The Canadian male is a lont in love
For the sake of argument
MARIKA ROBERT SAYS
You asked me to tell you about North American men and the relationship between the two sexes on this continent. 1 don't really know where to start; all I can say is that it is a surprising, often bewildering. and completely strange world to us Europeans —— a world where men take body-building courses, idolize toughness and violence and then sit back and wait to be seduced; a world where sex is learned from handy manuals and practised as a hygienic pastime stripped of all romantic accessories; a world where, by the simple act of marriage. Lolitas are transformed into Victorian matrons; and where murder, dope addiction. prostitution, and drunken brawls are described and acted out ad nauseam for the entertainment of grownups and children alike, yet where no one can be adult enough to be confronted with adultery.
Men don’t ogle girls
Sex is not in the air here as it is in cities of Europe. Men don't turn around if a pretty girl walks by; they don’t make remarks about her legs; they don’t really give her the eye. They don't even ask for matches, or if by any chance they do, it only means they want to light a cigarette.
For many months after settling in Canada, 1 kept wondering what was wrong with me that no one ever paid me a compliment or tried to Hirt with me. 1 don’t say 1 would have been game; but if you are taught for years how to avoid the aggressive attentions of men it is terribly frustrating if there is nothing to avoid.
It isn’t that men here approach girls differently from the way Europeans do; they just don't approach them at all. I shall never forget the first party 1 attended in loronto. The loveliest girls sat in a row in the back of the room while till the men crowded around the bar telling fishing stories. Can you imagine any European man
preferring the biggest trout to the smallest woman?
1 thought they would join us sooner or later, but instead it was the girls who picked up their glasses and walked over one by one. Everybody found this quite natural, and I thought about the many lectures I had received in the old country on how a woman is never allowed to take the initiative. Of course this means that North America is a wonderful free world for girls of the predatory type; but if you can’t discard your notions of being the coveted prey you will have a hard time finding a hunter.
For the hunting instinct is not a main characteristic of the North American male. He likes women and is most interested in sex. This is quite obvious from the large number of sex-oriented magazines that are sold on every newsstand. You would probably be surprised to see the enjoyment that not only schoolboys but also middle-aged executives get out of looking at naughty pictures. Naturally they prefer fiesh-and-blood girls, but they don’t like to go out of their way to obtain them. Lancelots and young Werthers are unknown to this part of the world.
"You want to come with me. Baby?" the North American Don Juan will ask the lady of his dreams. If Baby doesn't want to come at once, he won’t likely climb walls, break into fortresses, fight or lie in wait for her. Soon after they learn the alphabet, European boys learn phrases like "You can’t run away from me, for I shall follow you to the ends of the earth" and "You say 'no' today and perhaps you will say 'no' a thousand times but 1 can wait." But such phrases are not even part of the North American male’s vocabulary. Time is money, so Baby doesn't get a chance to tease, play and slowly give in. and Don Juan deprives himself of all the fun of anticipation and hard-earned victory.
But then love here is not considered to be an artful game. It is a mutually satisfactory pastime to which the CONTINUE.!) on page 53
MRS. ROIflR!. RORN IN C/J(1~)SIOV~\KJ.~. ( •y~j i~ ç~ IN 195
For the sake of argument
Continued from page 7
approach is simple and matter of fact: You want it or yon don't want it— it’s okay with me.”
The other day my girl friend's twelveyear-old son decided to take his schoolmate to the movies.
"Did you have a good time?" his mother asked after he returned home.
"Laura’s a bore." he said gravely. "1 bought her ticket, gave her a box of popcorn and two chocolate bars and she wouldn't even let me hold her hand. I'll never speak to her again.'
Many European girls I know keep complaining that boys they really liked stopped calling after their second meeting because the girls wouldn't kiss them. We who expect to be courted and wooed for a considerable length of time find this great hurry insulting; but North American girls have a different attitude. A man in Paris once told me about his encounter with a lovely American lady. He sent her orchids, took her for dinner, to a nightclub, and finally for a ride in the Bois de Boulogne. By that time his mind was filled with romantic thoughts and he started to stroke her bare arm.
"What do you think you're doing?” the lady asked with a scolding look. "And where arc you taking me anyway?"
Before he could explain the innocence of his action and tell her the magnetic charm she w;as radiating would cause him to dream about her all night, she gave the driver the address of her hotel and slipped her escort a key. “I like comfort,” she said.
1 remember how we used to go out with boys back home for weeks and months and discuss Plato anti Sophocles, Rubens and Rodin, science and politics and the future of the world before we switched to a more intimate subject. Very little of this is being done here. I often think about a poem in which a Hungarian poet described his extraordinary adventure with a girl. They sat in a restaurant discussing Zola and both felt that they were falling in love. Suddenly the girl yawned and said, "This romance is starting like all romances. Now you will talk about Zola and Marx to me for weeks and then you will want to seduce me. But couldn't we leave out Marx and Zola for once?”
Although this lady was not North American she could have been, and what's more, here she could have remained a lady after voicing such an unorthodox idea — which, as you know, would hardly be the case in Europe.
One of the many advantages North American girls have is that they can be brazen and straightforward without being considered cheap.
"It is always better if the woman takes the initiative," one gentleman explained to me. "Then at least you know where you stand. Nothing can be more embarrassing for a man than to take no for an answer.”
Why it should be less embarrassing for Europeans, 1 don’t quite see; but then European men arc usually less concerned with knowing where they stand than with pursuing what they want. In all fairness we have to admit that our men like to think of us as slightly second-rate weaklings who have to be taught what s good for them, and they are seldom influenced by our opinions and decisions.
Here, it is the omnipotent woman who makes the decisions and lays down the law. She does so. not necessarily because she likes it ( I often doubt whether she does), but because she is expected to. If she is aggressive and domineering it is because the men want her to be.
You would be surprised to read in the men's magazines what North American males are dreaming about. Instead of wanting to rescue their beloved ones from pirates, lions or fires, they have fantasies that take them to desert islands inhabited by savage Amazons. There,
under the threat of death, they have to make love to their captors. Such magazines also print true stories and reports proving that the writer 1 once met in Greenwich Village was so right.
"1 never run after a woman." he said. "If 1 put on a dirty shirt and don't shave for a week 1 have masses of them pestering me. And 1 prefer it this way."
According to dozens of colorful magazines with titles like All Man, Man's Life and Wildcat, not even a dirty shirt is necessary. In one of these magazines 1 read about the sad fate of an advertis-
ing executive from Madison Avenue. On his way to California he stopped for a day in a trailer camp to catch some fish. He had to pay for his breakfast with a visit to the waitress' trailer and after returning found his carburetor stolen, his tires airless and his vehicle crowded with demanding maidens. The poor man was "forced” to stay for four full weeks, during which he didn't get a chance to wet his fishing line.
Of course, I am not saying I believe every word of these articles, but the fact remains that in North American life and
literature most of the chasing is done by women. And yet the men like to think of themselves as tough guys. They take widely advertised body-building courses that enable them to “tear a telephone book in half” or “tow a 721/2-ton railroad car 112 feet.” After such exertions it is no wonder they don't want to get involved in lengthy romances.
While love in Europe is a three-act play, here it is a blackout — or at the best, a series of blackouts. People meet, love and part just as anywhere else, but the hundreds of props which to us are sometimes more important than the outcome of the play are missing. Few girls get flowers, presents, compliments, confessions of everlasting passion, or other morale-boosting lies. There are no serenades; no one will threaten to commit suicide if they don't give in and no one will shower them with gestures of gratitude if they do. They can take it or leave it. but they can't expect their partners to feel indebted or bound to them as most European men would, or at least would pretend to be.
If it is hard to understand that the act of love does not necessarily have to have preliminaries, it is much harder to accept the possible lack of consequences. Every European girl would consider a man a scoundrel if he did not call, write or come around after she gave in to him; and she would consider him even worse if he popped up two weeks later, completely oblivious to this grave offense, and asked for another date.
No love affairs here
But I suppose North American men have to be taken for what they are, and I must say, they are polite and dependable and helpful and good company. They know what they want, and if they don’t, then the girls tell them; and they are good friends and good husbands. If they don't quite know how to bring a romantic atmosphere into a love affair it is partly because they are not expected to, and partly because there are no love affairs on this continent. And this is the main difference between Europe and North America. Our people have affairs; here people make love. Whether they do so with a llceting acquaintance, girl friend, wife, or somebody else’s wife, it is simple, fast, unromantic and terribly matter-of-fact. Personally I think they are missing the best things in life, but perhaps the trimmings which are so important for us seem unnecessary to them.
"Why should I walk with a girl hand in hand in a cold moonlit park if I can take her to my room?” a Canadian friend once asked me. I didn’t try to explain. If he had to ask, he wouldn’t have understood anyway.
The lack of innocent, purposeless flirting makes life often seem drab to a European girl, who from her earliest age is constantly aware of being a woman and expects all men around her to pay a silent tribute to this. This subtle form of tribute is not practised here. Not even teenagers would content themselves with expressing emotions via eyes alone. You remember the thrill we used to get as teenagers walking up and down the main street exchanging glances with the boys we knew? 1 don’t think the youngsters here would appreciate this form of enjoyment, but then their ideas of fun are very different from what ours used to be. There is much less poetry and literature and much more talk of fast driving. When I see all the privileges they have 1 envy them sometimes. More often, I feel sorry for them. If you
have everything you want as a teenager, how can you look forward to becoming an adult?
Growing up and getting married affects North American girls in an unusual way. While European women are expected to portray innocence before their marriage and maturity after; with North Americans the case is often reversed. Many wives are proud to know so little about the things they were proud to know so much about as teenagers. Consequently I am happy to report that adultery is almost unadmitted on this continent.
I suppose you will find this statement hard to believe. But if you were to read some American novels and see some American plays you might be convinced that while lesser evils like alcoholism, dope addiction, homosexuality and murder are frequent happenings in North American life, adultery does not occur often enough to be worth mentioning.
The marital triangle which supplied European literature with comic and tragicomic ideas for centuries is rarely mentioned. Occasionally married couples do commit this greatest sin of all (husbands with call girls or their secretaries; wives with waiters, musicians or lifeguards of Latin origin), in which case the situation is always represented as grave and sordid, and the transgressors have to be punished in a horrible way. However, one doesn't really feel sorry for them because only Very Bad People commit adultery anyway. Except for the heroes of John O'Hara’s books, who are simply immoral in every possible way, adulterers are usually at the same time thieves, alcoholics, heroin peddlers or at least prospective murderers.
Some people with whom I have discussed this subject suggested that this was not so in real life, and perhaps I was reading the wrong books, but 1 am more inclined to think that the right books, the ones that would picture the true situation, would have a hard time finding a publisher, let alone a film producer.
Adultery is taboo. In all the time I have lived here I have seen only one movie in which an erring man and woman were allowed to divorce their mates, marry each other, and live happily ever after. It was called A Summer Place, and the critics thought it outrageous.
Yes, this is a strange world, and many of its customs and conceptions will leave a European girl flabbergasted; but many of its advantages she will soon learn to appreciate. The greatest advantage, 1 think, is the way men here are always willing to assume more than their share of the burdens. What European man would think cooking, cleaning or dish washing was part of his duties? What European would give his wife a helping hand with the laundry, carry the groceries or tend babies instead of running off with the boys every night? (And she'd be lucky if it were boys.)
I said North American men were unromantic, and so they are. 1 hey know little about flattering lies, but what they say one can depend on. Brilliant conversationalists are rare, but almost every one of them knows how to fix a leaking water tap. And if they lack the flippancy and easy charm of the men of the world, as men of the house they have values that cannot be surpassed.
So you see, Eva, it all depends on what you want. If a girl wants a gallant charmer she had better stick with the Europeans, but if she prefers a down-toearth, conscientious, hard-working and always-ready-to-help partner she might find it worthwhile to chase a North American. ^