A Sheltered Life?

A Chaperone
Hey, no holding hands so soon, I'm watching you two!

(That’s not me BTW, he’s much better looking :)

I’ve discovered that, whilst living in London, there is a general perception that we are about ten years behind what goes on in the States in lots of ways; science, media, culture and attitudes to dating and these attitudes are something that we will eventually catch up with here but it’s a moving target. However, in Norn Iron aka Northern Beirut, there was also a general perception that we too are about ten years behind (or more) what goes on in England and consequently about a generation behind attitudes in the States. I never quite realised this when I started dating in London and it’s had a knock on effect on my dating life.

We tend to be a bit ‘slow’ at home, not like we don’t have the same urges to reproduce like nearly every other bloke on the planet but we are just a bit slower on the uptake. There are some valid reasons for this, birth control was harder to come by and slower to come into general use, especially if you happened to be very religious as the Catholic church strongly disapproves of all forms of birth control except the rhythm method. Incidentally, during the 70’s and 80’s  there was a brisk trade of young guys from the South of Ireland crossing the border into Norn Iron to purchase condoms as even attempting to buy condoms in the Republic was fraught with challenges. Most were kept under the counter (despite actually being legal) and in the local community you were always well known so the chemist would squeal on you to the local priest. Generally if you brazenly asked for a packet of condoms than you had to endure the disapproving stares of all the shop assistants and all the customers. Then of course you couldn’t actually date a girl because everyone in the village knew you had bought condoms and your girlfriends mother, obviously knowing your intentions, would stop you from seeing her. So one had to buy condoms from a distant town and keep stum.

When I was living at home, this joke was told, not without some irony;

A young man goes into Boots and asks for a packet of Johnny’s. The pharmacist asks how many does he want and he says “well, this girl is hot and I’m probably going to do her after dinner tonight all night long so you’d better give me a pack of twelve..” The pharmacist sells him a pack of twelve and off the young man goes to dinner at his girlfriends house.

During dinner, the young man is sitting with his girlfriend, her brother, her mum and dad, and her Dad asks him to say grace before they start eating. A minute later the young man is still praying; “Thank you Lord for your kindness.” Ten minutes go by and the young man is still praying, keeping his head down. The others look at each other surprised and his girlfriend is even more surprised than the others. She gets close to him and says in his ear, “I didn’t know you were so religious.”

The young man replies, “I didn’t know your dad was a pharmacist!”

And if your mother ever found you with a condom in your pocket you got the crap beat out of you, though it’s interesting just how much attitudes have changed 180 degrees since then, now your mother practically pushes condoms into kids pockets, “don’t forget your condoms” she shouts as you leave with your new girlfriend!, so at home the fear of getting someone pregnant was a real show stopper.

What’s more, the old attitude “nice girls don’t” persisted for much longer in Norn Iron and this “1st base, 2nd base, 3rd base” tally was a mystery to most young men, we didn’t actually have chaperone’s but I reckon it was only a matter of time.

When I came to London I brought a lot of these attitudes with me and as I never really dated anyone in this city before getting married I was never exposed to the more relaxed attitudes here. Then about four years ago I re-entered the dating market and it was a bit of a culture shock, even more surprising was when I started using online dating sites like match.com and okcupid.com. There didn’t appear to be any rules and I winged it for most of the way but still my natural reflex was to fall back on Norn Iron attitudes. For example, whilst online it seemed perfectly legit to chat up any number of woman and meet up for a coffee date but this didn’t feel right for me, my instinct was to concentrate on one woman at a time because it felt like I was ‘virtual two-three-four-timing’ but I was somewhat taken aback to hear one coffee date tell me as a matter-of-fact that she was dating three other men at the same time. My attitude was you date exclusively and that’s how it was at home, it was not the done thing to string three or four dates along at the same time but it seems one can meet for a coffee and a meal and flicks more than a few times without calling it a date, something my Norn Iron nut had trouble getting around.

So now it seems perfectly acceptable to take an interest in a whole string of woman and flirt with them but until you both agree to date exclusively then you are both free to have a different date every single night of the week (if you are that popular).  I do have a bit of a problem with that, not really a moral problem, more a logistic one, I have an incredibly porous brain and I have enough difficulty remembering what I told one woman, so trying to juggle 4+ woman would just be a nightmare, I wouldn’t know what I had told, to whom and would look even more dim.

So, in an effort to educate myself, I’ve been watching a ‘reality’ programme from the States called ‘The Bachelor’, and honestly, I spend most of my time with my mouth wide open. I’m aghast that one man can kiss, snog and apparently shag quite a few woman and even get to met their families but still not be dating exclusively, my mind boggles at how one can do this and yet all the girls are fully aware that this is going on. The non-exclusive shagging I have great issues with but to meet one family and then another is something I can’t get my head around and THEN, as Brad did, to dump both girls is just beyond the pale, to lead someone on that far and not be serious is really bad form, he should have broke off much earlier but in all fairness kudos to him for actually having the balls to not marry someone just because the camera’s were there, just atrocious timing mate.

Of course it’s ‘reality’ tv and edited to make it even more sensational and I am viewing it through the filters of my Victorian Norn Iron attitudes so I can only assume it’s OK, all the contestants are adult and fully aware of the score but God, I wouldn’t have the balls to do that to any woman. As a friend once said to me, “oh poor baby, you have lead such a sheltered life!”

Indeed I have.. ;)