An Irish Guide to Dating

To all the Irish I’ve known, thank you. Over a decade, your friendships provided countless dating tips—in the form of your actions, that is—that might help people find (and hold on to) love. This guide is by no means comprehensive, but aims to untangle some of the nuance of the much-praised Irish charm.

First, the don’ts. Don’t tell anyone you’re going on a date. Keep things quiet until it develops into something worth talking about. Don’t put pressure on something new and fragile. Allow yourself the time to draw your own conclusions.

Don’t live too firmly by any rules. There is always a time to stay up all night or go skinny dipping in the sea. We can think less and act more if we aren’t constrained by too many strict limitations.

Don’t waste time talking about work. Don’t let the rain stop you from doing things. Don’t be precious about your shoes (but do carry an umbrella, it may come in handy). Don’t need a destination when you set out on a date; exploring and letting an afternoon unfold has a certain magic.

Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. Don’t get unusually dressed up for a first date. Wear your favorite shirt, the one you wear all the time, and don’t think twice about it. A sort of, “I’m not even really trying” attitude can be irresistible. Plus, you are showing comfort in your own skin.

Don’t fight in public. While not all Irish abide by this, it’s generally preferred not to air your dirty laundry in pubs or restaurants or the city streets, though after 2am all bets may be off.

Don’t talk too much. Learn to ask questions and listen to the answers. Be aware of not dominating a conversation.

And now for the do’s. Do lean on the day date. The Irish have a great tradition of walking, with or without their dog; make it a date by bringing along snacks. This can be a pressure-free alternative to staring at each other across a tiny table.

If you make a date, keep it. A new relationship can be fragile; being dependable and reliable can make a difference.

If you’re nervous about a date, arrive 20 minutes early, get a good seat at the bar, and have a settler (a first drink to calm the nerves and ready yourself). Keep a few simple questions in mind in case of awkward silences.

Do value your friendships. Don’t start ditching pals when dating someone new. Missing each other is good, and so is maintaining your friendships.

Do be a good plus one. If you are invited to an event (wedding, work function, family function) take it as an opportunity to make your date’s life easier. Grab a drink for them, contribute meaningfully to conversation, tactfully remove them from boring situations. Be the kind of person people look forward to seeing. Take pride in the way you craft your sentences, in delivering more than the expected joke. Wait your turn to speak. Know when to make an exit.

Do listen to the radio and read the news; have things to talk about (these topics often reveal deeper beliefs). Treat people with respect: taxi drivers, waiters, bellboys. This simply makes you a good person, and that is attractive.

Do use humor to get your point across. Many difficult topics can be discussed and managed with a little sense of humor. If this fails, absurd pet names might come in handy. One Irish friend calls everyone flower or chicken. It is so disarming that you can’t help but agree with whatever he’s saying.

One final do from the Irish: sing, and sing loud.

The Irish, at times, also provide good examples of what not to do when dating. Don’t always be 10 minutes late. Don’t go dark (we all know that battery life on today’s smart phones is a problem, but don’t fall out of communication with a new dating interest and blame a dead cell phone). Don’t suppress your feelings, never telling your significant other what you’re thinking (as Matt Damon’s character said in The Departed, “I’m Irish, so I’ll deal with something being wrong the rest of my life.”) Don’t test the boundaries of your relationship instead of communicating your needs.

If you’re going to date an Irish person, here is some advice from a woman recently married to an Irishman. Consider the power of understatement. Don’t begin sentences with, “I’m so excited…”. Be aware how often you begin sentences with, “I feel…”. If you don’t know the answer to a question, it’s OK to say I don’t know. Don’t ask if people in Ireland really say top of the morning to ya. And lastly, if you are going to date an Irish person, you must call their national holiday on March 17th Paddy’s Day; Patty’s Day will send them running to the nearest door.

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