What is the reason for the original popularity of Sex and the City, the story of four single, talented women who can’t seem to find a good man in New York City? Clearly it’s because there are scores of females in the city who can relate to such a dilemma.
And if you’re dating in an Irish community in New York city, the dynamic gets even more interesting.
For your reading pleasure, I’ve shared the results of an informal study conducted by a group of single females, detailing the strengths and weaknesses of dating in an Irish community here in New York City.
There are three main factors that immediately attract a single female to men both Irish and Irish American: friendliness, good looks (come on, we’re human!) and charm.
But each male-type is alluring in distinct ways.
The Irish American is usually pretty sensitive — he’s a hand-holder in public, he can’t wait to call you his girlfriend, and he talks about your future together — on the second date.
He even notices what you’re wearing or what you did with your hair, and gives you compliments so often you’d be convinced that you’re the spitting image of Melania Trump. He’ll do whatever you ask him to do, whether it’s buying drinks, taking you someplace special, or picking up groceries. But if you don’t ask him, he’ll be just as content to do nothing.
The Irishman is usually carefree and fun-loving — he’ll often make you laugh till you can’t breathe, he’ll sing, dance, and talk — with anyone, at anytime, and he’ll thereby remind you not to take life so seriously.
He’s the archetypal “man’s man.” He usually takes charge, and he has an unbelievable number of skills — he can change a tire, install a bathroom, build a shelving unit, and calculate measurements by guesstimating with eerie precision.
You don’t have to ask him to do things, he knows how to anticipate. Just don’t expect him to notice your new ‘do or walk the steady line with you — he avoids “being tied down” to one woman until he’s good and ready to settle.
But most importantly, the attitudes regarding their Irish culture are as much of a source of division between the two male groups as it would seem to be a common thread between them.
For the Irish American man, the Irish culture is a source of pride; he loves, loves, loves talking about his Irish heritage. But ironically, that doesn’t mean he knows a thing about it.
He’ll often make self-aggrandizing comments that relate to his Irish-ness, he’ll talk about drinking like it’s some kind of exclusively Irish phenomenon and he’ll justify excessive drinking because after all, “I’m Irish.” (Wow, a really bad habit and an ethnic slur all in one? Impressive!...NOT!)
He will talk about “The Troubles” as though they occurred in his backyard, though he doesn’t know the SDLP from the DUP. He will talk ceaselessly about the glory of “the cause.”
From 3,000 miles away and a decade of relative peace, I imagine it’s pretty easy to talk about the joys of an unending cycle of violence that tore up families, land, and the hearts of the young, who saw their innocence destroyed by it.
If he’s been to Ireland, ask him what he did during his last trip to Ireland, and he’ll only give one response: boasting about how he drank so much and so often, and about how he can’t remember what happened. (Again, highly impressive...NOT!)
Ask him about what his culture means to him, or about the complex history of the people he claims to be so close to, or the artistry produced by this nation, and he draws a blank. If it doesn’t relate to drinking, partying and all things that make him seem even more “cool” than he thinks he is (and he thinks he is very cool), the Irish American man doesn’t exhibit much interest in truly exploring Irish culture.
Finally, if he is in the company of only Irish Americans...the ethnic slurs start to surface. This, in spite of the fact that often, his parents and/or grandparents are Irish immigrants...
As for the Irish male, his Irish culture is seemingly a source of embarrassment.
Sure, he has heard of the Irish literary masterpieces (some), and Irish history (a bit), and he has heard his parents and grandparents singing and playing traditional Irish music (often enough) — but he eschews symbols of his Irishness like they’re the plague — or worse, a female who wants him to commit to an exclusive relationship.
He mocks the heartbreaking stories his ancestors told through song as “outdated” material his grandparents are entertained by — but by thinking of it as a form of entertainment in the first place, he is already missing the value of his people’s music. He turns away from it for the meaningless Euro-dance music full of funky house beats. Perhaps he is trying so hard to fit into the “European” mold that he is carelessly losing his “Irish” along the way.
I don’t know how often I’ve been disappointed to meet young Irish men who have flagrantly shed their ties to Irish culture. How many Limerick men I have met who have never heard “Shanagolden!” I can count on one hand the Irish men I’ve met who play traditional Irish instruments, watch performances of Irish plays, attend the local county dinner dances or even watch Gaelic Football games.
We often talk about how the number of Irish in Woodlawn is dwindling, but sometimes it seems like the ones who are here are deliberately but avoiding the opportunity to preserve their heritage here.
And finally, the Irish male makes no secret about referring to American-born people as “narrowbacks” and “yanks.” A favorite conversation topic for the Irish male is deriding Irish Americans for what they perceive as their weakness, stupidity and foolish behaviors. All this, in spite of the fact that he says he’d like to live in America (and then raise his children as Irish Americans!).
Perhaps the Irish American male takes a beating in the polls when pitted against the Irish lads.
Irish American women who love to laugh and talk find that Irish-born men have a natural comfort level that makes them seem at home in any given situation. They find the Irish American man a bit harder to talk to, and someone who expects a woman to entertain him. He intimidates easily and for all the eggshells he would have a woman walk on to maintain a relationship, it might seem easier not to bother with him at all.
Irish-born women seem to like the laid back nature of the Irish American man, as they prefer to take the lead in conversation and appreciate a man’s sensitivity.
All that being said, maybe you’ll be lucky to find the date of your dreams without his ethnic peccadilloes coming in to play at all. But otherwise, you and your girlfriends might prefer to recharge your batteries with a Barnes & Noble night before delving in to the fray once again.
Originally published in the Irish Voice June 18, 2008.