I went on a date the other day. My date was engaging, excitable, asked me a lot of great questions and offered a lot of detail about himself. He shared his food with me. We totally hit it off. During rare moments of silence I would get distracted by the table across from us. It was occupied by a couple clearly on their first date. The woman was lovely -- with tight brown curls and heart-shaped face, a sweet smile. The man was Brad Pitt. I don't know why Angelina Jolie let him go on a date but there he was, on a date with the lovely woman.
I couldn't see him as his back was to me but I it had to be Brad Pitt because I don't know what else could've explain the way the date seem to be going -- with the man treating the entire corner of the restaurant where we were to booming-voice stories about everything: from his allergies to Gluten, to his roommate who traveled to Mexico and got a sunburn, to why he prefers a laptop to a desktop. I watched his date smile and nod, and once heard her offer a squeak of information: She tried to talk about her long commute to work -- but that was quickly hijacked by Brad Pitt's enthusiastic tale about the time he interned at a place that took two buses to get to.
Eventually my own meal was done and I paid the bill and hoisted my date -- my three-year-old - on my hip and left the restaurant. Because I'm so nosy, I walked by the window to take a look at the man and confirm that indeed it was Brad Pitt. It wasn't. Yes, it's shallow to think that perhaps the man's looks could've made up for his behaviour but I couldn't think of why else the woman would just sit there and beam at him wordlessly. (I have a very attractive, unemployed, crazy ex and women keep getting engaged to him all the time, so.)
What happened at that restaurant is, I think, a perfect illustration of what it's like to date now. The men are no longer the pursuers; they are pursued. They are coddled, feted, loved for just being men essentially. As a friend once said, "All you need to get laid in this city is to be a man." Things like hygiene, lack of fungus or active addiction, employment, roommate-free apartment and milk crates-as-chairs are totally optional.
I remember my friend B. telling a story about a guy she thought she was dating. B. is six-feet tall, a model type. The guy was cute, almost nice, and she was happy to have finally found someone steady. One evening he called her and invited her to the opera. The only catch was, he said, that the performance was starting in a few hours. My friend B. started getting ready, happy to go on such fun date. Then it occurred to her that the timing was strange: Was she perhaps a backup for someone who couldn't make it? She phoned the guy and asked how he managed to score the tickets so quickly. He unabashedly told her exactly what she suspected: a female "friend" cancelled. He added, "But I always wanted to take you to the opera!" And the thing is B. hung up and continued getting ready. She came to her senses last-minute and stayed home, but she still wondered if she had made a mistake. That man, after all, was a man who was mildly interested in dating her.
I write a relationship column for a men's magazine. In it, I often give humorous advice to men on how to meet, date, love and understand women. I write it with the assumption that men really want to know how to, well... romance women and be in successful relationships. But the truth is, I know that men don't really need to try very hard at all. I'm subtle with my advice or if not I soften it with jokes so that my sensitive male readers won't get too upset and call me a bitch. I am also often slightly apologetic about giving suggestions like: you've got to buy her flowers, or it's a nice idea to get her some chocolates and tampons if her period is stressing both of you out to show that you care. Oh, right, the time I suggested getting a woman some tampons there was a comment from a reader: "Please. Typical... Buy me this buy me that. I have a better idea, take that $20 and go buy myself some fishing stuff and go fishing."
I wish this was as simple as the dilemma of buying things in order to make the intentions clear. Money is a complicated issue when it comes to modern relationships and although it's sometimes easier to show that you're interested with a bouquet of flowers, a lot of awesome women nowadays would be happy with a flirtatious guy who could remember her name when texting. We don't expect too much, really. And if we expect some special things (like, let's say, knowing how to spell), we're called "picky." Also, "single."
I was raised by a woman with outdated, old-fashion values. She taught me some old-fashioned tricks: never call a guy first, act like you're the cat's pajamas (or rather, the cat's Lejaby lingerie), own your femininity and never apologize for it. After moving to North America and living in the modern world of dating for a while, I updated some of those values, lost some self-esteem and learned to apologize more. Still, my current partner referred to our dating as "Victorian courting" (meaning I didn't put out on the first date, perhaps?). Recently, we talked about that time and he said that Poland is simply more conservative (it is) and the European dating advice wouldn't ever fly here -- if it did, we'd have bars filled with lonely women and confused men.
As for actual relationships, I could list all the beautiful, smart, interesting women I know, and talk about what they put up with. How about a little sample? Guys not paying rent, guys not washing, guys cheating, guys not working and guys whining about how they're still not sure about kids or getting married after years of dating. Not necessarily bad guys, but guys who put half -- if not less -- the effort into the relationship that those women do. The thing is, these women love them. And they'd rather put up with these adorable little quirks than risk being thrown into a dating world filled with guys hijacking conversations with their tales of laptop preference.
Then there are women who settle, and end up marrying the guy who does put in the effort and wants the same things but who's perhaps slightly less lovable than the stinky unemployed brute who won't put a ring on it. Good for them; they can now go through the rest of their lives feeling like they dodged the bullet of singledoom (doom not "dom" since this is still a world of couples). There are, of course, some relationships too where by some magical interference two people fall in love, are decent to each other and live happily ever after... and the guy even buys her flowers once in a while "just because" -- that's me and I know I'm lucky.
And speaking of luck, I'm not single now, but if I ever were, I know it'd be tough luck for me. There I would be, sitting in my Rapunzel tower, waiting endlessly for my prince on a white horse to come and get me. But the hill would remain empty for months, years. Eventually, on the horizon, I'd see a beer-gut of a toothless dude on a donkey who'd grunt at me: "Coming down or what?" and I'd slide gently on my own hair, hoping that it wouldn't wrap into a noose around my own neck.