Of Pandas and Pigeons, or How to Bag a Brit

It’s that time again: time for me to quit whining about my love life and let someone else take center stage while I continue fretting over what exactly to wear to Date #7’s brother’s wedding on Saturday and how to do my hair…  

I am particularly excited about today’s guest post, not only because it addresses one of my favorite subjects (the seduction of British men) but because it’s written by a dear friend of mine who also happens to be funniest person I know. 


Good Morning America.  My name is Siobhan – don’t worry about how you say it.  Since many of you are unlikely ever to meet me, let us start by saying that I am 5’11, slim, tanned and toned, with long blonde hair and bewitching blue/green eyes.  (I see no need to tell you that I am a purebreed Celt, of distinctly average height, freckly and pale, with an aversion to physical exercise and a love of cheese.)

I first met Kat during her (first) long trip to England, when we rowed on the same team, which sounds like a euphemism, but isn’t.  Kat was athletic, enthusiastic and always striving to improve her stroke.  I was grumpy, revolted by our 6:30am training sessions, and mainly keen to spot the male talent on the river.  In many ways we embodied the differences between American and British attitudes from the get-go.

Christ Church Regatta

Despite our apparent differences, like in all the best buddy movies we struck up a friendship which was miraculously renewed when Kat turned up some two and a half years later at a church weekend away in Bristol, having returned to the UK to study for her masters.

To complete the scene-setting, Kat and I are similar in many ways: we like reading and actually started up a book club together, which failed mainly because we wanted to talk about men of the non-fictional variety.  We share a sense of humour, and enjoy very little more than a good chat fuelled by good food and a drop or two of fine wine, or whatever is on half-price in Tesco’s (insert name of generic American grocery store here).

However, where men and the art of entrapment are concerned, it appears from Kat’s blog that we are worlds apart.  While Kat is a fan, I believe, of many things British (the Royal Family, Austen novels and afternoon tea included), she has utterly eschewed our approach to pairing up, which given what you are about to read, shows extreme foresight.

I feel, however, that it is incumbent upon me to bring Kat’s American readership up to date on the sophisticated manner in which their British cousins conduct their elaborate courtship dances.

I had always heard about American-style dating as somehow different from our chaotic and often hilarious attempts to find love, and Kat’s blog has confirmed this.  To compare my own (somewhat limited) experiences of British-dating to American-dating, the only appropriate analogy is that of the shambolic, piss-poor mating attempts of Pandas, compared with the lean efficiency of Pigeons (who, if entirely unfounded rumour is to be believed, which it is, can have sex up to 40 times a day).

It’s not that I would imagine that Americans have more sex than Brits— in fact I suspect you might be every bit as hung up about it as us, albeit in different ways— it’s just the whole art of getting to the point (be that point hooking up, getting married or simply having a quick snog behind the bus shelter) is conducted in an altogether more efficient manner.

For example, Pigeon-style (ie. American) dating involves an appraisal of whether the person is suitable husband/wife/parent/partner material from the start. Pandas (ie. us Brits) prefer to procrastinate over the consideration of this sort of question until, say, the night before the wedding, the birth of the first child or the 20th wedding anniversary.

Pigeons have an efficient “vetting” system, whereby after a few proper dates one can bloodlessly and painlessly let the other party know that the liaison will not be continuing, whereas Pandas probably won’t have realised what they’re getting themselves into until their fellow-panda has moved in and the electricity account is in both of your names so really, what’s the point of ending it now?

I’m sure there are exceptions to these caricatures and stereotypes, but really… where’s the fun in that?

So, getting back to the Pandas and the Pigeons.  I will now attempt to take you through a hugely simplified (but not entirely unrepresentative) summary of a British/Panda couple’s “lifecycle.”

Step 1:  The burgeoning attraction.  One day, due to an excessive consumption of alcohol, trick of the light or oncoming fever, you begin to see someone in your group of friends (or a friend of a friend, or a brother/sister of a friend) in a more positive light.  Their previously lacklustre/greasy/spotty appearance now inspires interest and flutters in the nether-regions, their every approach sends you into spasm, and when they’re not around you spend time wondering whether your children would be graceful and accomplished like yourself, or short-sighted and hairy like himself.  (I’m contextualising this somewhat).

Step 2:  The reaction.  Unlike a smooth-talking Pigeon, who might ask for a phone number or suggest meeting for a coffee, you react in an almost incomprehensible way.  It’s like the onset of some sort of dementia: at times you are engaging, witty, flirtatious (coming out with such gems as “You’ve got a lovely bum” or “I’d like to see you in a French maid’s outfit”), while at other times you are willfully odd (telling unhumourous stories, telling your friends how much you DON’T fancy so-and-so, and sometimes being plain rude).  Basically, it’s as though you’re trying to baffle your Panda opponent into submission.

Step 3:  The pub.  One night, you and he, or you and he and some friends, might casually go to the pub. This is not a date, nor will it be referred to as such. On the way home, one of you will have drunk too much, will lean a beer-sodden shoulder against the other, and will say, in tones so poetic Austen herself would turn green with envy: “You’re so niice, ssoo lovvely…and your bumm…s’nice.”  There is a moment where you could look up, stare fate in the eye, and back away mumbling something about watching the X Factor on telly or getting a kebab, but you don’t, and like the inevitable but laborious collision of children and hard surfaces, your lips meet.

Step 4:  The in-between bit.  You’ve done snogging, you might even have woken up together a couple of times.  You might abort the mission at that point, or you might start going on strange non-dates: a walk in the park, a trip to the cinema to see a strictly not-romantic film, etc.  At no point will you discuss your life goals, career progression or attitude towards children.  You’re in no-man’s-land.  Someday, one of you will have to introduce the other to a third party— a flatmate, a friend, or worst of all, a relative. With a look of surprise as you utter the fateful words, a faint hint of a question-mark at the end of the statement, and a distinct avoidance of your partner’s eyes, you say, “This is X, my…boyfriend.”  The deal is sealed.

Note: (Kat here again) For those of your unfamiliar with the intricacies of cross-cultural dating, Siobhan’s Pandas vs. Pigeons theory may seem like a load of crap.  I mean “bollocks.”  But what Siobhan neglected to mention is that she’ll be marrying her Panda this summer.  Which reminds me: I’ll need a date for that wedding too… I guess I’d better hit the pub.

Thanks, Shiv! xoxo

7 Responses to “Of Pandas and Pigeons, or How to Bag a Brit”

  1. Lost in France

    Well I have learned something new about pigeons.
    Perhaps I need to visit America soon!!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

%d bloggers like this: