Do Vancouver Men Suck?
The problem is intense here, he says, for a handful of reasons. Vancouver (lacking the genial bars and clubs of cities such as New York and Toronto) doesn’t have a dating culture; plus, Vancouverites compound the situation by going everywhere in packs rather than pairing off on dates. Asian men, who account for almost half his clientele, have been brought up by their parents to feel shy and unworthy-values that aren’t useful when it comes to dating in North America. And, finally, two familiar chestnuts: there’s something in the Vancouver air that discourages effort (the old Lotusland charge), and most of those intimidating local women are screening out all but the best-looking and richest men.
Almost everyone has a theory, it seems. Many people cite the city’s silo mentality, where you socialize in groups formed in high school or earlier, without much interest in new people. As Felicity, a late-30s police officer, explained, “If you grew up on the West Side of Vancouver, most people you meet played soccer with your brother or went to camp with your sister.” Tracey, Elise, and Natalie blame B.C.’s archaic liquor laws, and the mix of residential and commercial neighbourhoods that drives early closings. When Tracey discovered two-for-one happy hours in New York and Seattle (illegal in B.C.), she thought she’d found dating paradise. On the other hand, B.C.’s famous weed culture, where guys smoke dope and then go to a bar, is not good for meeting and dating. Amanda, a writer from Toronto in her early 40s, asks, “What are the main activities here? Dope smoking and yoga. Neither generates much mojo.”
A manager traces the masculinity problem to “Not enough head offices here.” It turns out to be a twist on the Lotusland complaint: “No one who’s ambitious comes to Vancouver.” But surely you don’t need to be a CEO just to date. Uncounted numbers of profoundly unambitious men through history somehow got it together to court, marry and procreate, or we would have been extinct long ago.
Then there’s the vexed question of courtesy, courting, and chivalry. The first two words come from the Old French root that gives us the word for a monarch’s court. Chivalry, also from Old French, refers to a knight’s boon companion, his cheval or horse, and by extension to the whole raft of a knight’s obligations to fair damsels. These Old World notions seem even more than 6,000 miles away from a recently raw frontier town that Jillian calls “a rough-and-tumble resource-based economy where men are men and women are double-breasted.” Oscar Wilde famously wrote that the United States passed from barbarism to decadence without an intervening stage of civilization. Are we to conclude that Vancouver has done something similar? Amanda complains that the city’s youngish men were brought up by hippie parents who scorned conventional manners, but there weren’t enough hippies here, even in the 1960s, to have had such a big effect. What is undeniable is that Vancouver has an anti-formal bias; it is one of the building blocks of the city’s self-image. Formal restaurants lobby not to be classified in the formal category in listings because “casual” is what everyone wants to be. As a result, more and more men see the business of pulling out chairs, helping with coats, and seeing women to their doors as irrelevant, politically incorrect, and possibly insulting.
At first glance, Vancouver’s reputation as a sporty, fit city would seem to ally it with traditional masculine values. But men and women sweating together on a volleyball court or on the Grouse Grind can produce a distinctly unsexy brother-sister vibe. “When you’re on a team with guys,” says Tracey, “you have a team mentality, you want to kill the other team. We don’t look at a guy and think how good he looks in his shorts, we think, ‘Would he better in another position on the court?’ ”
The Grind is such a ubiquitous feature of discussions about dating in Vancouver that it deserves its own paragraph. When women complain about the city’s driven, mindlessly athletic culture, the fact that Nature’s Stairmaster has its own singles night and that people post their Grind time as a vital statistic on Facebook frequently comes up. Felicity tells the story of an exceptionally fit guy asking her on a date, to do the Grind. When she asked how would that be a date, since he would be far ahead of her from the start, he volunteered to put a few copies of the Yellow Pages in his backpack to slow him down, at least at the start, “and then we can meet up at the top.” No thanks, she said. The Grind is the “epitome of Vancouver,” Tracey says. “People in other cities meet at cultural activities; we have made a three-kilometre vertical trail a centre of our dating culture.” The Grind is indeed a metaphor for the single life in Vancouver-daunting, strenuous, semi-natural, and so not romantic.