Fri 9 Jul 2010
The first Irish guy I really noticed was a barman named Martin. It was 1996, and I had just moved to a grungy apartment above a carpet store on Clement Street in San Francisco’s Richmond district. My local pub became the Front Room, which was conveniently across the street from my front door and where Martin happened to work. His dark eyes, adorable Dublin accent and mischievous grin instantly drew me in. My best friend Cat and I became fixtures on the pub’s weathered barstools every Tuesday and Thursday, Martin’s nights behind the bar. I don’t remember how many times he “lost” our ever-growing bar tab, which was fine considering I was living on student loans and barely able to make ends meet.
It was all very innocent. Although he was an outrageous flirt, he didn’t make a move for a very, very long time. Some would say he acted more like a protective big brother than a romantic suitor but I fell hard nonetheless. Finally one evening he walked out from behind the bar and took the empty stool next to mine. I don’t remember what we were talking about but at one point he reached over, cupped my face with his hands and gave me a long, slow kiss. The room seemed to go quiet and my cheeks turned scarlet. I barely had enough time to savor the moment when Basil, the other bartender on duty, leaned over and whispered, “That’s Martin’s girlfriend sitting on the other side of him!” As if in slow motion my gaze swept over to my left to see Martin, who’d already turned his back to me at this point, holding hands with a blonde woman I’d never seen before. By some small miracle she hadn’t witnessed his betrayal. As my vision grew blurry with tears I slipped out of the bar and vowed never to return. I found out later that his girlfriend had been in Ireland and had recently moved to be with him. Funny, he’d never mentioned her before.
Some months later, I moved to a house a few dozen blocks west. On moving day, I was introduced to an Irish couple who would be my new roommates. We became fast friends and soon I was part of their group of Irish expats, all of whom were coupled up – with the exception of one guy, Robert. I don’t think either of us was all that interested in the other but probably due to the underlying pressure to be a pair in a group of couples, we engaged in a brief on/off pseudo-dating-type-thing (there’s really no better way to describe it). It ended for good the day I got a $400 phone bill, the result of Robert secretly calling his ex-girlfriend back in Ireland from my phone. He dutifully paid the bill and we remained friendly acquaintances for a while. It was more fade-out than heartbreak, really.
You’re probably wondering where I’m going with all this. As my friend Aoife so eloquently stated, “There are assholes of all nationalities.” As someone who has traveled quite a bit, I can say with all certainty that her statement is true. But there seems to be a common theme with the Irish guys I’ve been involved with [it should be noted that most of my relationships have been with non-Irish men, in case you thought I had a type]. After Robert there was a brief affair with another Irish guy – what can I say, we hung out at a lot of Irish pubs! – who, despite his claims to the contrary, was found to be in a serious relationship with another woman. Clearly, I was doing something wrong and my radar needed a bit of tweaking. Was it the accent that threw me off? Perhaps. Though I can pick out an American bonehead from across a crowded bar, throw in an Irish accent and the warning signals get all jumbled in the transmission. Remember the character of Colin Frissell from the film, “Love Actually?” It’s a bit like that, though not nearly as comical.
As you can imagine, navigating the dating game in Ireland hasn’t been easy. Last weekend, I met a seemingly nice guy at a friend’s party. After over an hour of conversation, he asked for my number and I obliged. I won’t bore you with the details but by the end of the party I found out he not only has a girlfriend but a baby as well – it appears my judgment is getting worse with every passing day! Despite this recent disappointment I don’t think all Irish men are weasels, and I know this for certain as I have plenty of wonderful male friends here who are dedicated boyfriends and husbands (though they’d all cringe at that description – learn to take a compliment, lads!). Right now I’m somewhere between guarded optimism and wild cynicism on the subject of Irish men. But all I can do is to proceed with caution and keep an open mind.