The XX Factor

Introducing the European Male: The Easy-Made Husband.

The New York Observer today has a new trend piece up about New York women, fed up with dating the man-children of the Big Apple, who are taking to Europe, or at least foreign-grad-student hangouts, to snag themselves a natural commitment-phile: the European man. Of course, by “trend piece,” I mean “story about three women in New York.”

The piece opens with a fresh-out-of-New York 25-year-old grad student, Lisa, who, after years of dating men who went commitment-limp on her, met a Danish man at a barbeque in September and is now engaged to be married. She says:

“I think in New York you could get to a certain stage with someone and then they turn things around on you, like you imagined this whole thing when you know you didn’t imagine it, and they just freak out and disappear … I always felt like you could never raise those [marriage] questions, but my boyfriend now is just so certain about our relationship, and he doesn’t get scared when you bring this stuff up.”

A few more tales of New York-dating dissatisfaction follow, all resolved by the eventual fairy-tale ending in the arms of some European charmer. The women meet said romantic savior at a bus station in Berlin or at a grad student gathering in the States or on a train across Europe. The romance is immediate and intense. They’re engaged to be married within a few months. And this is a good thing, apparently? The article seems to insist we ladies should all run to Europe right now. It’s like the Gold Rush, only this time the gold is ring-shaped. Oh, and pay no attention to the actual statistics -that American men, on average, get married about four years earlier than the men of most European nations.

Sure, the American commitment-phobic male is a well-known trope, probably popularized for the most part by Sex and the City . Girl spends eight years cohabiting with boy, and then he decides not to marry her and up and leaves. As my grandmother often and frequently sums it up for me: “They won’t buy the cow if they get the milk for free.” (I think I’m the cow in this scenario.) Or as Beyonce puts it: “If you liked it, then you shoulda put a ring on it.” But contrary to the “Own me! Own me!” view of commitment, all of the New York women I know lingering in lasting long-term but nonconjugal unions are doing so because they’re not ready to get married, not because they’re anxiously biding time until their boyfriends decide to pop the question.

It’d be nice to see an article that depicts women as the well-rounded, rational beings that they are. You know, people who have multidimensional thoughts about marriage and don’t morph into rom-com cliches the minute the word is dangled before their faces. I’m not the only one who finds the prospect of marrying someone you’ve known for three months, let alone someone you met at a bus depot, totally terrifying. So why am I always reading about it like it’s some sort of female fantasy come true? Besides, most of the ladies interviewed for this article are only 25, 26, 27 years old. How much terrible dating could they have endured?