Lessons From The New York Dating Scene
Recently, I went on a trip to New York. Here’s what I learned about New York:
1) New Yorkers love rules. Don’t try clothes on without going into a changing room, don’t take photos where you’re not allowed to take photos. Don’t pick up puppies in the puppy store. They love rules and you shouldn’t break the rules.
2) If you do break the rules and get caught, you absolutely should not try and get out of trouble in a jokey, winky-nudgey, how’s-about-you-and-I-settle-this-over-a-drink-officer-y way. They won’t like it.
3) No one has a washing machine.
4) You have to tip taxi drivers at least 10 per cent for no other reason than that they’ve just driven you to your destination.
5) There is food everywhere, at all times. And it’s always good.
6) People are relaxed on public transport and everyone gets away with blue murder. If people hogged seats on the London Underground like they did on the subway, it would be recorded by someone on their iPhone and become a national incident in time for the six o’clock news.
7) All the women are thin. Not London waify girl in a fedora hat surviving on Diet Coke and Camel Blues thin. Shakira thin. They have abs and biceps and they dress like they are constantly on their way to/have just left a Body Pump class.
8) Most news anchors are gibbering morons.
9) There are big, beautiful dogs everywhere.
10) People want you to succeed and congratulate you when you do. Even if it’s just for having the correct change.
11) Waffles are excellent and shouldn’t be eaten as a treat. A plate of waffles, covered in butter and maple syrup – that? That’s just a meal.
12) Everyone asks each other out on dates and they don’t find it embarrassing.
In New York, people seem to date in the sort of recreational way we go to the pub after work. They do it often, with lots of different people, often during the same week. I got asked out on more dates in one week in New York than I have in my entire life in England. And they meant it! They weren’t saying it because they’d had four beers and they fancied a shag and I was the last bird standing in the bar. Imagine! I was approached by sober men, in broad daylight, because they wanted to have a coffee and get to know me. Like it was no bloody big deal at all. And it’s happening to everyone there. Every day. That’s just New York.
Dating in England, however, is a big deal. Asking someone out on a date is a big, embarrassing deal. It’s probably why so many people do it through a third party (Guardian Soulmates) and really, I don’t blame them. The only English people I know who date as prolifically as American people I know are signed up to a dating website. I have been single in London for a year and I have been on two dates. I asked the guy out on the first one (it was terrible) and I didn’t even realise the second one was a date (it was terrible).
I don’t think it’s the actual date that we find so uncomfortable, I think it’s the process of getting there. Approaching someone and asking, picking the location, speaking to them prior – it makes all of us feel exposed and awkward. Because of this, we have developed a bit of a back-to-front dating system to break the back of the tension before we’ve even started. So you get drunk with someone and get off with them before you dare follow it up with a night at the cinema.
Here’s what dating isn’t: dating isn’t having breakfast with someone the morning after you’ve slept with them. And I don’t think it’s inviting an ex round for a drink on a particularly lonely weekend. It’s not snogging someone in your office and following it up with three months of suggestive yet jovial emails and it’s not a series of shags that only happen at weekends between the hours of 12 and 5am with a person you sort of fancy but don’t really want to go out with. Dating is identifying someone you like. It’s approaching them, suggesting you spend some time together and actually doing it. It’s going for a coffee or a drink or dinner. Then deciding at the end of it whether you’d like to do more of it.
And I’m going to start doing it. I’m going to start asking men out on dates. And you should ask us out on dates. We will like it, honestly. It will be such a nice surprise, we’ll probably say yes even if we don’t really fancy you. And, actually, what if she says no? The worst she can say is that she’s got a boyfriend or you’re not her type. Who cares? It’s really not that personal. There will always be at least three other mad people in that very bar who would say you are their type.
So it doesn’t matter. Ask her out for a coffee or a drink. No one will die, I promise. They’re doing it all the time over in New York and they’re all doing OK.
The waffles, however. Pace yourself on those.