Saturday, November 28, 2009

Ben and Xander’s Guide to English Dating (or lacktherof)

My favorite part about bumming around Oxford for a week is being able to spend time with Xander, Miranda and their friends. The conversations they have over pints are the highlights of my trip. I consider myself to be very funny. It’s a skill I have carefully honed over years. But at my best, I am only just able to keep up with the witty conversation. I’ve been laughing so hard, so often in fact, that I’m beginning to see abdominal muscles appear under the layer of fat I’ve developed from eating meat pies and pasties every day.

For example: Ben and Xander’s thoughts on Dating.

Over a bottle of beer outside Kazbar on Cowley road, Xander and Ben explain the mating behaviors of the British male. Miranda provides eye-witness testimony to the accuracy of their account.

English men never ask women out on dates. To ask a woman out on a “date” would be far too direct and risky since the only outcome Englishmen can imagine is that they will be turned down flat, and laughed at publicly. Since the Number One priority for an English male is to save face, there is no “dating” in England at all.

At this point in the conversation, I point to a young woman pushing a pram with a pink pudgy baby blinking over its blankets and ask Xander and Ben, “So, how does that happen then?” Evidently, the English still manage to have sex.

Xander explains: “You go out to a pub with your friends, some of whom are girls, get too drunk one night (but not too drunk) and end up sleeping with one of them. Then, suddenly, you’re in a relationship. And since she’s already slept with you, you won’t be rejected - presumably. And it usually works out quite well since you were friends first.”

Breaking up is hard, since it is very English to avoid confrontation and disagreement. I got the impression that the breaking up ritual frequently involves the man’s shoes being chucked out the window or into the sea (whichever is closer at the time). But that could just be Xander’s bad luck.

I yell at both Ben and Xander with every ounce of American self-righteousness I possess that “The English Killed Romance! This is cowardice!” I harangue them, saying “I’d never date a man who didn’t have the nerve to ask me out on a proper date!” My boyfriend can attest to the brutal truth of this rule. Ben and Xander just shake their heads. That would never happen in England.

They tell me that in England, women have complete control. They choose who they will go out with and then somehow lead the men to think the relationships were the men’s idea. If a woman were to go up to a man and ask him out, the answer would almost certainly be yes. The men would be so relieved. I am sorely tempted to put this theory to the test with the Oxford Eye Candy… but, alas, I have a boyfriend. One who asked me out on a proper date too.

Ben tells a funny story of when he went to the Caribbean for a friend’s wedding. He was sitting in a restaurant with a group of English guys and one American man, and there was this beautiful girl sitting alone at a table across the room. All the guys were talking about her amongst themselves until the American gets up, walks over, and asks her what she’s doing the next night. He makes the date and gets her number. The English guys are floored. In shock. They spend the rest of the trip marveling at the American’s success and asking him how he did it.

With a history brimming with brave and chivalrous English Men, one would think the descendents of that noble past would be able to man up.

However, I can’t get too high and mighty – as much as I’d like to. The “hookup” is quickly taking the place of dating on college campuses, and for much the same reason as the British non-dating: Less pressure on the men, less risk of rejection, less commitment by avoiding the label of “date.” Men need to put forth less and less effort. They don’t need to be brave, they just need to be there for some girl to find.

Well, not on my watch. Sorry Charles, you gotta do everything the hard way. Because I have ideals. And I know you’re man enough to handle them.

1 comment:

Jessi said...

I know we talked about this before, but you could probably replace every "English" with "Japanese" in this article and it'd still be pretty accurate. Everything about sacing face, avoiding confrontation... lol.