By Abigail Ang (18S06B) and Jeslyn Tan (18S06R)
Click here to read Part Two of this feature.
The 14th of February has come and gone, with its heart-shaped chocolates and overpriced roses, but the prospect of new couples – especially within the Year 5 batch – remains a hot topic. From Orientation – some OGLs claim their OGLings began ‘making moves’ on the first day – to the long stretches of free time many Year 5 classes seem to be spending in the Amphitheatre, Year 5 is a period characterised by its many opportunities to socialise.
Once lessons kick into full swing and the work starts piling up however, some may have second thoughts on whether they want to turn their friendship into something more. Apart from having to juggle one’s CCA duties, leadership roles, social life – not to mention grades – it’s not all sunshine and roses.
Here, we attempt to examine the various behaviors of the Rafflesian in their romantic exploits, or lack thereof. Readers should avoid taking this article as a full comprehensive manual – or worse, a how-to guide on pursuing your crush – but rather take it as a cursory survey of Rafflesians in their natural habitat.
Singles Culture: ‘EC’s
Perhaps due to the perception that JC relationships automatically lead to a decline in one’s grades or are doomed to fail, many students choose not to act on their interest in someone else. Instead, they maintain a physical and emotional distance with their person of interest, dubbing them an ‘EC’.
‘EC’ has become somewhat of an overused term, frequently used as both a verb and a noun. Short for ‘eye-candy’, it describes someone you find physically attractive, and is one of the more common terms thrown around in RI slang.
“[I’m] pretty sure every guy has a girl they find pretty and admirable,” Tseng Kuo Chuan (18S06R) remarked. However, he explained that he was wary of confessing, preferring to maintain his cherished friendship with the girl in question. “We both have a high level of commitments and additional distractions are undesirable,” he added.
The fear of commitment coupled with existing overcommitments in other avenues result in quite a few ECs staying just that, with students studiously avoiding any potential romantic development. In the end, majority of the students in RI seem to be fully aware of the end goal of JC, and would prefer ‘As over Baes’ (the latter being an acronym for Before Anyone Else).
On the other hand, some students do not even find this situation a conundrum. “I’m not searching for anyone [not even ECs],” Gracia Goh (18S06J) offered. Multiple interviewees echoed her sentiments; they aren’t interested in relationships, and are overall more interested in seeing their grades go up (and stay up) more than anything else. Not to say that students searching for a relationship suffer from a lack of concern about their grades – it’s more of a distinct difference between what these two groups of people prioritise and value in their JC life.
Whilst the most common explanation for a lack of interest in EC culture seems to be studies, one student questioned of the value of an EC in the first place. “Having an EC to me personally really [isn’t] of any use,” he said, examining the inherent shallowness of the concept of an EC. “You probably don’t even know the person [that] well, just judging based on looks, [and it’s just for] personal viewing pleasure.”
Going back to the definition of EC – it stems from physical attraction when someone catches your eye. Its inherent beauty (or arguably, quirk) is how it’s simply a visual crush on someone, akin to idolising a handsome actor, or a beautiful singer. It is, admittedly, useless in the grand scheme of things, if someone’s end game is getting into a relationship rather than simply maintaining a respectful distance of awed visual indulgence.
Singles Culture: Sliding Into One’s DMs
This leads to the second most common feature of RI singles culture, the phenomenon known as ‘sliding into [one’s] DMs’.
‘Sliding into DMs’ refers to the practice of talking to someone over the Direct Message (DM) function of a social media platform, usually to initiate a conversation with someone you have not spoken to in real life. As the name suggests, this should be as smooth a transition as possible.
The concept itself holds an element of creepiness, most likely warped by the way that term is often used to describe total strangers attempting (and failing) to start conversations in ways that leave the person uncomfortable and wary of the other party.
One female Y6 student – who declined to be named – recounted one negative experience with this phenomenon, when a male student began asking her for personal information after replying to an Instagram Challenge she had posted on her ‘story’. “I gave him many hints to get out of my DMs, but he didn’t.”
Fortunately, she noted that such occurrences were not common, and that ‘sliding into DMs’ was usually ‘fun’ and a way to make friends. In more sinister cases however, she said that some girls have to resort to using one-word responses or leaving them ‘on read’ to exit the conversation.
Fortunately, most RI students seem to acknowledge how this practice can be disturbing. Instead of sending a pick-up line as a first text (as one might do on dating apps like Tinder), RI students are more likely to start up friendly conversations instead as a form of deepening their connections to their EC, and see where it goes from there.
“As long as you aren’t being harassed or are harassing someone by constantly doing that, it seems okay,” Gracia pointed out. Other students agreed, raising how, “It’s just texting. If you want to slide, just slide. It takes serious guts to slide, but just be polite and considerate.”
Still, the general consensus is that sliding into one’s DMs solely to ‘hit someone up’ is an uncalled-for method of communication. If the relationship doesn’t already exist in real life, in some form or another, hiding behind a wall of text isn’t the way to further a relationship, or even maintain it.
Confessions – and Their Flipside, Rejections
So you’ve watched them from afar, and maybe slid into their DMs – now what? While confessing may seem like the logical step to take, some may avoid making their crush something more for the same reasons one may keep their EC at arm’s length.
“I don’t particularly feel like being rejected,” a female Y6 student offered. “If anything, I’ll confess at the end of the year. If it goes badly, I won’t ever have to see him again (laughs).”
While the possibility of rejection is a notion that turns many people off the idea of confessing from the very start, it should be noted that different Rafflesians have different attitudes towards being confessed to.
“I’d be honoured [if anyone ever confessed],” one male Y6 student mentioned. Some students may take a confession as just another form of compliment in the end, regardless of outcome, something gratifying and validating rather than something to take offense at.
On the other hand, some students only appreciate confessions from people they’re already interested in. “If it’s obvious it’s not going to work out, don’t confess,” a male Y6 student stated.
For someone they’re neutral about, the answer fluctuates between a tentative ‘maybe’ and an outright ‘no’. “I’ve never seen them in that way, but I think I would be willing to try things out, because I’m not entirely uninterested,” a Y5 student offered.
Unfortunately, if they’re not interested at all, the general consensus is that it’ll never happen. “Online, I’ll probably archive the message and not reply,” a Y6 student said. “If it’s in real life, I’d take a while to come up with a reply, but it’s definitely a no.”
However, many Rafflesians shared that even if someone they’re interested in confesses to them, the answer on their lips remains no, for now. “Everything can be decided after A Levels,” a male Y6 student stated. “If it’s someone I’m interested in, I’d tell them I’m interested too, but that’s it.”
It takes courage to confess, but it takes a greater amount of determination to deal with the outcome. If one’s feelings are not reciprocated, the next step is getting over it. It’s important to make the distinction between wanting to remain friends (and taking the necessary steps to do so) or deciding to never interact with them again in an attempt to erase the strained relationship.
If the feelings are mutual, though, the couple will have to figure out how to proceed from there. Is it even possible to maintain a relationship in JC? Will one be judged by others for being in one? Look out for Part Two of this feature, where we ask couples about their experience being in a relationship in RI.
Special thanks to those who were interviewed for this article, including:
Tseng Kuo Chuan (18S06R)
Gracia Goh (18S06J)
Other unnamed participants
(Cover image source: https://stocksnap.io/photo/I8OXP44OIK)"Single Pringle or Taken Bacon: Dating (Or Not) in Raffles Institution – Part One",