Leah McLaren, a 26-year-old Canadian, has written a piece for The Spectator complaining about how pathetic English men are. The poor girl has been living in London for several months and no one has made a pass at her. Now, I know what you're thinking. Perhaps she's not that pretty. Well, you're wrong. I've met Leah McLaren and she's an absolute knockout. Indeed, I was so bowelled over that when she told me about her difficulties with men it was me who suggested she write an article about it. That such a goddess can move through London society without being deluged with requests for dates is a terrible indictment of the English male. In Manhattan she'd be snapped up in a New York minute.
Without wishing to denigrate Ms McLaren, though, my own experiences with North American women have taught me to avoid them like a swarm of bees. I spent five years living in Manhattan and, frankly, I'd rather stick pins in my eyes than go out on another date with an American woman.
I always found the experience of being on a date in New York extremely uncomfortable. The trouble is, like most Englishmen, I'm very easily embarrassed. There's something far too direct about going out with someone solely with a view to assessing their suitability as a sexual partner. I prefer to sneak up on women and, when they're not looking, rugby tackle them into bed.
North American women, needless to say, prefer a more politically correct approach. On the few occasions that I was able to persuade them to go out with me, I always marvelled at how un-self-conscious they were about sizing me up. They invariably had a checklist of questions that they shamelessly ran through over the course of the evening. What did I do for a living? What part of town was my apartment in? What kind of car did I drive? It was less like a romantic encounter than an extremely tough job interview. By the time the cheque arrived I was surprised they hadn't asked for a urine sample.
Even when I managed to jump this fence, I was still a long way from the finish line. North American women have a reputation for promiscuousness that is thoroughly undeserved. They may demand equality in the workplace, but when it comes to romance they expect to be treated like Jane Austin heroines. As Leah McLaren writes in her article, "In North America, it is generally understood that men chase women, and women, in turn, leave themselves open to being chased."
But the word "chase" scarcely does justice to the ridiculous obstacle course that has to be completed before an American girl will go to bed with you. At the end of the first date--which had invariably cost me an arm and a leg--I was lucky if I got so much as a kiss. As a rule of thumb, I didn't get past her doorstep until the third date and, even then, it was unlikely to be for anything more than a quick snog on the sofa. It was as if they were still following the pattern they'd established in High School, even though some of these women were well into their 30s. Once you've embarked on the dating rat run in North American, there are no shortcuts to getting the cheese.
Part of the problem was that, as a short, balding, William Hague look-a-like with no visible means of support, I wasn't considered much of a catch. When American women complain that there's a shortage of eligible men--and Leah McLaren is no exception--what they mean is there's a shortage of tall, unattached, rich men who still have their own hair.
I tried everything to turn myself into a more eligible bachelor. My father, the late Michael Young, was a life peer and I applied for an American Express card in the name of "Hon Toby Young" in the hope of impressing my dates with my bogus aristocratic credentials. Unfortunately, when the card arrived it was in the name of "Hon Young". Whenever I produced it at the end of a long meal, my dining companion would just assumed I'd stolen it from a Korean medical student.
I even hired a market research company to 're-brand' me. This involved convening a 'focus group' of six American women between the ages of 18-35 and having a professional market research consultant lead them in a discussion of my shortcomings while I sat behind a two-way mirror. The idea was to treat me like a product that wasn't moving fast enough off the supermarket shelves. It was a brutal experience. The low point came when the consultant asked them if they'd ever consider having sex with me. I can still hear the gales of laughter to this day.
The problem is, American women tend to judge potential partners according to how many desirable attributes they possess rather than what they're like as people. These are, in descending order of importance: social status, net worth, physical appearance, apartment, summer house and, a long way down the list, personality. No man is held to possess any intrinsic value--we're all just the sum of our assets.
Luckily, towards the end of my time in New York, I met a nice English girl. Being from London, Caroline was a breath of fresh air. If anything, she was an inverse snob, more likely to rule men out if they were too conspicuously successful, particularly if they rammed it down your throat. In general, she was less preoccupied with men's external attributes, however dazzling, and more interested in what they were like on the inside. That was lucky for me. The fact that she found me funny was also a big help. American women never laughed at my jokes--and I mean NEVER.
Perhaps the biggest difference between English and North American women is that English women just seem to laugh a lot more. Wherever I look in London, I see women throwing their heads back and roaring with laughter; it's like some wonderful, Hogarthian pageant. In New York, by contrast, the women always looked anxious and uptight, their spirits as undernourished as their bodies.
I followed Caroline back to London two years ago and last Sunday, over a glass of champagne in Le Caprice, we celebrated our first wedding anniversary. I wish Leah McLaren the best of British luck in her hunt for a decent English man. My tip would be to shed some of her nasty North American dating habits and start laughing at our jokes.