My very last night in Missoula was an eventful one. A night that made me think long and hard about an aspect of American culture. That aspect? Dating.
American men are different to Irish men. They seemed to use the gym a bit more. And when they refer to football, it’s far less exciting than a Munster Final in Killarney. The biggest difference I found, however, was dating culture.
Irish men are not romantic.
Yes, that is a blanket statement. Yes, some people may find it offensive. But I have lived here long enough and had enough disappointing experiences to stand by that statement. Irish men don’t do “dates”. They don’t take numbers in bars with the intent of calling her tomorrow and arranging a date for ice cream or pancakes. That sort of craic happens in movies and on episodes of Friends. I had spent my mature life becoming accustomed to men cracking sarcastic comments in an attempt to flirt and desperately trying to avoid that drunk guy in Havana Browns who only plucks up the courage to talk to girls when he’s hammered and insists on trying slobber all over my face once they had acquired the appropriate level of inebriation. I don’t know if he’s attempting to remove all the makeup from the respective faces of Irish women, everywhere, but this guy and his buddies are doing a pretty awesome job.
But to be honest, Irish women aren’t much better.
I confess that I have moaned about the gentlemen of my nation (or lack thereof) on numerous occasions. I have babbled with my friends about how European men and American men are politer, more respectful and more aware of the existence of this thing called romance. But the truth is, if an Irish guy had ever asked me on a date, having just met him, I would have been pretty creeped out.
Who is this weirdo? Why does he want to go on a date with me? He doesn’t even know me. For all he knows, I’m a serial killer. Heck, for all I know, he’s a serial killer!!
I would have lied about my name, given a weird excuse like an allergy to social situations and left the immediate vicinity, my RapeApp on my phone at the ready.
You can imagine my initial confusion then when I moved to the US. At first, I was in denial. I would get talking to the most friendly of strangers. In the University Centre, or outside Child Advocacy Law, no less. We would natter and talk and absentmindedly end up at a coffee shop. Sure when we’re here, we might as well enjoy a nice beverage. What’s the harm? So me and my new friend (let’s call him Kevin) would drink our drinks and talk and then when it was time to go, Kevin would say something casual like, “Hey, this was fun, we should hang out again sometime” and give me his number on a napkin. I’ll admit the number-on-a-napkin thing did make me wonder – classic Hollywood move but I thought nothing of it. That is until I relayed my story to my American friend. When I told her, she laughed. Not with me. At me. “You know that was a date, right?” No, it wasn’t a date! We’re friends! I would have known if it was a da- Oh my God, it was a date! Dammit!! Sneaky American dating culture -1, Gearóidín -0.
After one or two undercover dates, I began to get suspicious. Paranoid to the level of Edgar Hoover, in his later years. I was no longer oblivious to these American’s and their pick up attempts. No, Sir, I know what you’re doing. I know all about you, Man Asking Me The Time. I know your American ways, I know this is you hitting on me. Not today! And instead of answering the gentleman, who probably didn’t want to date me and definitely just wanted to know what time it was, I would simply glare and walk away, determined not to be fooled again.
To any American I may have offended in my time in your country, please note the following:
In Ireland, men try to pick up girls when they are drunk, in a bar or nightclub. They do not try pick up women on the bus, in a library or at a baseball game (more on this later). I am ready to counteract advances in nightclubs. So you will understand my confusion with the American way. You will understand and perhaps forgive my impoliteness. When you, Average Joe Montana, ask me to “hang out” in a public setting, that is not a licensed premises for alcohol consumption, I immediately assume you are trying to kidnap and murder me. This is a legitimate assumption and very possibly correct, in my mind and therefore I am going to say no.
I don’t understand the process of dating someone you’ve just met. Say your name is Jeff. Jeff meets this Irish girl in the Iron Horse Brew Pub in Missoula. He asks for her number. She freaks out, not sure what of the social convention and gives him a fake one. But this is not Jeff’s first rodeo. He calls the number, right on the spot. Shoot. Irish girl lied to him. She caves and gives him another number, the real one this time. Jeff sends her a text the next day, telling her he’ll pick her up at 8, that he’s bringing her for dinner. Jeff, think about this: You don’t know the first thing about this girl. You know she’s Irish. That’s it. What if you two have nothing in common? What if she’s weird, and loves to talk about grammar, and speaks a language that only about 5,000 people worldwide speak fluently? What if she is actually ginger? What if you can’t pronounce her name or understand a single word she says? Jeff, do you really want to be put in that awkward situation for the duration of a meal plus the drive home? Trust me, Jeff, I did you a favour. Needless to say, Jeff did not pick her up at 8. All hypothetical, of course.
Anyway, back to my last night in Missoula. And baseball. I had never been to a baseball game. Luckily, the Foreign Student Office had organised a trip to the Missoula Ospreys game that took place on my last night. An excellent opportunity to soak up the very last of America before I scampered off home. Alas, pathetic fallacy and the universe conspired and made it rain. A lot. We went to the game, 3 Irish students, 1 Spaniard, 1 Sri Lankan, 1 Malaysian and an American. I wanted a corn dog and some baseball. I got a crappy hotdog and hit on. The guy who hit on me heard my Irish accent and, considering the unique and totally unheard of fact that he had Irish relatives in Dublin, (of all places) and apparently immediately decided I would be a good candidate for an Irish wife.
We shall call him Tom. Tom, with whom I conversed for no more than 30 seconds, followed me to the parking lot and awkwardly asked a thoroughly terrified European to “hang out some time”. Tom received an excuse.
“I’m getting on a plane at 4am to fly home forever to Ireland. Bye” Ok, I’ll hand it to Tom. This probably sounded like the worst and most disrespectful lie he had ever heard. But it was the truth and I was sure I had seen the last of Tom as I scrambled into the minivan with my friends, convinced I had just escaped an assassination attempt. But Tom is not a quitter, evidently. And as we tried to drive out of the stadium, Tom stopped our vehicle and proceeded to present us with his name and number on a scrap of paper. You don’t know the half of this guys persistence.
After a thorough discussion of the Tom-Affair in a local bar, the United Nations and I concluded that I needed to text Tom, because Tom thought I had bullshit him. So text him is what I did. I apologised for my bluntness but assured him that I was returning home and I hoped he had a nice life. A text I thought was satisfactory and clear. It was not.
There I stood, cleaning the floor in my apartment, praying that my security deposit would be returned to me when my phone rang. It was Tom. (Ladies and Gentlemen, this is where it gets weird) Tom wanted to know what I was up to for the night. Specifically, Tom wanted to know what time I was flying out at and would it be cool if he showed up at Missoula International Airport at 4am to “chill” with me until I left. Yes. I am serious. Tom saw, in his head, Ross dashing to JFK to catch Rachel before she flew to Paris in the finale of Friends. I saw the opening scene from Scream, with Drew Barrymore. Hiding the cold fear in my voice, I dead bolted my front door and calmly informed Tom that I had a boyfriend and that it would not be cool. Tom’s momma didn’t raise no fool, however, and Tom assured me he would be there, if things didn’t work out with this guy, and that he would totally “hit me up” (what is this? It sounds violent) if he ever came to Ireland.
I don’t know if Tom showed up to MSO at 4am, with a bunch of roses and a stereo blasting Endless Love on account of my terrified race through security. I’d like to think he didn’t, but his subsequent friend request on Facebook hints otherwise.
I’m sure American’s are excellent at romance and courtship. I would never suggest otherwise. I would suggest, however, that when hitting on a non-national try something along the lines of “Hi, my name is Tom and I’ll be asking you on a date in the next half hour. I also intend to follow you out of the country”. This sort of greeting tells your foreign female three three things. 1) Your name is Tom. 2) She’s being hit on. 3) Tom is honest. Tom might also be an axe murderer, but hey, maybe she’s into that?