Irishman Killian Moyles looks at the differences in dating on both sides of the Atlantic.
Back in June, Emily Heist Moss wrote a piece (“Remember When Courting Happened Face-to-Face?”) about taking our advances online, rather than making, well, actual physical advances. Suddenly, Nokia and the rest of the gang have changed our entire culture. Parental advice, once the go-to handbook in matters of the heart, can now seem somewhat outdated.
The guy who came up with the “short message system” must’ve been scratching his head when, 15 years down the line, conversations like, “You’re going to call her? NO man, send a text, you don’t want to weird her out” or “Better put a smiley in there, it looks like you’re too into it” have become commonplace.
It struck me, as it sometimes does when I’m watching American films or television shows, that there are also huge differences between American dating habits and those of the eternally mortified people of Ireland. In a GMP article I was reading recently, the author mentioned the supermarket as a common place to run into a potential someone. Perhaps two hands reach for the same frozen turkey, and voila! Cooking for two. I find this notion refreshing and almost amusing in its simplicity.
I speak as a median member of the 18-30 club, and as such, I can tell you, categorically, that this does not happen on Green Island. More likely, any such overt come-on would be met with extreme suspicion. The situation is first scanned for ulterior motive, then, you personally will be scanned for signs of insanity. Assuming you come through the initial screening unscathed, the inclination to say “no,” rather than take a chance, will usually result in a red light.
During college, I went to California with some friends for the summer. In our first couple days we went down to get ourselves mobiles (or cell phones as the case may be). One of the girls went to pay for hers, and the good-looking guy behind the counter said, “Do you mind, if I put my number in here before you go?” Amy, startled, replied,“Why?” His face fell, “So I can take you out some time.” “Oh,” she replied, flustered and blushing, “No, that’s OK. Thanks!” Outside I asked, “Amy, what’s the deal? He was a good looking dude.” Her face sank into her bags, “He was GORGEOUS. I just—it’s never happened before. I didn’t know what to say.” A western-world culture clash.
Through my over-exposure to American pop culture, it seems to me (and please, correct me if I’m wrong) that there is something of a grace period in dating, where it is possible to date a number of people at once, up to a certain point. Again, this does not happen here. If you were rumored to have been to the movies with Laura on Wednesday, but out for a drink with Danielle on Saturday, you would be hunted down by a posse of their fathers, their brothers, and the local postman.
There is an idea in courtship in Ireland that you should be “doing well” to get with someone. That is to say, you should try to align yourself with someone of a similar eligibility or above. Asking someone out in broad daylight reeks of desperation, and so, gives off immediate indications that perhaps the balance of eligibility is not in your favor.
I wonder where our discomfort with the subject began. Did we stop asking? Or did our beloved girls start saying no? They will say we are not romantic enough, but are aghast at any motions to the contrary. We say we wish we could ask them out but shudder at the thought of intimate conversation over dinner. One of my friends says, “How are you supposed to talk when you’re eatin’ anyway?”
The Irish remain part of Europe through loose geography only. The catcalls of Italy cannot be heard from our shores, and on our holidays, our red faces of embarrassment, after being double-kissed by the French, are only concealed by our shocking levels of sunburn.
How does it happen then, you may ask—it’s no secret we’re a nation well-able to duplicate ourselves. As I see it, there are two main avenues of pursuit in the modern, Irish pool of twentysomethings. First, of course, is the-friend-of-a-friend route, with its built-in character reference to ensure a lot of the groundwork is taken care of before anyone steps into the arena. The second, the “Heeeey, how’s your night going?” is a classic drunken sales pitch, which gives you around a 60-second window in which to convince your intended you have a bit of chat about you (but are not desperate).
Both these methods offer us an umbrella against the harsh elements of rejection. Using your friend as a runner (“Hey, find out if she’s interested for me will you? But subtly, OK?”) ensures that you never go toe-to-toe, and thus, never get your toes trampled on. The drunken sales pitch is its own get-out-of-jail card. If the object of your affections gives you the red light, you can relax in the knowledge that tomorrow you can blame it all on the one that was one too many.
And while I’m quite sure these instances are commonplace in the U.S. too, we at home have developed it to the point where, without our social turtle shells, we are naked against the unwanted and critical judgment of our peers.
These tactics are no different than hiding behind the tweets, the screens, and the smileys.
I guess what I’m saying, to every dating American out there, is that I’m jealous of you guys. I’m jealous that at least it’s still possible and even welcomed (by the Emily Heist Mosses of the country), for a normal guy to walk right up to a girl in the supermarket aisle and ask her out. I urge you to hold onto that. Take a chance, and grab that frozen turkey with both hands.