Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Location – The cozy neighborhood coffee shop where Ei and I do most of our work and play. It’s busy today, with lots of customers, loud music, and many delicious drinks.
Time – 5 pm. The day is unwinding, along with everyone’s schedules and inhibitions. At least they should be.
Scene – At the end of a long common table, Ei and I sit with cups of iced coffee. Blond American curls bouncing, we laugh loudly about something (most likely related to sweet potatoes).
Two strapping young men enter from the side door. They’re laughing, too. They walk in to meet two equally happy American females. The laughs stop, but not the smiles.
“Hey Ei.” “Hey Chels.” “Hey guys.”
The four of us know each other well. We have many neighborhood friends in common. We often run into each other, chat in the café, and shoot invisible sparks back and forth.
“How’s it goin’?” “Good.”
The two open seats beside Ei and I are practically screaming. But, in reality, the only audible sound is the music behind us. There’s a pause in conversation.
It gets tense.
“Man, I need a coffee.” “Me too.”
In a flash, the men disappear.
Ei looks at me. Her jaw has dropped a bit. I look at Ei. I don’t see any food on her face. No moles or missing teeth. What’s the deal? I would stand in line for a chance to go out with Ei – you know, if I were into that kind of thing.
Is it me?
The men get their coffee. They’re heading back. Oh ok, maybe they just needed caffeine. Maybe now they’ll make their move! But just as they approach the back of Ei’s chair, a woman with a stroller blocks their way. The men squeeze past on the other side without even a goodbye wave.
Toronto. How, where, when, and why do people date here? The dramatization above comes from a plethora of nonsensical love stories. (Man shows interest in girl one minute, repulsion the next. Woman turns down perfectly good, reliable partner, for complicated head-case. Man plans a date and stands up woman. Woman perpetually dates the same bad ex. Man and woman are in love with each other, but for some reason neither ever makes a move.)
Now, down South, a gentleman courts a lady – asks her out, pays for dinner, and voices his intentions. So the theory goes. But even in the states this standard is changing. Toronto’s nondescript, elusive dating scene is almost exactly what I experienced in New York City. Maybe all progressive cities are turning into Complicated Love Towns. In this progressive northern nation, is this what two single American women are destined to face? Complicated Love?!
Liberalism and gender equality have evolved hand in hand. Women are no longer expected to be meek figurines. And as their power grows exponentially, tolerance for chauvinism shrinks. Men as a whole have adjusted to seeing strong women - everywhere. Has this made their role change? Have men turned more passive – less assertive? Maybe not professionally – but what about personally? What about when it comes to relationships and dating?
There are many influences that keep our North American societies evolving. From a macro-view, Canada is pioneering forward-thinking policies the U.S. could really learn from. Progress away from archaic customs seems downright healthy.
Here’s the catch.
As much as our countries are evolving (progressing), we’re still raised on Disney movies with strong princes and damsels in distress. Fashion magazines still idolize “classic femininity” (small waist, big eyes, quiet mouth). Let's assume a woman’s attractiveness is based on classic ideals, and that she feels more comfortable being pursued, traditionally, than doing the hunting. If men are growing more passive next to their assertive sisters, how does anyone get together anymore? Will our generation just turn lonely – bitter – sarcastic? Anybody – any ideas? (Eileen - where'd you put our horoscopes for today?!)
Here’s my two cents (cents I should probably save for myself...). If all gender stereotypes fall away, true connections will hold strong. They might even seem clearer. There are people you click with and people you don’t. Man or woman – if you connect with someone (and I do believe meaningful connections are rare), jump on them. If it’s a real connection it will last. If it’s a battle, you probably won’t win. Life’s too short. Don’t give people who snuff you free reign. Don’t let the people who spark you get away.