Cultural cleavage.

Food for thought and eye candies.

Disclaimer: this post is a shameless generalization. All characters appearing in this work are kinda fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living, dead or both, is purely coincidental. Like meeting this incredibly attractive dude again at his own birthday party. Coincidence, I tell you.

Copyright The TravelEh

Before I started travelling by myself for long periods of time, I used, like many Montrealers, to complain about my city’s dating scene. The phenomenon is nationwide; indeed, Quebec women will complain that their male counterparts are not forward enough and in fact, the word “sissy” will probably be slammed repeatedly in a conversation on this topic.I used to agree highly with this contention, especially since my references were men from France, Spain and Italy, the most aggressive of whom sometimes had to be warded off by a few purse strikes.

I began to doubt this theory when I visited Sweden, where men are notoriously distant, but dismissed them quickly, rather imputing the fault to Swedish women, who make us all mortal ladies look like trolls. Yet, London forced me to reconsider my position. I came back a few days ago to the New Continent and have been feeling like a porn star ever since I landed.

Now, before I hear any protests, let me make myself clear. Yes, Quebec guys’ approach may lack some finesse. Agreed, at times it could be confused with a mating parade. BUT. At least it’s efficient, reliable and it gets you results. Simply put, it goes this way (to read with a sportscommentator voiceover): male looks at female, female feels observed, turns around, male looks down so he won’t scare her off, female will go back to drinking source while shooting suspicious glances left and right, female will eventually catch male’s gaze (arhem, stare), male tries to blend with his natural habitat, female evaluates his potential and, if interested, sustains gaze, then looks away. Male will be encouraged and get progressively closer (a bit like this ninja dog), freezing at every eye contact, only to make a final round when in a vicinity of less than one meter from prey. If female looks behind, male is in business and often scoooooooooores!!!

Therefore, single ladies have to be attentive and not too short-sighted to play the love game in La Belle Province. However, once verbal contact is made, things tend to be wrapped up quickly and one may feel like in a car dealership. Some white lies here and there, sprinkled with surreptitious pressure to seal the deal while it’s on the table, engaging smiles, small talk, and an eerie feeling of emergency. However, there’s one thing our beloved lumberjacks are unbeatable at: if asked directly to cut the crap, they will do so most obediently. No bullshit, nor “I’ll call you for sure” if it ain’t true. If they are in for immediate consumption, they’ll tell you. I guess they’ve been trained: pulling this kind of prank to a Quebec girl is not recommended. Words go around fast here and, soon enough, the lying bastard will be meeting his doom, the nature of which may range from a benign womanizer label to a more uncomfortable rumor involving a particularly horrific STI.

In a nutshell, dating poutine-style is everything like this national dish. The crave is sudden, unbearable, and can easily be satisfied. Paradoxically, the anticipation and adrenaline of the hunt often outshine the actual consumption (that dreadful moment when you wonder why you wanted it so much but simply can’t stop halfway). Once it’s all over, the uncanny similarity between fast food and one night stands would be comical if the whole exercise didn’t imply such self-loathing. Everything matches: the walk of shame, the feeling of general, sticky greasiness that even showers and virulent scrubbing won’t chase, the questionable oaths never to fall that low again and the high prevalence of relapses.

As poutine and fish and chips are not so far apart in nature, I (rather pompously) assumed I would be in conquered territory when I took that much-dreaded 7.5h flight to London. Oh, silly me: the cultural shock was brutal.

It started out well; let’s face it, British men are absolute eye candy. Dandy, elegant, and this accent… Couldn’t understand a thing, and that’s maybe why I thought they were all so smart. Sadly, that’s the most I could observe; in my 3 months in London, my experiences with men ended up always having this eerie feeling of “déjà vu”. It was Groundhog Day, all over again. Let me explain: on a normal evening out, Brits may look at you. If lucky (or crosseyed), you might also get a smile. But for my part, the only men who would actually talk to me seemed to have gathered the courage to do so in their past 40-something years of life. Only one had the balls to be quite outspoken and forward about his intentions, but to be fair, we had both had our fair share of liquor AND he wasn’t from London.

That’s another curiosity about Englishmen; as cold and proper as they can be when sober, the minute the clock hits 10pm, an odd transformation apparently takes place. Just like Cinderella would be sporting her ragged clothes again at midnight and prepare for a truckload of pumpkin soup, Brits seem to go from uptight city businessmen to prepubescent teens at their first titty show. The personal space between two people radically shortens and a wooed lady could fairly accurately determine the food and alcohol intake of a suitor just by the smell of the lad’s breath in her face, from the morning mini-wheats to his latest, treacherous Pimm’s glass. They also seem to forget quite a lot more than one shoe. Like your phone number. Or your name, altogether. Indeed, I’ve been told that a callback from an Englishmen was as rare a thing as sunny days in the UK.

In 3 months, I have never unveiled the secrets about British dating. Afraid of having lost my game or turned deadbeat ugly overnight (mind you, not that I was a bewitching sex bomb before, in which case I probably wouldn’t be writing this post), I conferred with my English counterparts. To my surprise, London women shared my torments and would speak without taboos of online dating and binge drinking as potential solutions. Maybe I’m just too stupid to overlook the moral issue associated to taking advantage of a lad’s sozzled consciousness/beer goggles to drag him into my bed and too uptight to put myself out on a dating website. Plus, I suspect that taking the latter route would be a massive fail; how am I supposed to “sell” myself when I can’t even market a single item without multiple disclaimers and caveats, due to professional deformation?

“Reasonably nice single lady seeks British man under 40 (negotiable) to share potential relationship of any nature (no guarantees). Handle with care. No tumble drying. May cause headaches and irritations. Please keep out of children and teenagers. No animal testing. For use by trained personnel only. Do not use if you have prostate problems. You could be a winner! No purchase necessary. Details inside.”

… this is hopeless.

Upside: I still have one year to break the English dating code. That, or rely on one of London’s most distinctive trait: its multiculturalism. Luckily for me, this city hosts proud representatives from over 90 countries, and one Londoner in three belongs to a ethnic minority group. Wikipedia says that over 300 languages are spoken within its boundaries; hopefully, one of them is sweet talk.