In the past, women were expected to wait around for a man to choose them. But that image of the princess sighing out the window of the tallest tower no longer applies in Indonesia. Educated Indonesian women know what they want, and with the help of modern technology they are going out to get it.
Armed with a list of characteristics that they look for in a partner, more women are signing up to online dating sites to find their very own Prince Charming, with varying degrees of success.
We talk confidentially to three women about their experiences with Internet matchmaking and the factors they think can make or break a relationship.
Via, college student
Via looks for three things in a man: proximity, piety and a proposal. Better still if he’s a fan of Japanese cartoons and comics.
The 24-year-old college student began her search for love online when she was browsing a site for fans of all things Japan. She noticed a column advertising a dating service, and decided to click through and join.
“I thought, who knows? I may even find someone who likes Japan as much as I do and we can have our honeymoon there,” she said.
Via gave her real name and a link to her website. She tried to be as honest as possible about herself, because she was looking for a husband, not a boyfriend.
“If I date someone, it’s with the intention of getting married,” she said. “I want that to be clear. In the past, I have ended relationships with guys who aren’t clear about whether they want to get married.”
She is also upfront with her prospective partners about the importance of having the same religion.
“For me, religion is always No. 1,” she said. “And I don’t mean just as something on their identity card. I want them to really understand the teachings they follow.”
Via believes that differences in background are complicated enough without throwing in a difference of religion. She wants to find a Muslim husband with the same values as her, so they can build a life together.
But that doesn’t mean she hasn’t broken her own rules in the past.
Via once developed an online relationship with a hotel owner from India. Once they got chatting, the pair found they actually had a lot in common, despite their distance.
The more they chatted, the closer they felt to one another, until finally the man said he wanted to come to Jakarta to meet her.
Via said that was fine, so long as he wanted to get married and stay with her in Indonesia. She was afraid to go with him to India, where she had no friends or family and couldn’t speak the language.
“He was really broken,” she said. “He cried and said he couldn’t believe it. He was angry with me. Meanwhile, I didn’t know what to do, because that was the reality.”
After that, they stopped chatting and Via avoided going online. But her search continues for a husband closer to home.
“My parents told me that a difference of culture within Indonesia is difficult enough, let alone trying to find someone overseas,” she said.
Ajeng, public relations officer
After her best friend married a man she met online, Ajeng thought she might give it a go, too.
The 30-year-old public relations officer set up a profile on indonesiancupid.com and started searching for men in the age range of 30 to 40, preferring those with a good-looking profile picture and a steady job.
She tried to be honest about herself in her profile, disclosing that she enjoys the occasional drink and cigarette, but didn’t give her real name.
“I think if you met a guy on there, you would expect that he would do the same,” she said.
Ajeng would like to find someone to start a relationship with, but is also happy to just get to know someone and see how things go. Some of the people she has met online have turned out to be lasting friends. But some have turned out to be more than friends, too.
“There’s this one guy I really like, he lives in Pakistan,” she said. “He really caught my eye among the other profile pictures, so I clicked the heart icon to show interest. About a week later, he sent a message to me and we started e-mailing back and forth.”
Ajeng ended up chatting to the guy on a regular basis before they decided to “meet” over video chat.
“I felt so excited, but a little bit worried. I wondered if he really looked as handsome as he did in the picture,” she said.
When the video connection was up and running, Ajeng was impressed by what she saw — until he started to smile. The first thing she noticed was that he had a front tooth missing.
“I told my friends, ‘He’s so hot … but toothless!’ and they burst out laughing,” she said.
But Ajeng didn’t let a small detail like that get in the way. The pair have already made plans to meet up in Jakarta next month.
“I think he’s a really nice guy, and maybe I shouldn’t judge him by his looks,” she said.
The only trouble is, in some of their conversations, Ajeng herself feels like she is being judged.
“He told me he doesn’t like girls who smoke or drink. He said it turned him off,” she said. “It sounds like he’s the one who’s judging without noticing that on my profile, it’s clearly shown that I do those things.
“For now, I’m just going to consider him a friend,” she added.
Pradnya, professional writer
When Pradnya signs up to online dating services, her first mission is to sort the straight-talkers from the scammers.
The 35-year-old writer is selective about who she opens up to, and keeps only a small number of people on her chat list.
Pradnya has profiles on Oasis.com and AsianEuro.com, a site that promises to help “Asian singles find their true love” and Europeans find “the Asian woman of their dreams.” But so far, what she has mostly found is friendship.
“Out of like 10 guys — all of whom were overseas — that I ever chatted with, I finally met two of them in person. We never started a relationship, as we didn’t feel fit for each other as time went by, but we remain very good friends until now, and it’s been years,” she said.
Pradnya uses an alias online, though she will often reveal her real name after chatting for some time. Chatting is really what she is looking for: She writes on her profile that she wants to meet “someone who is real, honest and whom I can feel comfortable being around.”
Religion is not an issue for her, and neither is location.
When she was assigned to write a story overseas in the city where one of her online friends lived, she met up with him while she was there.
“Both of us felt as if we had known each other for a long time when we first met,” she said. “That is quite normal when you are communicating with someone online, as you feel that you can tell them everything and are somehow very open with them.”
But the friendship never became anything more than that.
“As we spent time together we realized that we wouldn’t be good in a relationship, but we would be very good friends,” she said.
Pradnya does not feel disappointed that none of her encounters turned into love stories.
“A lot of people may think the online dating concept is ridiculous, but I’ve tried it myself and I think it’s just fine,” she said. “Yes, there are scammers, or people who are not real out there, but there are people who are sincere, too.”