Assimilation is a hot topic these days. Whether it’s Tony Blair talking about the integration of Muslim immigrants in Britain (or the lack thereof, as he argues) or the xenophobic cheese steak connoisseurs of South Philadelphia demanding that their customers speak English and only English, there’s a lot of resentment towards immigrants who don’t toe the line.
What exactly does this have to do with dating?
A lot actually.
I know I promised to write something vaguely political once a week and I will, once I get around to actually reading more than just the headlines on my homepage (which is set to the BBC, and no, these posts will not include hyperlinks to the Wall Street Journal and Fox News as today’s does). In the meantime, I’d like to offer a few thoughts on the subject of cultural assimilation as it relates to dating.
Last Monday, less than 24 hours after my date with the Bovary Reading Bachelor at Fork, I meet He-who-is-not-taller-than-me-in-heels for a lunch date in Rittenhouse Square. For convenience sake, I shall refer to him henceforth as Date #22 (I was up to 17 when my Match.com subscription ran out back in November, then there were the three ill-fated PSMs from eHarmony and finally the hopeless romantic of Gerber daisies fame).
I wasn’t sure what to think of Date #22: he messaged me directly through eHarmony rather than insisting we complete the whole “guided communication process” (which, to be frank, is total crap) so I found him refreshing— at first. But then there was the whole “I don’t have a car” thing, which, when combined with the whole “I’ve never been to South Philly” thing also struck me as total crap.
Ordinarily, I’d have written a man off for refusing to venture beyond Center City for a first date but this is 2011. I’m just as capable as getting to Rittenhouse as he is to South Philly and considering that Date #22 is originally from Norway and still relatively new to Philadelphia, I figured I’d cut him some slack.
(Evidently I have thing for Norwegian men.)
So I agreed to meet him for lunch on his turf— Rittenhouse— and when the waiter brought us the check, I pulled out my wallet. Having been to Norway (and having had numerous conversations about Scandinavian gender politics with both last Friday’s Single Male Friend and an old classmate of mine from Denmark), I was prepared to pay for my share of the meal.
Nonetheless, since I began my Great Date Experiment back in August, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve paid for anything on a first date: a few cups of coffee, a tip on occasion, a drink or two if it’s one of the marathon multi-part dates… but for the most part I’m always told to put my wallet away.
I suspected, however, that this wouldn’t be this case with Date #22, and sure enough he did not tell me to put my wallet away.
I didn’t have any cash on me so we had to go through the whole embarrassing rigmarole of asking for separate checks which, according to eHarmony, is an absolute no-no for a first date. How classy.
Ordinarily, I’d have been infuriated by this sort of thing and would have taken it as a sign of disinterest on the part of Date #22. But here’s where my training as an anthropologist—and my bevy of Scandinavian friends—comes in handy.
Later that evening, I went online to consult last Friday’s Single Male Friend on the matter. “He didn’t pay,” I reported. “But that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s not into me, does it?”
“Of course not,” Ove replied. “In Norway, most girls pay for themselves because they feel that if the man pays, they owe him something.”
(Something other than the pleasure of their company, presumably.)
Ove went on to explain the bars he frequents are full of “silicone blonds” begging men to buy them drinks and as such, “There is nothing sexier than a girl who buys you a drink.”
I filed this bit of information away for future use and decided to take the “wait and see” approach (which in my case amounts to “wait and see while cruising Match for alternatives.”)
Sure enough, I received a text from Date #22 less than 24 hours later telling me he’d enjoyed meeting me and wanted to see me again.
So Ove was right. Now I just have to decide how much Norwegian-ness I’m going to put up with. And seeing as I can’t stand those “Welcome to America, now speak English!” t-shirts (especially because, contrary to popular belief, America has no official language), I can’t exactly say “Welcome to America, now pay for my dinner!”
So my question is this: where you draw the line between cultural sensitivity and letting a guy off the hook for what most Americans would consider an egregious error against first date decorum?