I had a poignant email from a reader who just wants to go on a date. She doesn't want a marriage proposal (from a relative stranger, anyway) or a declaration of love. She just wants to go on a "I'll pick you up at seven" dinner date. And I sooo understand this. And I know what she's thinking. She's thinking she'll get all gussied up, and a handsome man will ring the doorbell. She will appear, and his eyes will widen, and he'll say, "Hey! You look great!" And then he'll whisk her off to supper in his vehicle and open the door for her when she gets out and open the restaurant door and help her with her coat and pull out her chair, if the waiter doesn't get to it first. He'll order a bottle of wine, and then they'll have such an interesting chat, the waiter will start hovering so he can finally take their order. Et cetera. Et cetera.
That sounds very nice, but the fact is that this is no longer the societal norm. To get that level of male attention and care, you usually have to be in a romantic relationship with the guy already, or maybe in France. (I prefer to believe that France is still this legendary place of deeply attentive, if utterly unfaithful, woman-loving men.) I advised my reader to ask around and find a really nice hairdresser. If you want to feel taken care of, but you are not actually ill, to the beauty industry you go! Very nice men with no designs whatsoever on your purity will make you feel like a million pounds/dollars.
I still remember getting a massage at an Aveda salon in Toronto; I was expecting a lady named Ashley. My masseur was a handsome, muscled man named Slavko. How can this be legal, I wondered. Oh well. La, la, la! (Slavko, I am quick to mention was a complete professional, and it was all very registered, as in RMT.)
Speaking of hairdressers, it is my habit always to get my hair ironed out before I go to Poland. I look foreign as it is; I cannot imagine what sort of impression I would make if I appeared before my retreatants/publishers/journalists with my hair in its natural state. And I love hairdressers and beauticians in Edinburgh because they are natural students of human nature, having heard more than your average priest. So yesterday, when two young ladies, one slim and one curvy, were ironing my hair--one girl on each side of my head--I asked them if the date stil existed.
"I've never been on a date," said the curvy one.
"Nobody goes on dates," said the slim one.
"How do people have relationships, then?" I asked.
"We just go to clubs and meet people," said the slim one cheerfully.
The curvy one shot her a quizzical look.
"Well, you do," she said.
Between them they had two approaches. The slim one goes to clubs and bars and, naturally vivacious, has conversations with anyone and everyone. The curvy one has never had a relationship with someone she didn't know from school. She and her friends go out together, and she ends up in "relationships" with male friends.
They both thought the idea of internet dating was scary. The idea of meeting a complete stranger they met online alarmed them, although the slim one chats with complete strangers all the time.
"How can you tell which ones are nice and which ones are jerks?" I asked her.
"I can just tell," she said. Then she elaborated, "From the way they act."
Women do not come to the salon to get their hair done because they are going on a date. That doesn't happen. Women come to the salon to get their roots done, or to keep their cuts fresh, or, more rarely, to get an up-do for a wedding or some other glamorous event.
It would seem that, to these young Edinburghers anyway, there is no formal structure to romance and courtship. It happens naturally within the course of their friendships--either going with friends to clubs and bars, or just being with people at school, or hanging around with friends.
Thus, if you've never been asked out on a date, it may be because dating--except between complete strangers who meet online (and maybe in France and the American South)--is going the way of the dinosaurs. Not only is it not something the urban young seem to do these days (and my hairdressers aren't the sum total of my research, incidentally), it speaks to the changing roles of men and women.
First of all, women have the same work opportunities as men, if not better, and we certainly get paid the same amount for the same work. Thus, many men don't see why they should pay all that money on a date. (If they are already in love with the girl, they will, but if this is more of a "job interview"-style date, then they don't get it.) Personally I think that women spend so much more on their appearance that it actually evens things up when the man pays, but a man might not see it that way.
Second, many men are paranoid about being seen as breadwinners. Possibly I should stop thinking about the manosphere (or Taki magazine--not for the sensitive!), but many young American men seem to be terrified that all women want is their money, and if we get their hooks into their paychecks via marriage, we will divorce them, take them to the cleaners, get their paychecks garnishéed, and no other woman will want them, etc.
Third, many men don't know how to date. If their friends date, then they date. If their friends don't date, they don't date. They don't read books about dating. There are no dates in the Hornblower series. Is there dating in Star Trek? No. And look at Han Solo and Princess Leia. No dating.
Thus it does not surprise me that instead of asking women out on dates, men hover around making Han Solo-like jibes and never get on with it, instead stammering things like "Hey, if you and Luke... I don't want to get in the way." They may actually blurt out how they feel before they're encased in carbonite, but actually, Han Solo didn't, did he? I belong to a generation of men who grew up thinking Han Solo was the ultimate guy, and probably so do you.
And that's it from me for a week. If you want to hear my words of wisdom, come to Krakow for the Redemptorists' Majówka retreat for women. My lectures will be in English, simultaneously translated into Polish, and Polish girls will be happy to translate other stuff for you because Polish girls are very kind, actually.
The contrast between kindly, sympathetic young Polish women and Polish-men-in-general is very striking. Polish girls are like gazelles, and Polish men are like bears. No wonder that Wojtek the Bear was accepted as a soldier in the Free Polish army. Other than the fact that he eats the cigarettes rather than smokes them, he seems very Polish in the Scottish play about him. I can't remember if Wojtek went to Mass, but he probably did. I used to make exceptions to this rule, but then I discovered that even really sweet, mild-mannered Polish priests have bear-like wills.
Hmm. Maybe I should not make such personal remarks about Polish men just before I go to Poland, eh? Otherwise, I may be in for some growling and roaring tomorrow.
But if you don't come to Krakow, I will be posting again on May 7. Until then, have a happy Easter season!