Do Vancouver Men Suck?
Pre-adulthood, which spans a man’s 20s and early 30s, is not a pretty picture. Think of the schlumpy boy-man played by Seth Rogen in Judd Apatow’s 2007 Knocked Up: a stranger to grooming whose main occupation is playing videogames and whose idea of a career path is founding a porn site. The contrast with the movie’s heroine, a focussed and ambitious TV reporter played by Katherine Heigl, is reminiscent of the contrast between Tracey, Natalie, and Elise and their male cohort: dependent, unenterprising, and quite willing to let women take the lead when planning is required. And, just as the Vancouver women complain about the death of manners and courtship, a marketing white paper called Gender Shift: Are Women the New Men? noted the same reaction in women in the U.S., France, and the U.K. Clearly, the disconnect between men and women extends beyond Vancouver.
And yet. Women who’ve moved to Vancouver, or lived in other cities, partnered up with men from elsewhere, or left the city for greener pastures, agree that Vancouver is in a class by itself. When it comes to inert, inattentive men, the ones in Vancouver seem to have written the book. Tracey had a long-time boyfriend from New York, and when his American pals came to visit Vancouver they were mystified by the sartorial slovenliness of the local males. Natalie, the grad student, says the social scene in Ontario is much livelier and the men much friendlier; all agree that the rare man who approaches them in a bar or club is almost always from out of town. I talked with more than 20 women ranging from their 20s to their 60s, and except for the Tracey-Natalie-Elise trio, they did not know each other. Almost uncannily, they sounded the same unhappy notes over and over.
When Kate, a publishing executive, moved to Vancouver at 36, at first she assumed she’d lost her appeal or become “too old” to interest men. Also, that she had mysteriously landed in a place where strong men saw no reason to help a smallish woman with a heavy suitcase or balky door. Business took her to Calgary, New York, and Toronto, and she discovered that men in those places were still eager to send over a round of drinks to women in a bar, chat her up in public places, and in general treat her like an attractive woman. “Done properly, flirtation is about graciousness,” she says, “about making the other person feel good.” Quite aside from flirtation, there’s a simple consideration for people who may need our help, male or female, that she misses in Vancouver. She tells the story of heaving her suitcase out of a cab in front of a New York City hotel when a man talking on a cellphone, without breaking stride, picked up the bag, carried it to the top of the stairs, and only interrupted his phone call to wish her a good day. “That kind of thing never happens to me in Vancouver,” she says.
Barbara, a hotelier in her 60s, gave up dating last year as a “bad hobby” and wishes she had done so earlier. She’d been dating, often through the Internet, for more than 25 years, since she divorced in her 30s. Her stories of men who wanted physical and/or financial caretaking (“I’m neither a nurse nor a purse”) include several geriatric dope-smokers and one man who continued to live with his parents into their 90s. Over the years, her failure to find a dynamic, interesting man shifted her priorities-she no longer asked herself if a man was interesting, she just wondered how he would be in bed. “My motto was, ‘I’m in it for a good time, not a long time.’ ” She sometimes thinks that if she’d moved to Toronto after her divorce, she would have found a more congenial scene, with more Jewish men: “Jewish men are not intimidated by strong women.”
Intimidation is one leitmotif of this story. (The other is the Grouse Grind, of which more later.) Four decades younger than Barbara, Alicia, a civil servant in her 20s, also mentions the i-factor. Unlike Barbara, once she realized that standoffish women were scarring tender male egos, she changed her ways. “Vancouver men are a little babyish,” she explains. “You really have to hold their hands during the whole dating thing, telling them that was a really nice date, coaching them through the process. I have to be very careful with my body language to make it clear that I am not going to reject them.” Now she dates much more often but wishes she didn’t have to take all the initiative. She wonders, Will he pay? Should I pay? Will he pick me up? “There’s not a lot of guidance from the guy.” So she takes charge. “But sometimes I just want to go on a date-date.”