I never expected my love life - or lack of it - to be a national issue. But this year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong put the issue of marriage and parenthood on the agenda during the National Day Rally.
In particular, he was concerned about the plight of women in their 30s, who aspired to settle down and marry, but could not find men willing to take them.
Listening to Mr Lee, I was amused that my dating life, as well as my friends', had become a national issue.
I turn 40 this year. In the last few days of my 30s, I thought I should strike a blow for all those women in their 30s out there seeking partners, and speak up for their vast appeal and market value as love and marriage partners.
A friend who spent four years working in matchmaking agencies attested that, alas, women in their 30s lag behind younger women in the appeal stakes for men.
The reason is simple: Men in their 30s and 40s are still young enough to want to start a family, and many do. They know women in their 30s are likely to be less fertile, and prefer to date younger women.
But as my friend noted, women in their 30s can and do have babies, and many are likely to be more motivated to have children sooner rather than later.
I believe that most human beings desire a life partner. But the degree to which women seek partners varies, depending on their personality and risk-profile.
Some are content being single and do not seek partners. They are the contented singles.
Others may have given up, out of despair or because they were once hurt. This is the single-but-given-up category.
Another group may do little to seek partners, believing perhaps that the woman never makes the first move, or believing that Fate will send them a mate even if they stay home and watch television every day.
But deep inside, they hope that one day, Cupid will strike. They are the single-but-secretly-hoping group.
Another category of women are upfront about wanting partners and approach dating the way they do their jobs: with a clear focus, setting themselves deadlines and goals, and maximising channels to meet men. They are the single-and-seeking group.
Single women seeking partners would benefit from a hard-headed analysis of where their best prospects lie.
A marketing perspective is helpful: What is the market potential of women in their 30s? What is their value proposition? Which group of potential "buyers" might they appeal to?
I did my usual "research" for an article like this on matters of the heart: I talked to my friends and consulted myself.
Here is my take on the market segments of men who may find women in their 30s most appealing:
Fathers of young kids: Divorced or widowed men with young children want a mother for their children. Women in their 20s are deemed too young.
Thirty-somethings are perfect: experienced enough in life and mature enough to take on the responsibilities of stepping in as an instant mother, yet young and energetic enough to romp around and enjoy young children. Those in their mid- to late-30s may be giving up the idea of having their own children, yet welcome the chance for motherhood.
Pros: Likely to want a long-term relationship.
Cons: High expectations and intense job pressure.
Younger men seeking financial security: Professional women in their 30s are likely to have their own home and car and a steady income, and still look and act like they are in their swinging 20s. This may appeal to men looking for creature comforts or a woman to take care of them.
Pros: Energetic partner to have fun with.
Cons: Relationship may be transactional, with partner seeking new love gravy- train when you get older.
Older divorcees seeking fresh lease of life: Many divorced men in their 40s to 60s with teenage or grown-up children in the custody of their ex-wives are looking for a new love.
They will find 30-somethings appealing. Dating a 20-something smacks too much of cradle-snatching. Dating women in their 40s or 50s provide uncomfortable reminders of their real vintage. An attractive, nubile woman in her 30s is young enough to be viewed as a trophy partner, yet is mature enough to be viewed by his friends as a respectably aged partner.
Pros: No pressure to start a family, for women content to be childless.
Cons: Divorcees usually have outstanding financial commitments to their ex-spouses and children.
Married men: Morality aside, the fact is that some women in their 30s end up having relationships with married men.
Some women target this group, either because they can't find single men, or because they want a relationship they need not be committed to, or for perverse reasons such as to test if they can lure a man away from his wife.
Pros: Suitable for commitment-phobic women. Can be financially rewarding with a wealthy partner.
Cons: You never come first. Guilt-inducing for breaking up families.
Single men: At risk of attracting hate mail from single men, let me say aloud what women whisper to each other:
Men who are never married and still single in their late 30s or 40s are either: gay, very choosy, have been hurt and are risk-averse, mummy's boys or socially dysfunctional.
(No, this doesn't apply to single women.) Dating them will be challenging.
Pros: A partner who knows what he wants and has waited all his life for it - you.
Cons: Adapting to married life may be challenging for this partner.
Conclusion: There is considerable potential for women in their 30s to appeal to different market segments of men. Smart women can review the options, figure out which category or categories they want to market themselves to and devise a plan to go for it.
Good luck and happy dating.
This article was first published in The Sunday Times on Nov 16, 2008.