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I mentioned in Part I that I had much to learn about the English intricacies of dating because it’s just that: intricate. I’ll explain by contrasting it with the American rituals–a seeming polar opposite. In the States, any outsider can determine whether girl and boy like each other:
Scenario A…Boy flirts with girl. Girl flirts back. Boy asks girl out. (Or reverse boy and girl role.)
Scenario B…Boy flirts with girl. Girl does not flirt back. Boy moves on (hopefully). (Also can reverse gender role here.)
As a cultural outsider I could not determine who was interested in whom among my British friends because I depended on my cavewoman instincts. Instincts that told me not much flirting or exchanging of phone numbers was going on, so nothing juicy was happening. I was wrong, as usual. Leave it to the English to be masters of subtlety even in the most basic of boy meets girl scenarios.
For example, I knew a guy and girl, both English, in Oxford with whom I spent a fair amount of time, in large groups and small. They never flirted, they hardly ever spoke to each other or looked at one another. I heard recently that they have now been in a serious relationship for months. I did not see this coming. The cavewoman is scratching her head of matted hair, grunting, “But, but you never acted like you like liked (a phrase explained in Part I) each other!”
And I think that is key. Nothing hinges upon what the eye can see when an English relationship begins but instead on what an American eye such as mine can not see: like like vibes under an invisibility cloak.
Subtlety as well as slowness are the most major differences I witnessed. Girls often complained that if you wanted to go out with a guy, you had to take initiative because they were so slow to do so. “American forwardness” was unheard of here and girls often took the first steps toward dating. Either that or two friends could go years like liking each other but never do a thing about it. While cavemen can be forward, at least they take action. I suppose British sophistication can slow the process. But what weight does my paleolithic understanding have?
Watching one full season of The Bachelor and baking chocolate chip cookies at least once…30 June 2010