Do Vancouver Men Suck?
What do women think of Vancouver men? Not much, it seems. Has our physically active but culturally insular social scene killed dating in this city?
Natalie, Elise, and Tracey are drinking pinot grigio in the Commune Café at Nelson and Seymour. Tracey, who’s in marketing, wears an electric-blue dress and flicks her bright blond hair over her shoulder. Elise, a tall brunette with a ready laugh who does business development for a firm downtown, is in a classic navy sheath. Natalie is home for a visit from grad school in Ontario; she’s a curvy blond in a flowered dress. (All names are pseudonyms.) In their mid 20s and friends since they went to high school in North Van, they’re attractive, smartly put together, and fit. They hike the Chief, do the Grouse Grind, ski, bike the seawall, and kayak. This evening, they’re participating in another favourite local pastime—dissing Vancouver men.
Together they sketch a composite picture of a passive guy with no plan, uninterested and uninteresting. The males they remember from high school typically still live at home, without much motivation to date, much less to rise in the world. Even those who’ve left their parents’ house, they complain, are laid-back to a fault, too lazy or inept to make small talk in a bar, ask a woman out, make reservations, or dress appropriately. Natalie sums it up: “Guys have lost the idea of what girls want on a date.”
Tracey is tired of spending the evening in a chic Whistler bar with guys dressed “for video games in the basement: baseball caps and baggy T-shirts.” Natalie adds, “They dress down, so they act down.” And what used to be called common courtesy now looks freakishly uncommon. Recently, when a man went to help Tracey with her suitcase, it was so unusual that she thought at first he was stealing it. She says she gets on the bus in six-inch heels, laden with packages, and no man offers her his seat. Elise claims hardly any man her age has ever held a door for her. “Chivalry died years ago,” Tracey says, “and it’s buried six feet under.”
Let’s stop right there. Before we continue, two important grains of salt have to be added to this unappetizing stodge. First, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman, whether she lives in Paris, Hong Kong, or San Francisco, is convinced that the single men in her town are uniquely deficient in the qualities she seeks in a mate. It’s highly likely that as the Vancouver women are lamenting the sorry state of the local males, their Finnish counterparts are doing the same thing with equal energy over breakfast in a Helsinki café.
Second, single people in 2011, particularly millennials, are caught in a difficult moment that’s not limited to Vancouver. The titles of recent books and articles say it all: Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys, by Kay Hymowitz; Men to Boys: The Making of Modern Immaturity, by Gary Cross; “The End of Men,” by Hanna Rosin in the Atlantic. Simply put, the post-industrial economy, which rewards higher education, communication skills, and the ability to sit down and concentrate, favours women. They now outperform men in post-secondary education (for every two BAs earned by men, three are earned by women), representation in middle management, and, increasingly, income. Faced with society’s declining interest in physical strength, stamina, and whatever else they might bring to the table, young men are retreating into what Hymowitz calls “pre-adulthood.”