A Tale of Cross-Cultural Dating

This was a post I wrote over 3 years ago for a short lived blog during my time in graduate school, and boy, how things have changed! The best friend ‘D’ I refer to, is my Dermot and our intercultural relationship has none of these issues! I hope you enjoy this story as much as I did revisiting it…

When abroad, you may find many dodgy things sexy

Let me preface this thought by stating that my best friend in the world is an Irish dude, D, who just so happens to handle his fair share of drink rather responsibly.  So this is not a bash against the Irish!  I lived in Ireland for a total of 2 years, on and off.  It has been debated that drinking (to excess) is a detrimental aspect of Irish culture.  I don’t necessarily agree with this broad generalization, as I do believe that Ireland has a unique and extremely enticing pub scene that, for some, is essential to Irish Life.  However, this same drinking culture most certainly was detrimental to a relationship I had with an Irish man, M.

M and I were immediately attracted to each other from the moment our eyes met across a crowded Dublin bar (believe me, I wish I was embellishing this story as the circumstances of our meeting are straight out of the scenes of a corny rom-com).  He had a beard and shoulder length hair, wore a red linen shirt unbuttoned to his bellybutton, with a brown leather necklace showing amongst his chest hair. (If Dave Grohl and Russel Brand had a love child on ecstasy it would be M.)

So now that you know who I was dealing with, as I said, our eyes met and I gave that age-old, flirty “smile-and-look-away” move.  I removed myself from my (mostly male) group, and grabbed another IPA from the bar.  Sure enough, he followed (my momma taught me that move well).  We chatted for hours that night.  I found out he was an alum of the best university in Ireland, drank his way across Southeast Asia, and had been working as a software engineer for a few years.  It appeared as though he was the guy of my dreams- a smart Irish hippie with a real job!  He got my whole story that night too, seemed really interested in every word I said, and HE asked for my number.

My Irish MALE friends were annoyed from the start.  They said that Irish men were not that forward.  They asserted that men and women in Ireland do not meet like that, but rather guys casually date girls who are in their circle of friends.   According to D and some others, most Irish men have been shot down too many times by girls they know, that they would never dare walk up to a complete stranger and risk embarrassment (a valid point, as I saw it first-hand all too often).  However, M was obviously so different.

My relationship with M progressed fairly steadily.  One of our first dates was a bar crawl just the two of us, for which I believe I was able to keep up with him.  When we would go to the movies, we’d meet at the pub next door and then more drinks during and after the movie.  Dinners would be followed by copious amounts of alcohol…. Hey, it’s the Irish way!  Various house parties (thrown at his gigantic house in the most posh neighborhood in Dublin) would rage on until 7, 8, 9 in the morning.  M’s friends were quite similar to him in their drinking behaviors.  I did not think anything of it, as their parties were seemingly much more adult than the usual American frat-style house parties I had been to (there were no keg stands, no drinking games, and no jungle juice at Irish gatherings).  M was quite the happy drunk, held a normal job and was in seemingly good health (played rugby, competed in triathlons, biked everywhere), I never thought there was any problem.  That is, until one night in which he couldn’t find his way to the bar my friends and I were at, which was right downstairs from his old apartment.  He completely forgot that he was out with me and MY friends, and thought he just randomly ran into me.  After a few sloppy drunken kisses and some delicious Zaytoon’s kebabs, he disappeared (I just had to assume he safely found his way home, as I found he frequently lost his mobile on nights like these).   Needless to say, I was not pleased after this, but was willing to write it off as a onetime occurrence.  Everyone has had one of THOSE nights, right?

But my eyes were opened and the hazy fog of lust faded.  I knew deep down I could not handle someone who acted this way on a regular basis.  I soon found out that he typically rolled into work a couple hours late at least once a week, due to staying out all night.  I realized that the only time he was ever sober was when he woke up, oh, and that one week he was sick and on antibiotics.  We talked a bit about the drinking, but it was not taken as seriously as I thought it should be.  I began to find more non-alcohol centered activities for us to do together.  Even knowing all of these problems and others that were surfacing (family issues, past behaviors, etc) I still felt like we were in the process of building a great relationship; common interests, talking for hours, and my god, the sexual attraction.  We even had tickets to travel to Spain for a music festival on the beach that summer.  But gradually, things began to fizzle out and eventually ended.  He had issues with the fact that I may not be able to stay in Ireland after I graduated if I didn’t find a job (a common difficulty early on in many cross-cultural relationships).  My adoration of his extremely eccentric ways soon faded and the relationship he had with some members of his family was a huge red flag- as if I needed anything else on top THE DRINKING.

It’s strange, but with all of the issues that plagued us, I still think of him quite fondly. Not excusing his irresponsible, unhealthy, and immature behavior, but I truly believe that the drinking issue is a symptom of the culture that he has grown up in and become accustomed to.  I like to pride myself on my cultural adaption skills, but this was one area in which I was not willing to change.  I have realized that while I’m a girl who loves a glass of dry red at the end of the day and a few pints of craftbrews on the weekends, I know now that I cannot ever be in a serious relationship with someone who consistently drinks to excess.

I do not regret dating M.  He was a small but memorable part of my life in Dublin.  I learned a lot about what matters to me in a relationship and what I’m willing to tolerate.  But most importantly, I would never have gotten the chance to have a pint at nearly as many pubs in Dublin, if it weren’t for him ;)

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