Niamh Devereux recounts her attempt to bring the 'casual' dates of New York to Ireland.
I have to be honest; about a week after I pitched the idea for this feature, on dating in Dublin like New Yorkers do, I thought, “Oh, shit. What have I signed myself up for?” Originally, I thought the concept would be fun, and with the aid of trusty apps, I didn’t think I’d struggle to line up dates. In the end, it was far from easy, reader. In fact, I would say that I found it to border on the impossible. And ultimately, I failed in my mission. But let me take you back to the beginning.
I’d just returned from my third stay in the Big Apple, which (don’t fight me on this) is undoubtedly the best city in the world – full of adventures that create the best stories to come home with. Case in point: a date that I went on during my holiday, that went from ordering sushi to the poor guy being roasted by a Hollywood actress. To cut a long story short, said guy was my Airbnb host from the year prior (a story in itself, I know). We’d stayed in touch, and he wanted to take me out to dinner and to the theatre while I was back in the city. After a while, it dawned on me that he hadn’t stopped talking from the moment we sat down. I mean… not once. I’m usually the one engaging in verbal diarrhoea, so this was unfamiliar territory for me. Someone else noticed too, as a woman who’d been dining near us tapped him on the shoulder and said, voice dripping in mirth, “Hey, you might want to ask her a question or two?” I look up and it’s AMY BLOODY SCHUMER, causing him to go crimson and me to LOL for the remainder of the date. Only in New York, right?!
The following day, sitting on a rooftop in Manhattan, my friends and I debriefed the night and I noted how I’d never go on dates like that back home; dates that just are what they are, some fun with not necessarily the possibility of a boyfriend at the end of it. And I was told how common these kinds of dates are with Americans, and not just that, but that it would be absolutely, totally normal to go on a date with somebody else the following evening. I believe the term used was ‘optionality’.
One of my friends, who moved from Ireland to NYC a few years ago, enlightened me on the alarmingly different dating culture over there, and how it took her a while to get used to. “It was so alien to us that you’d casually date multiple people at one time,” she admitted.
But it’s the norm here and the majority of people I know are single – they’re in their late 20s/ early 30s and they never really get into serious relationships. It’s more casual flings that last three-four months before they inevitably fizzle and it’s onto someone new. It’s a difficult city to find someone to actually settle down with. Contrast that with home and the majority of my friends are married, engaged or in long term relationships.
She’s not wrong. I’m 27 now and almost every one of my friends is in a serious relationship. The engagements have begun, one by one. It’s a weird time for me to be single, people. I mean, I am comfortable flying solo, don’t get me wrong, but it still feels bloody weird being the only one sans partner in my peer group.
My expat pal continued, “At home in Ireland, nobody even really dates. The majority of the time, it seems if you meet a guy, you were both drunk, kissed and that turns into casual texting until some night when you meet out drunk again. Here, it’s not like that. A guy will come up in a bar and ask to buy you a drink, he might approach you in a coffee shop for your number. American men are more forward. They take you out to dinner and drinks, and 99% of the time they’ll pay for that. It’s just the way it is here and you adapt to it over time!”
This all left me with a lot of food for thought. And once I was back in Dublin, I decided, ‘screw it’ I was going to grow massive lady balls and give the whole American dating thing a crack on Irish soil. Or at least, try to. My first burst of courage was in a pub, watching a rugby game, and a few beers in I told my male friend that I was just going to go up to someone and get chatting; scope out if there could be a potential date. “He’ll think you’re mad,” he slagged me. “That just doesn’t happen here!” I rolled my eyes at him, but couldn’t help but notice that the vast majority of men there were sitting in tight clusters of testosterone-filled bants sessions, and decided with a sigh… Tinder it is.
But I had forgotten what a dark, dark place it is. Once, years ago, a match DM’d me with a link which directed me to a gallery of his dick pics (multiple angles, lighting, etc) so I was only delighted to be back. After swiping left through profiles of married men and multiple duck face selfies, I matched with someone, got chatting and a date was set up. “FINALLY,” I thought.
However, two things then happened. 1) I realised I had kissed him back in college. Like, really?! Only in Ireland. And 2) He cancelled the date with a useless excuse hours beforehand. Undeterred, back to swiping I went. But I hit a dry patch.
I tried the whole ‘approach someone in real life’ thing, but I just wasn’t feeling it with anyone I spotted or got chatting with. And I’m not incredibly fussy FYI; I just can’t force these things. Then, miraculously, I got chatting with someone handsome and sound on Tinder – a miracle – and we arranged to meet for drinks. An actual date, and he actually turned up. at really sounds like I’m setting the bar high, doesn’t it?! Anyway, because of my newfound mindset, I found myself totally relaxed during the evening; no expectations meant I could just enjoy myself. And I did. I actually formed a real connection – again, a borderline miracle.
Of course, I had to take it too far and stayed out with him ’til 2am, leaving my phone behind in the taxi in a drunken haze, but like a modern-day Cinderella story (swap the glass slipper for Facebook), he tracked me down and asked me on a second date. I knew for the benefit of this piece that I had to set up another date in the meantime, but, having met someone very lovely who seemed into me, I began to struggle with the concept.
Despite this battle with my conscience, I persevered and ended up meeting another guy for a late night cocktail. Paired with a serving of regret – as soon as I met him, I realised he thought the whole thing was a booty call. G’luck, says I. And so, guy #3 was quickly erased from my memory and instead I looked forward to the second date with the really nice guy I’d met.
In that moment, I realised that, to be frank, I’m utterly crap at dating like the Americans do. And maybe that’s OK. Although my Irish/New York friend says the benefit of their dating culture is that people don’t settle as easily, she does admit that the casual nature means that it is hard to build a meaningful relationship. While I refuse to settle, and I’m all about having as many fun experiences with as many people as possible in life, I’m not really interested in anything without substance, if I’m totally honest.