Middle-Class Girlfriend, 9% GST Boyfriend
Top image: Stephanie Lee / RICE File Photo

“Babe, why do you look so upset? You knew this was coming,” my boyfriend, Goods and Services Tax, uttered. This was the night before the New Year. I remember that GST (the name he insists everyone calls him) seemed genuinely confused at my sighs. 

He was my plus one at a New Year’s Eve party, a shindig hosted by a friend of ours. He grabbed my hand when the countdown started, and I could only watch as GST morphed into another version of himself as soon as the clock struck midnight. I’ll spare you the details, but essentially, he got beefier.

I thought I would have gotten used to it because the same thing happened on Jan 1, 2023. This year, though, I knew our relationship would be put through the wringer once again. I also knew why GST had to change, but those reasons seemed senseless, especially in the face of unstable circumstances right now. I’m not even sure if I’ll still have a job in the next few months. 

The relationship between GST and me wasn’t always this bad. I got to know a little bit about him when I was a kid—his name popped up now and then in conversations between my parents and older relatives. 

Then I turned 18, and my folks introduced him to me over dinner. He was a bit shy when I first met him in person, a scrawny guy who appeared at family gatherings but always stood quietly in the background. He didn’t like making himself known; he even seemed gentle at first.

Image: Katerina Holmes / Pexels

My parents weren’t exactly warm towards GST, but they were fine enough to tolerate his presence back then. That’s different now. These days, they can’t stop complaining about him. I don’t blame them. 

We only started dating after I graduated from university and entered the workforce. I was doing some entry-level job at a company that took in fresh graduates without working experience. GST was all glowed up by then, already the talk of the town in 2008. Unlike me, he was incredibly self-assured. Indifferent about his growing infamy.

Our first date was at a Fish & Co in Paragon—the same day I felt like a proper adult after receiving my first full-time salary and took myself out for dinner. I never thought anything could go wrong between us, even as I treated myself to expensive fish and chips and splurged a bit on dessert. When the bill came, he took my hand and assured me he wanted to take things slow between us. I was happy. 

And we were… for a good while at least. We went to parties, we went cafe-hopping, we went shopping together. He was always there everywhere I went—you could say we were inseparable. I guess I felt our relationship was going okay as long as my income kept going up. I took small pleasures here and there, and he didn’t judge or punish me for it.

GST valentine's day
Image: Zachary Tang / RICE File Photo

When I had to start supporting my mum after she retired during the pandemic, it was still fine. GST didn’t really feel like a burden until 2022 when he said he had to change because he was feeling some pressure.

“Some things are happening in the world that I can’t control. I need more from you in our relationship starting next year,” he said to me. 

I’ll be honest, I was shocked. I had 16 years of bliss with him, and it was about to turn sour. But there are just some partners who are impossible to break up with, and GST is one of them. It’s not his fault he’s changing; people need to undergo personal growth as a product of their environment. Being mad at GST for changing is like being angry at the sky for rain. 

In 2023, I slowly grew to dislike how everything was about money, money, money with him. GST wasn’t an abusive boyfriend per se, but he just grew overbearing and clingy over the year. My salary wasn’t increasing as much as before, and I was starting to curb my spending. Even so, his looming presence started to affect me and my family. 

Singapore GST money
Image: Mei Hui Lim / RICE File Photo

My girlfriends also started noticing the changing reality (he’s also super involved in their lives). They’ve asked if I ever considered breaking up with GST. 

“Just ghost him, lah. Move abroad, no need to bump into him in Singapore. Find a new fling overseas.” 

It did sound enticing. But from what I’ve heard from other people, partners outside Singapore can be quite a handful, too. Starting a new life in Scandinavia sounds awesome! Having a serious relationship with men like GST over there doesn’t. Plus, I definitely can’t afford the move with my median income right now. 

It’s not all bad. He can be sweet sometimes. A couple of times a year, he sweeps me off my feet with these grand gestures: $500 to spend on whatever I want, vouchers for groceries, and chipping in for utilities. It really shows me he cares. My friends tell me it’s love bombing, but they don’t know him like I do.

There are ups and downs, but I do think we’re in this for the long term. We’ve even talked about kids. He’s super enthusiastic about being a dad, and apparently, having kids is good for the economy. But I don’t want to have children—at least not now. GST can be a handful, after all. I’ve learnt to adapt to his presence in my life, but I don’t know if he’s the right person I want to share my future kids with.

Even though I’m in this rocky relationship right now, I think I’ll just tighten my belt by another notch and try to get through this year unscathed with GST. It’s Valentine’s Day today, but I’m not in the mood to do anything. He texted me this morning, asking if we were going to treat ourselves with a fancy night out. I left him on read for a while before turning him down.

“You sound tired, babe,” he texted back. 

“Need a couple more vouchers to cheer you up?”

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