Love in Dublin

Romantic Ireland?*

DUBLIN —  Ireland has a flourishing drinking scene, or ‘pub culture’ as it’s fondly known, but the concept of dating is as elusive here as a mystical dream.

Yet single people do exist, and the notion that this odd American practice could be a good thing is gradually infiltrating our national psyche. Last weekend’s Sunday Independent featured ‘Confessions of a Modern Irish Bachelor‘ by one Hugh Farrelly, a pallid, unsmiling journalist, who admitted he was ‘single, straight and 38’. The female perspective has been gaining ground as well. Irish TV today interviewed an intrepid New York woman who’s currently making her way through Dublin’s urban jungle. (Her website, interestingly, doesn’t mention any actual dates here). As background research, the reporters spoke to a few Irish women, all of whom agreed that dating in Dublin is awful and ‘very hard’.

Romance involves a trip to a pub, the consumption of a number of pints or whiskey or vodka, and a further journey to a nightclub or late bar, at which point the individual may approach and engage with a member of the opposite sex. As the night wanes and more drink is taken, primitive nuptials of a kind may occur.

The real romance is with the pub itself. Here we are eminently faithful, returning again and again to the same bars we frequented in our teenage years. Back then there was a frisson because we were underage and it was illegal, but after you hit 18 — and more than a decade on — the intrigue wears off. That rarely stops us, however.

Meanwhile women complain that men don’t initiate conversation; men say women are unresponsive and scary.

Last week I was at O’Donoghue’s on Baggot Street, a packed, roaringly noisy place, chatting to a beautiful woman in her early thirties, who told me how lonely and isolating Dublin is, and how hard it is to meet people. Her huge eyes fixed on me as she explained her plan to move home to the country to be closer to her family. She wanted to meet a nice man but told me she never met any in Dublin. Meanwhile we ignored a table of guys beside us, who looked over pointedly from time to time but said nothing.

After a while, I decided to conduct an experiment. I turned to the guy beside us and asked him if men and women ever spoke to each other in pubs in Dublin. I forget what his reply was, to be honest — this was after a third glass of the pub’s house white wine — but we got into a conversation. I looked around to introduce my friend, only to discover that she had departed for the toilet. Within five minutes another friend grabbed me. Everyone was leaving.

[*Image source: here]

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Comments
6 Responses to “Love in Dublin”
  1. MyopicPsychotic says:

    I am a single twenty-seven year old living in Dublin and agree it is definitely hard to meet people. My mother couldn’t believe that more and more people are using online dating today whereas in her time people met at the likes of dances and what not.

    I think it’s a little harsh to say Irish romance is with the pub. Irish men just seem to possess and innate inability to converse openly with the fairer sex, often depending on alcohol, for Dutch courage, and humour, to overcome the woman’s defences. This is usually seen as endearing by foreign nationalities. I myself dislike it.

    The woman on TV today had a point when she said it’s up to a single person to make sure they don’t keep going to the same places to meet people. She used the example of a hiking group. She even suggested emailing all your email contacts to ask for recommendations. I thought that suggestion was a little desperate.

    • Frieda says:

      Sorry for the slow response, I’ve been away for a few days in rural Ireland with no internet access. I’m interested in your comment — the most intriguing thing to me about all this is that growing up, I thought these problems were unique to me (perhaps all teenagers think that). Now I’m beginning to think they are much more general.

      I’ve noticed that women I speak to moan about there being no men; yet men moan about exactly the same problem (re. women). I’m curious as to how our attitudes arose, and I wonder if our parents’ generation was a bit more optimistic and open minded than we are.

      I agree with you that the New York single gal’s advice about contacting everyone on facebook would probably provoke ridicule! It’s the type of thing you can only do as part of a media project or book. But I do think that the fact people are starting to talk about ‘dating’ on TV and in the papers may be a sign of attitudes changing; and I wish that program had focused more on the Irish people, and less on New York gal…

  2. ronan says:

    What an interesting post. I have spent my first summer in Ireland for nearly ten years and have had many of the same thoughts you have. It does seem that there is no dating here but, at the same time there are a lot of couples. I think that must make it difficult to be single as the lack of possibility of dating must make one’s single status feel very immutable. On the other hand, social life is much more group based and easy here and friends seem much more involved in each others’ daily lives than in London. The centrality of company, conversation and conviviality to life is also very refreshing. PS I also loved The Ship of Fools, apparently he is working on a follow up with prescriptions for how to refloat the ship.

    • Frieda says:

      Hi Ronan,

      Ta for the comment, and sorry about the hetero-focus of my post. I don’t know much about the gay dating scene here and I’d be fascinated if it were similar. Despite our friendly reputation, Irish people seem incredibly shy and neurotic, which may be what inspires our historic fondness for alcohol. But you’re right that society is close here too — sometimes it feels like one big (happy/dysfunctional) family.

      Re. Mr. O’Toole, further on in his book he begins to complain about the education system, and he loses me by suggesting that computer science should be taught at school. I’m a traditionalist — I think computers should be left for college. Kids have enough on their plate if they get a sophisticated grasp of the basic subjects ….

      But I look forward to his sequel. Thanks for bringing it to my attention — I may review it!

  3. queenofparks says:

    Great post. One friend of mine in Dublin who dates very successfully has a specific MO: she goes for foreign men, because they don’t drink as much and are more open to chatting up women. Maybe the moral of your post, though, is your new acquaintance talking about how hard it is to meet men, while ignoring the table of men next door …

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