Recently an article from the New York Observer came across my inbox. The article talks about how the best way to find a meaningful relationship is to find Non-Americans. The article goes so far as to even suggest places where one can find a sexy foreigner (grad school hangouts at Columbia or NYU, for example). In other words, there is some fatal flaw in the Modern American Male that makes them categorically undesirable when compared to non-Americans.
I wanted to share my thoughts on this topic for two reasons. First, there is a deeper component to this that should be mentioned. Secondly, I found the article to be not only trite, but also patronizing and overly-subjective. Also, on a personal level, the Observer is well known to cater to a certain class of Manhattan elitists, so when they publish articles like this, I think it is important to call them out, or at least offer a thoughtful rebuttal.
I tried to find some anecdotal background on the topic, and there are countless articles and blogs that mention some interesting idiosyncrasies in dating Non-American. (You can even watch Emma Watson give her two cents about it here.) First, almost everybody agrees that Non-Americans dress better, but more importantly, Non-American men are seen as more communicative, appreciative, and affectionate than their American counterparts.
In addition, apparently only Americans like to “date around”. In Europe, as in Asia, once there is mutual romantic interest between a man and a woman, they are deemed Boyfriend-Girlfriend. In the US, men will spread their romantic interest across multiple channels, slowly weaning away the options until they find one that they think worthy enough to have “the conversation” with. Almost like choosing a major between your freshman and sophomore years.
But, (there is always a But), non-Americans are looser when it comes to philandering. While they are monogamous in their romantic interest, they are polygamous in their sexual interests, and romantic solidarity does not necessarily imply sexual exclusivity. This goes for the women as well, BTW. In other words, non-Americans show a greater inclination to separate purely sexual interests from the relationship, whereas Americans relationships monopolize both sexual and romantic desires.
Let’s take this a step further and look at it from the academic perspective. Multiple papers come to the same conclusion: Even though there is superficial interest in dating foreigners, there is an underlying subconscious preference that pushes you to date someone of similar of a similar cultural or ethnic background. An interesting article by Fisman, Iyengar, Kamenica, and Simonson summarizes this point nicely:
“We are able to document convincingly that same-race pairings are the result of preferences rather than exposure to dating opportunities”
In other words, if some woman is on her Junior Year Abroad in Barcelona, odds are very strong that she will end up pairing with another American because of underlying preference, even though she is entirely surrounded by available Spaniards.
What does this all mean?
First, it means that the premise for the Observer article is an isolated example and should be taken with a grain of salt. But more importantly, it means that the undesirable qualities of dating Modern American Men are a mirror image of dating Modern American Females. American guys date around and are less attentive and affectionate, but so are the women! And like attracts like!
And here is the harsh reality: If you are trying to find a guy who is more attentive, more willing to commit, and more communicative about a relationship, you should consider your own actions and ask yourself if you are acting in the same undesirable way as the average guy. It sounds a bit callous, but if you interpret the research, the annoying dating habits of the Modern American Male are simply a mirror image of the Modern American Female, and the only way to avoid these habits is to break the cycle entirely.
Incidentally, there are tons of articles about the reverse effect: American men talking about their interest in Non-American women for various reasons. You can Google it yourself and come to the same conclusions.
Hugh Grant image via Geek Tyrant