I come from a land Down Under, where women like camping and men don’t pay for dinner. Now imagine—I move to a place that, on it’s face, is almost the same. Everyone likes movies and books and going out for brunch and sitting in cafes drinking coffee and booze and talking about new iPhone apps and emotions. However this new place—New York—beneath its tricksy façade, is really the complete opposite of everything I’ve ever known. Women cringe at the thought of camping and men always pay for dinner.
I moved from Melbourne to New York 6 months ago and I am still attempting to gracefully navigate the city’s dating scene. Instead I’m falling over, bumping into the sides, accidentally pressing the eject button and just fucking it all up in every awkward sort of way you could possibly conceive. You see, as an Australian girl with Australian gumption, I’ve never really dated before. Yet I have still visited the broad spectrum of relationships statuses, from flings to long-term boyfriends to ‘it’s complicated’, with relative ease.
In Australia, dating is generally perceived as 90s anachronism that we scoff at, are secretly intrigued by, but that, at the end of the day, we’d prefer the whole sordid process be confined to an episode of Friends. We still have sex and relationships despite our aversion to traditional dating because in Australia intimate relationships of any nature happen organically—as does the vast majority of fruit and chicken.
Normally, you will meet your love interest through a friend or a friend of a friend or a friend of a friend of a friend. You will hang out in a group and make eyes at each other across a circle of vaguely connected people on a rooftop bar or a house party. Eventually you will find yourselves in a corner talking deeply about your favourite literature and making racist jokes and sarcastic proclamations about God that you both acknowledge are born of wit rather than hatred—this mutual understanding is how you will know that you like each other.
You might make out, you might not, but you will exchange numbers. You’ll know that you really like each other when you’re in a cab going home alone at the end of the night and you’re sending and receiving super cute, incredibly loaded text messages to each other. The next day you’ll probably hang out again—one of you will inevitably invite the other to a group picnic or to see the latest indie film at the coolest indie cinema with some awesome indie friends.
Time will pass without you noticing and then one day you realise you’ve hung out almost every day for 2 months. You’ll be lying in bed one Sunday morning reading the paper naked and drinking orange juice when one will roll over and say to the other, ‘we’re like, only seeing each other right?’ The other will shrug their shoulders and casually say ‘I guess,’ because you both knew there was never really a question of anyone else to begin with, mostly because you’re both too lazy or too relaxed for things to be that complicated.
Cut to New York:
“Hello complete stranger that I know nothing about but would definitely like to bring home. Would you like to go to dinner with me one night so we can sit awkwardly across from each other and ask one another dumb questions about where we grew up?”
“Sure, you’re kind of good looking and you seem rich so I guess I’m going to get a free meal from a place I wouldn’t usually be able to afford.”
“Great, what’s your number? I’m asking for it even though I’m not going to text you for at least 3 days because I don’t want to seem too available.”
“That’s OK, I’m going to act like I’m busy the first 2 times you ask me out even though I’m probably just going to be sitting at home by myself watching 30 Rock and picking out toe dirt.”
“Ew, toe dirt, on second thoughts you have far too many flaws and I don’t want to date someone who doesn’t fit my absolute ideal of a perfect human.”
As someone who embraces bodily function, complete verbal honesty and who has a no-nonsense approach to sex, dating in New York is like a deep psychological thriller. Nothing is what it seems and no one is ever satisfied. Add to that the acne inducing stress of having to constantly project The Best Version Of Yourself, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for Single And Afraid To Mingle. I assume the easy pace of Australian love affairs might prove frustrating for some, but I’m drawn to the simplicity—the relative ease with which we shift into love, the way that boys appreciate a woman who can burp the alphabet or fit a whole cheeseburger in her mouth at once (both me), and the fact that even though I have to pay for my own dinner and drinks, I get to laugh myself rotten and forget about being anything other than my worst, most comfortable self.