American vs British: Men

American vs. British Men

As someone whose now dated both species for an equal number of years (horrific if I actual stop and think about it), I think I’m fairly qualified to evaluate both sides of this cultural equation. And as I stand facing yet another date, this time with a Brit, I’ve had to take stock and try to remind myself of the differences in order to avoid an excruciating faux pas.

Growing up in the UK, the male species were pale, came in two varieties (doughy or wirey), tended to swear a lot and didn’t really seem to treat women that much different from other men.
Women might be ‘spotted’ a drink, but no woman got her drinks consistently paid for unless her boyfriend was doing the paying, and generally this behavior was accompanied by jeers and ‘whiplash’ sounds. Women were treated as equals to men, from school and college, to work and yes, even at the bar. Sounds romantic? Not so much. 
But on the plus side, British men have no compunction about their level of attractiveness, positively revel in the knowledge that women are the stronger sex, and the term ‘commitment phobe’ didn’t seem to arrive until the advent of ‘Friends’.  If a man liked you, well that was that. No discussion about ‘exclusivity’ or the term ‘boyfriend’. No games. None. Or maybe I just dated a lot of simple guys?

Thinking back is was almost weird how similar the men and women actually seemed. Either sex could have long or short hair, either sex earned more, either sex could wear the trousers (figuratively and literally), and I don’t ever recall there being a big difference in who ‘made the moves’. It all seemed fair game. The roles weren’t that predefined and, like Canadians, the men just seemed pleased you were interested at all and not embarrassed to show that appreciation. I don’t recall any of them choking at the word ‘relationship’ either. Plus Brits are funny..they enjoy women as friends and people seemed to still go out in groups, even after they’d partnered up. Marriage or dating didn’t mean hermit-ville.

Moving to the US I was at a loss. Men treated women like a different species… that species being princess/ the devil… and the women actually seemed to like that men worshiped them or were terrified of them. What I found excruciating weird, American women seemed to take for granted. Pulling out chairs, opening doors, grabbing for the check, rushing to help you lift heavy things.. it was like being transported back to Mad Men days.
It was wonderful even though it made me really uncomfortable.
I never thought I needed those things doing for me, but hey, if it was on offer… who was I to say no?  And what men on offer! They came in every flavor but each one seemed blessed with big arms and muscles, height and ..um… girth. Unfettered, ..girth. I don’t think I actually clapped my hands with glee but I sure looked happy the first time I saw an American man naked. American men are very very manly.  I guess thats why Yanks consider themselves #1….and it has nothing to do with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates.

On the downside, Mr. America was used to being the ‘man’ in all things and perceived any breaking of those roles as signs of desperation or mental illness. And God help you if you mentioned the word ‘relationship’. Men did the asking, the doing and the deciding. Women had to sit around waiting for them to make up their minds and call. Or, going wild pretending not to care. I know, mass generalization but I literally didn’t meet any women who broke that mold for a long time…and that’s a lot of women telling me not to call him, not to ask him out, not to reach for the check and god help me, not to try and drive anything. All things which are completely normal outside of the US.

I thought I could buck the trend, after all I had a killer accent and I’m not horrific to look at… but the men ran as soon as I made a joke, reached for the check or asked them out. Within months I found myself submitting to the ‘rules’ because the alternative was to become a social pariah. In return for playing at submission, the men didn’t look so nervous and I have to admit, I learned to temper my personality until I knew they had the backbone to take it. No wonder all my ‘relationship/date/whatevers’ ended at 3 months. I could only hide myself for so long. And it would take many many American years before those British edges were smoothed over. In America, men liked women to be women, and men to be deaf to anything resembling a relationship. When did they all become so nervous about partnering up?

But I’ve learnt not to mention the ‘C’ word, the ‘R’ word or suggest that maybe we might make a good pair (talkin’ to you BC). Keen men make me nervous (talkin’ to you Dr. Potato) and those behaviors I took for granted back in the day, now seem fairly uncouth. I kind of like having the door opened for me.

So at the tender age of 40-something I wonder whether I’m still equipped to date a Brit. They seem so terribly terribly strange. I wonder if this one drinks Earl Grey with his pinkie in the air and considers a ‘Sunday drive’ an afternoon activity, or whether he spends his weekends in the pub downing pints while watching ‘footie’ and longing for home. Plus of course there’s the whole ‘equipment’ thing.
I haven’t seen one of those in a long long time and I don’t think I was that enamored when it was the only thing on the menu back in the 90’s. Ah well.. at least this first date I won’t be worrying about whether he gets my sense of humor or considers me uncouth. I’ll be too focused on praying he’s Jewish. 

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