We asked more than 400 single men and women between the ages of 22 and 35 in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore just what they were looking for in a prospective partner and what it was like being single. Now singles come in all shapes and sizes, but we managed to find some patterns. And as an early Valentine’s Day present for you, we decoded the single man, the single woman and the single life. Here goes:


She’s worried, very, very worried
Nearly 83 per cent of women we surveyed said they faced pressure to be in a relationship from their family, friends and colleagues. In fact, they seem to have internalised it – 25 per cent felt that their social status was lower because they were single. Advaita Kala, the writer of Almost Single and Kahaani, believes it will pass. “Women between 22 and 32 are obsessed with marriage. By 30, most are married. If not, it impacts their self-esteem. But that urgency disappears when they cross 31.”

Both her feet are on the ground
Women are looking for compatibility more than love – and love, said 79 per cent of those surveyed, must be practical. Art writer Anita Sharma (name changed), 25, was a hopeless romantic at 18. “I always thought I’d fall in love, my parents would like him and we’d get married,” she says. Now, she adds matter-of-factly, “There’s no time to fall in love!” She knows what she wants in a boy, love can always follow.

She’s not willing to settle
Sixty-seven per cent of women said they are single because they haven’t met the right partner yet. The urban single woman of today is well-educated, well-placed and can fund her own lifestyle. She wants somebody just like her – 87 per cent said they wanted to be with someone who is career-minded. But that’s not enough to make the cut. Nita Jha, associate vice president, Sycorian Matrimonial Services, says, “There was a boy from IIT and IIM, everybody would jump when they saw his profile. But he wore terrible clothes, couldn’t talk properly – every girl who met him got so upset! I’ve stopped referring him to my clients now!” Despite our sex ratio, there is a paucity of men who match the credentials of the women. “If we have 10 girls from IIMs and Ivy League colleges, there are only 5-6 boys like that,” says Jha.

She wants a sizzling hottie
“Earlier, if he was qualified and well-placed, girls didn’t mind a bad-looking boy,” recalls Jha. A whopping 80 per c per cent of women think that looks are very important – their partner must be handsome. He has to dress well too – 35 per cent said that his clothes are the first thing they notice about men they meet. And he should be tall – 66 per cent of women surveyed didn’t want to be with someone shorter than them. Height is the only thing that 25-year-old jeweller Sakshi Ghai is fussy about. She’s about 5’7, so, “nobody shorter than me. Nobody short at all!” she says.

Nobody unexciting, nobody fat
Forty nine per cent of women said they are most turned off by men who aren’t ambitious. “He has to be hardworking and ambitious,” says Anita Sharma. “Nobody wants to go from one father’s money to another’s!” Forty eight per cent were also turned off by overweight men. “It’s a question of how fit he is. I wouldn’t want to be with someone who’s a walking signboard of heart disease at 30!” says 26-year-old lawyer Pooja Arora.

She doesn’t make the first move
She’ll happily hand out her number if she likes you but 31 per cent said they’d expect the boy to initiate contact. But if you, dear man, are taking the first step, be cautious. About half the women think a Facebook friend request indicates interest.


The king of romance

He is. He may be terrible at showing it; he could be awkward or uncomfortable. But 47 per cent of single men think that love is all about romance; 27 per cent said that the first thing they notice about a girl is her smile; and 55 per cent believe in love at first sight (compared to only 41 per cent of women) – it’s a manly thing called the thunderbolt; you’d know this if you read The Godfather. Banker Rahul Bhatnagar, 28, (name changed because he’s too embarrassed to admit this) has been looking for love since he was 17! "I wanted to get married at 21," he says.

But he’s not going to make any effort
Seventy-six per cent of men felt that finding a partner is just a matter of chance, while 39 per cent valued their independence too much to be in a relationship. Siddharth Mangharam, CEO, Floh, believes that “men seem to take couplehood a bit more casually. Women take a lot more effort.” This could be, he says, because a woman is on a tighter timeline. There’s the clock and the pressure from family and friends. “Men don’t have so much pressure, so they’re willing to take it a lot more lightly,” he says. But if they are interested, 81 per cent of men will make the first move.

He says he wants a smart woman
“There’s nothing sexier than a woman who can talk intelligently,” we heard from at least five single men we spoke to – 83 per cent of those surveyed agreed. But there’s a problem here. Says Mangharam, “Some women feel they intimidate men. Sometimes women believe that they have to dumb themselves down when talking to other single men. At Floh, we don’t believe this approach helps and encourage all our members to simply be themselves.” However, says stand-up comic Kunal Rao indignantly, “Women need to be intelligent enough to know that they don’t have to show off their intelligence! If they constantly keep talking about all the things they’ve read, it’s not intelligent, it’s insufferable!”

Smoking and drinking don’t help
Forty-six per cent of men told us that smoking is the biggest turn-off in a potential partner, 44 per cent said it was (social) drinking. For some strange reason, putting it on paper tends to make men uneasy. Nita Jha of Sycorian advises girls who occasionally smoke or drink to not make it public. “Tell the boys when you meet them, but just don’t mention it on the form!” she says.

He wants a girl who looks good
Everybody wants a pretty girl – 84 per cent said they wanted someone who looked good. “Anthropologically speaking,” says stand-up comic Rao, “all human beings are wired to find a good-looking mate.”

She should be able to cook
“I’m not saying she has to cook for me every day,” says consultant Karan Sharma, 29. “I’m just saying it would be a bit odd being with someone who can’t cook!” Eighty five per cent of the men we surveyed agreed. (But, to be fair, 78 per cent of single women felt that it was important for a man to to cook too.)


77%singles love going to parties and pubs so they can meet people

84%believe that serious dating is important for creating a bond between two people

61%think that the best place to meet someone is at work

81% Men, Women

76% Don’t hesitate to make the first move if they like someone

79% value traditional thinking

Top priority: 72% feel that their first priority is buying their own house and having an impressive bank balance

What is the big fuss about being single?
It is one of life’s greatest mysteries and everybody’s out to solve it. When it comes to single people, the world drops whatever it is doing. Everybody magically sprouts wings, bares their bottom and flutters around with a bow and arrow.

It’s not easy being single. “It’s an art. It helps to be devastatingly ugly, have very little or no sex appeal and you also have to be very poor,” laughs actor Rahul Bose, who has been single for 12 years. That’s single, not celibate, before you start feeling sorry for the man. But in all seriousness, “if you’re single,” he says, “you’d better be very fond of yourself... It’s a very profound state of mind.”

But most single people don’t have deep, meaningful reasons to be single. They’re single because they’re single – because they haven’t found someone. There is a biological imperative to pair up, and it is perhaps more pronounced in India. We’re a nation that loves to get married and sprout children.

Of late, we’ve begun to date. So if somebody is in his or her mid-late twenties and has been single for a little too long, everybody is very, very worried. Their friends introduce them to their single friends; aunts try to ‘arrange meetings’ with their extended NRI family; parents sign them up for matrimonial websites. There’s also an ad in the classifieds – some people even get it highlighted to make it stand apart from the hundreds of other (cheaper non-highlighted) matrimonial ads stacked up in the paper.

According to our survey, 61 per cent of singles said they don’t know where to start looking for a relationship. And when even the arranged marriage market, which had always been the sure-shot back-up plan, doesn’t work out, they are dumbfounded.

The single and self-esteem
And their self-esteem comes tumbling down. “Everybody finds the pizza to their cheese, the blueberry for their muffin, so why can’t I find someone?” They beat themselves up for flaws they don’t have. Filmmaker Anandana Kapur, who co-directed Much Ado About Knotting, a documentary about matchmaking, believes that the frustration and dejection is not because single people haven’t found someone. “It’s because they have initiated a process. And the pitch is that you will find your partner – a certainty is sold to them. They’ve invested time, money and emotion.” It’s rejection. Kapur met people who had been rejected 25-30 times. That can take a toll on anybody’s self-esteem. “Would it help if I were just five kilos lighter, a few inches taller, if I could quote Kafka or sing like Seal?” They forget everything they’re good at, and everything becomes about finding The One. Or somebody – anybody – who can at least pass off as The One.

That hollow feeling? It’s a phase
It is in their 20s that everybody is rushing to look for love. You’ve just outgrown those troubled teenage years when all you wanted to do was hate. “It’s the hunger of the age to be socially popular, socially loved. From 18-30, everyone wants to ascend a social ladder of happiness, success and have someone in your arms. After that, most people just get married because it’s the momentum of society,” says Rahul Bose. But how many people do you know have considered the possibility of

Not hunting? What happens if you stop looking?
Says Advaita Kala, “By the time they are 35, when the women have survived that tumultuous period of always being the bridesmaid and never the bride, their self-esteem is actually better than their married friends.” They have spent the last decade or so building their career and a life centred around themselves, while their married counterparts just realised that the honeymoon is over.

Forty per cent of the people surveyed said that the worst thing about being single is that they don’t have anyone to share their life with. Bose disagrees. “We’re surrounded by love – friends, brothers, sisters, nieces – and you can give give in to the abundance. People are scared of being single because being with someone fills the empty spaces, the chinks in your psychological makeup,” he says.

Why are more people single now?
Social networking is partly the reason. Well, it’s an interesting argument anyway. According to the survey, 52 per cent of singles felt the best way of knowing someone is to check out their Facebook profile (only 42 per cent would arrange to meet the person again). It’s not always a great idea. Says Jha of Sycorian, “The guy sees pictures of the girl at too many parties, or the girl see his pictures with too many other girls.” People come to their own conclusions when they look at photos, she argues. “And it ruins our hard work. People interested in getting married should lay low on Facebook!”

But mostly, people are single because they are now more independent, aspirations have gone up and gender dynamics have changed. All this in just 10 years. “Being single is not so marginal anymore,” says Kala. If you’re married to your career in your twenties, when do you fall in love, really?

And life hasn’t got all that easy for single people either. “It is less hard compared to the past,” says filmmaker Kapur, “but only marginally. Are cities safe to live in? Do single people get rooms for rent? There’s more acceptability of singles but it’s definitely not easy,” she says.

Where does that leave you? Well, back to square one, we’re afraid to say. Happy Valentines’ Day!
My life partner isn't a click away I was hesitant to create a profile on a matrimonial website. I relented on account of my parents, but regretted it every second. I found it totally bizarre! It’s just a glorified social networking site. Only much, much worse – it’s full of strange men. I was a member of one motherboard matrimonial website, from where the website suggested branching out to my caste. It’s an automated thing.

Nobody in my family had the patience to sit through thousands of profiles (68 per cent of singles in our survey thought there are too many profiles). Such websites take broken English to another level: “Are you too looking for life partner?”, “Serious people contact only”, “etc etc etc”.

They were also much, much older men (where are the under-32 men anyway?).
I don’t know if people lied on their profiles because I didn’t care to find out – but the survey says that almost half the people there have created fake profiles!

I outsourced the screening to the ‘elites’ and ‘privileged’ websites, where ‘relationship managers’ do the scanning, the screening and shortlist ‘The Ones’. They don’t really make an effort to make the girl and boy meet. However, I did meet one guy, and he was a big disappointment! I don’t want to get into the details.

After almost two years of frustration, I forced my parents to stop renewing these memberships. And this time, they relented. I was not tired of ‘finding’ a partner. I was just tired of feigning interest! So when I find a man and we click, it won’t be via the wireless mouse!

The singles network Floh is a national singles network for urban, educated and independent singles with a focus on substantive interactions that lead to meaningful relationships. Members are screened before being invited to join Floh. Over the past year, Floh has hosted over 100 interactive events which include cookouts, vintage car rallies, sailing, wine and cheese tastings, mixology and more. It will launch an online version of its service in March.

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From HT Brunch, February 10

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