Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in SpainSpanish/Galician Life
- The newish coalition government - in the face of the inevitable rise in gambling addiction - plans to crack down on the industry's advertising. Who can blame it, given the frequency and ubiquity of the ads? Not to mention the industry's sailing so close to the wind under the existing laws.
- The Corner here takes a look here at the start of the EU fistfight around a 5 year budget affected by the loss of the huge British contribution. Here in Galicia, folk are reeling from the news that agricultural and structural transfers will be down €400m and €200m, respectively. Spain's EU good times are perhaps at an end. To some extent at least.
- It's testament to the efforts of our (Galician Nationalist) mayor that the last fatal road accident in Pontevedra city was 9 years ago - tellingly of an 81 year old on a zebra crossing. His latest initiative - alongside that of a reduction of the maximum speed from 10 to 6ph in priority pedestrian areas - is that all e-vehicles must stay at least 2m away from property entrances. Which is surely right, given that Spaniards tend to step outside without checking whom they might walk into. Or who might crash into them . . .
- I touched on the words alta and baja the other day, in the context of getting off and going back to work. Right on cue comes a report that here in Galicia a large number of sickness benefit claims are fraudulent. In fact, the percentage in my notes is so high, I wonder if I took it down correctly.
- Good to see that the Pontevedra police - already famously effective at this - have managed to double the number of speeding fines levied - courtesy of new small and mobile detectors called velolasers.
- Also good to see that the Galician producers feel they can compete with champagne and cava when it comes to sparkling albariño wine. At least in quality, if not in quantity.
- I see that the delays with the works on O Burgo bridge have been attributed to rain - which is not exactly unusual in winter here - but I see that progress is now being made in establishing a little 'park' at the Lérez end of it, complete with 2 pétanque 'lanes'. The first in the city, I think. I might just take it up.
- There was an article in the Times yesterday about modern dating practices. I've posted it below. Essentially, every young Brit is confused. The men, it seems, because they've discovered that, not only do women like sex and want it as much as they do, but also that women can be just as callous as men in their treatment of dates and 'partners'. Which seems to have led the men - with traditional double standards - to the conclusion that all women are umarriageable sluts. Which perhaps explains the lack of commitment that young women complain about. Whatever, I'm very glad I'm only young at heart . . .
- Is SMS spamming a new thing? I ask because the Bankia bank has(n't) sent me 3 messages in the last couple of days advising that my (non-existent) account with them is frozen. I don't recall receiving this kind of thing previously.
- Bakker is still at it, with impunity it seems. Funny country, the USA.
- Mind you, shysters exist in the UK as well, of course: A private clinic could face an investigation after it recommended using bleach to treat autistic children. Julia Chaplin told an undercover reporter how to use chlorine dioxide, also known as industrial bleach. Ms Chaplin is not a doctor but a podiatrist, although she said her practice was “like your GP”. She offers one-to-one consultations at £34 for 30 minutes or £60 for an hour. Ms Chaplin is a follower of Kerri Rivera, an American former estate agent who is a prominent advocate of using bleach to treat autism. I'd just make both of them consume a bottle of bleach a day. To clean out their insides and, hopefully, destroy what passes for their brains. The font of their ethics.
- Words/Phrases of the Day:-
- Desavanencía:- Unpleasantness, arguments, disagreements, dissent, nastiness, etc.
- Búmeran: Boomerang
- Tercer grado: Parole, I think. Which corrupt Spanish politicians seem to be given rather early in their jail sentences.
- Baladí: Trivial, paltry.
- Update on the water situation . . . Lacking any more containers, I decided to check if I'd closed the tap into the tank that seemed to be a true cornucopia of water. In fact, I had. But, thinking this was sufficient, I hadn't turned off the main tap. Conclusion - There's a direct supply to the house as well as via the reservoir. Needless to say, the overflow stopped when I did switch off the main tap. You live and learn. My challenge now is how to use all the stored water. As well as getting the non-stop overflow fixed, of course.
From Hinge and Tinder to ghosting – millennial men, dating and gender politics: Lucy Holden
‘I don’t know any psychopath who would go up to a woman in a bar any more,” Hector McCormick, a 24-year-old actor, says, with wide green eyes. “I wouldn’t, because I’ve seen other guys do it, and you think, ‘Mate, leave her alone.’ You’re perceived as being creepy, seedy, quite … lechy. Maybe some guys still do, but you’d have to be very attractive. It’s a changing world and you have to adapt all the time. On an app, it’s already agreed that you’re game.”
It’s impossible to talk about the past decade without talking about Tinder: making casual sex as easy to order as Ocado since 2012 (not the official slogan). Anyone on the dating scene knows what it’s like to be catfished (chatted up by someone with a fake profile); cushioned (chatted up by someone in a relationship); ghosted (when someone cuts contact without reason); and zombied (when the match sporadically resurrects after ghosting you).
“What the hell is bread-crumbing?” four single friends asked me in a pub last weekend, before I explained that it’s when someone you’re chatting to drops a Hansel and Gretel-style trail of flirtatious messages suggesting you get a drink, but always fails to meet you. “Ahhhh, yeah. That’s happened to me,” they agreed – two guys, two girls.
The etiquette of modern romance is something men and women have both had to get used to. When I wrote in this magazine last month about a decade of dating, I received a lot of messages from guys who said it resonated. They’d been on as many “really awful dates” as me, they said, because girls could be as badly behaved as men could. They’d been broken-hearted and bounced like we had, but were more confused, if anything, because gender politics and sexual fluidity have changed the way women operate completely.
It reminded me of a conversation I overheard standing outside a posh restaurant in central London. A brunette, probably in her early thirties, told a friend, “I literally raped Adam while we were having a cigarette last night.” She was clearly joking, but it was jarring nonetheless, first because it was a rape joke, and second because we’re more used to men using this kind of language.
No wonder the millennial male isn’t sure where he stands any longer. The fact that it’s cooler and more exciting to be a woman in 2020 than a man has given us a freeing, boyish confidence to hold the cards more than ever. Add the very public scepticism towards men in general (fuelled in recent years by a flurry of graduate rape trials, the MeToo movement and an overdue discussion about consent). Can you still offer to buy a feminist dinner, a twentysomething guy might wonder, or is that an insult?
“Can you or can’t you approach a woman without being seen as a creep?” Johnny Cassell, 31, from Reading, asks me. His job, as a dating expert hired by men who want to do better with women, means he’s heard all the complaints. “Conventionally, men were celebrated for having sex, and in the media now there’s a lot of confusion about guys who are in pursuit of that – and those who want meaningfulness and relationships. Society has moved over the decade in now not putting so many negative labels on women. But the labels for men have become more extreme.”
That’s because men sometimes still go about things in the wrong way, he admits. “But it shouldn’t be a blanket statement that going up to someone is wrong. It’s ruining it for women who want a fairytale meeting. Lots of women I speak to say they’re frustrated about men not pulling the trigger, but many guys don’t know how they’re allowed to approach someone. The simple answer is not to pursue an unwanted interaction – it’s not difficult to be intuitive.”
The problem, possibly, is that women are confused, too. When a man in a bar I was in last year followed me to a restaurant where I was meeting friends and left his card with the maître d’, the women at my table were split 50:50 on whether it was “creepy” or not. It all really hinged on what happened next, they agreed. If I called him and “we ended up getting married”, it would be the “most romantic story ever”. If I met him and he killed me, everyone would say, “Stalker. What did you expect?” Possibly the fact that young women are aware that these extremes are still possible makes us wary of any approach, full stop.
Aneirin George, a 29-year-old actor from Leicester, agrees. “Some guys have ruined it for the rest of us,” he explains. “It takes me half an hour to write a five-minute email asking someone for coffee if they’re female, even if it’s for work purposes,” he says. “It helps my career to meet people, but as a man, I’m aware that a woman is probably asked ten times a day to have coffee by weirdos, and I’m so worried about being ‘that’ guy – that straight, white male on Twitter spouting awful stuff. A very small percentage are like that, but the worst cases get singled out as being ‘a typical man’. Society is judged often by the bad examples, not the good, so women are suspicious. I would be. You can’t ask a girl the time without it being possible that you’re using pick-up lines from The Game now.”
The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists was written by investigative reporter Neil Strauss in 2005, and documented a world in which men were taught to get women into bed with a series of innocent-seeming opening lines.
“But some men might actually need to know the time!” George adds. He’s currently in a two-year relationship but, like all men our age, tried the apps when single. “Tinder is a cesspit. Plenty of Fish seemed too much effort. OkCupid seemed … odd,” he says. “In 2015, I managed three weeks on Happn, which tells you when you’ve been near someone you’ve matched with, which seemed better because it should be easy to meet up if you work near someone, right? But I only ever got ghosted when I asked someone for a drink. I felt, after that, like I needed to apologise for being creepy on an app we’d both downloaded that tracked our movements all the time and told people where we were. Isn’t that absurd?”
McCormick – recently single, but whose longest relationship lasted around two years – has tried Hinge and Tinder, which was “the Wild West to start with”, he says. “At the beginning, it had its problems, unvetted, but it didn’t have the weirdness it has now. Now you have to pay to unlock the ‘likes’, which is quite elitist. It’s £50 a time or something. I refuse to pay to talk to someone. That feels both wrong and an admission of defeat.”
The apps are so common that everyone has a preference in the same way they would for beer or wine, and the Inner Circle (up to £260 a year) is an exception for Cassell. “Tinder felt far too saturated. It would be good if you were travelling and wanted to line up a date before you even landed,” he admits. “But when people say they’ve got 100 matches, I think, why? What are you doing wrong? I went on five dates when I was using the Inner Circle. They went quite well. One of the Russians came round to mine for dinner. Which is code for, ‘Come round for a shag,’ but I love making dinner. I’ve got an adventurous spice cupboard.”
Did you show the date? “Not that cupboard. Showed her another one. Just as spicy,” he laughs, surprisingly goofily. “For the guys that can’t afford dinner, take a girl furniture shopping but don’t buy anything,” he adds. “I’ve done that before. I love interior design.” After meeting someone who liked sofas six months ago, he too currently isn’t single.
Both sexes say the other is the worst offender when it comes to ghosting. An attractive Irish friend, who does very well with women, often starts the week with six date options and by Friday has only one still standing. “And I swear I’m not saying anything weird,” he promises, which is what divides the complaints about ghosting. Lots of the decent guys out there are so worried about overstepping lines and offending dates that they’re asking female friends either to devise the messages they’d like to receive themselves (is this a version of catfishing?), or check the message stream to see “what’s happened” when the girl disappears.
“I’ve actually asked a girl in advance whether she’s going to ghost me,” says Freddie Armston-Clarke, a 26-year-old software account manager from Bath, whose longest relationship has been four years. “She said, no, she’d just been playing hard to get and we’d go for a drink – then never messaged me again. Being ghosted is the biggest bugbear among my friends.”
“It makes you feel terrible,” says Jack Gregson, 29, a London-born creative producer for MTV and Disney, whose most recent relationship ended last year. “It’s fine if it’s a ‘no’, but it would be nice to be told, because being ghosted makes you feel like they’ve decided suddenly that you’re not worth it, which affects your self-esteem. I do often ask female friends to show me what I might have said to put someone off, because you feel like you’ve done something wrong on the apps. One woman sent me such ranty messages I didn’t know what was going on. It’s all very confusing and puts you off dating entirely.” His longest relationship so far has been around six months.
“I think boys are more open,” Armston-Clarke adds. “We definitely play fewer games. A lot of girls wait an hour to text back or set up lots of dates with men at the same time. Maybe I view it too simply, but if you really like someone and they like you, it just works and you shouldn’t have to play games at all. I think men are more loyal. Lots of guys are much more up-front, and get hurt more, but maybe women have more of a deep-seated expectation that they’ll be f***ed over by men. I believe in that theory that, if you get f***ed over, you’re more likely to f*** over someone else.”
Sometimes women use the apps for a dopamine hit, Cassell says, wanting the validation despite being in a relationship. One of his clients told him last week that a girl who’d previously ghosted him zombied herself and came round to his for dinner. Things went well and they lay, after, in crumpled sheets, when she decided to play on her phone. “I ignored that,” the guy – mid-thirties – says. “Then it rang and she picked up and screamed into it, ‘I’m at home. In bed!’ Then she threw the phone at the wall and said her boyfriend was ‘an arsehole’ for never trusting her.”
Women can be just as predatory too, apparently. Last year, Gregson found himself matched with three separate American girls, all called Jane and all working in finance. “They seem to have collectively decided they wanted English boyfriends,” he says. “But I had nothing in common with any of them.” Another match, who had set her location to London despite living in Oklahoma, started video-calling him relentlessly from America, while she was being rude to Uber drivers or lying on her bed drunk. Then she booked an Airbnb metres from his house and arrived in London with a story that her “best friend” had also met a boy in London called Jack and they were now in love.
“She was really into PDAs [public displays of affection], which I hate,” he says awkwardly, “We kissed, but I felt very uncomfortable about it. I’m a slow, safe kind of guy. When I suggested we slow down, she sent dozens of messages saying I’d made her feel like a slut, and that it was ‘very funny’ that I thought of myself as ‘a hotshot’.”
“I’ve always been aware that men can be taken advantage of too,” George agrees. “When I was at uni, I went speed-dating, matched with one of the women and had a drink with her in the bar afterwards. I was surprised when her husband turned up. I didn’t know if he knew she’d been speed-dating, or whether they’d planned for her to find someone for them. It was weird.”
Threesomes aren’t uncommon, but maybe it is taken for granted that men are gamer than they really are. It’s still assumed they have more sexual fantasies than girls. After cooking dinner for a female friend at his house, Cassell decided to message a girl he’d been on a few dates with to see if she wanted to come around after, he tells me. “Then I thought it would be nice for her to meet my friend, so we both went to her house. They got on super-well, but it got late and I was tired, so went for a lie-down. I woke to find them handcuffing me to the bed and pushing my legs apart,” he says, wide-eyed.
Were you raped, I ask, genuinely concerned.
“Oh no. No. I mean, it wasn’t the worst thing ever to happen to me midweek,” he says with a laugh. “But they horse-whipped me within an inch of my life.”
The casual nature of sex has flipped first-date etiquette entirely, with some women I know preferring to sleep with a guy before agreeing to dinner. “I want to know what I’m getting myself into,” they say, as if sitting opposite a stranger for a couple of courses and finding them boring is more dangerous than going to their house and stripping.
“Women message me saying, ‘DTF?’ a lot,” Gregson says. I’m perplexed, and look it. “You don’t know that? It means, ‘Down to f***?’ ” he explains. “I’m always like, ‘No, thank you. But I’m sure you’re very nice.’ I like to get to know a girl before I embarrass myself sexually. All sorts of girls send those types of messages. I’m not opposed to others having one-night stands. Free love is a … thing. It’s a woman’s right to choose. I just don’t want it.”
A couple of my female friends still expect everything to be paid for, an old-fashioned attitude that turns to hypocrisy when we adopt empowered attitudes elsewhere. One male friend – now 27 – often texted me, feeling depressed, after bad dates in London, when a woman didn’t offer to buy a single round or even attempt to split dinner, despite knowing that they hadn’t clicked and wouldn’t see each other again. He’d spend the rest of the week too broke to go out and feeling deflated by how difficult it seemed to be to meet someone nice. He did in the end, on Hinge, moved in a year later and couldn’t be happier.
For graduates starting life in expensive cities with blow-out rents and beginner salaries, the expense of dating is tough. George moved home last year to help fund a master’s degree. “I used to tell people I lived in shared accommodation with a live-in landlord, so we couldn’t go to mine,” he admits. “A few months in, I’d tell them that was my mum.” Armston-Clarke lived previously with his sister, and is about to move in with his brother while he waits for a new house share. “I’m not sure I’d bring anyone back,” he says. “It’s a bit rude when you’re living rent-free.” In similar situations, friends of his stop dating entirely.
The men say their confidence has taken a hit. “Online dating opens you up to constant rejection, which doesn’t help if you already have low self-esteem,” Gregson admits. “It’s left me feeling very sad. Someone once walked out of a date after 20 minutes, and I thought it had been going fine. She said she was tired and went home, then stopped replying. That really makes you feel like you’re not good enough.”
He and McCormick have both been stood up; Gregson after buying £50 tickets to a film festival for a fourth date. “That’s the kind of stuff that makes me want to curl up into a ball and not date any more,” he says. “It makes me feel very worthless. At the same time, I think men have done worse to women, so I’m paying for that. Maybe women don’t think that, but you try to justify it. It’s a way of not feeling like an arsehole.”
If you’re already feeling fragile, that can push you over the edge. “I have depression and so I have fragile moods, which definitely make dating harder,” George says. He’s working on a one-man show that will come out later this year on the depression crisis now.
The younger guys say they are more likely to ignore red flags early on. “My girlfriends kill someone off if they don’t like one thing that’s said,” McCormick says. “I think guys are more likely to go for it. I’m not confident enough to send loads of risqué, flirtatious messages and I think I’m better in person, so I try to set up a drink quite quickly, to see if we’ll get on. Once, after a bit of liquid courage, I did ask a girl to the theatre, but I didn’t know the play and the whole cast was full-frontal naked during the first act. It was basically pornography. I felt like Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver – it was traumatising.”
Gregson first started using apps at 22, and has never dated anyone he’s met first in “the real world”. “I’d love to be the guy who has the confidence to go up to a girl at Burger King and say, ‘Would you like a bite of my Whopper?’ But I’m not that guy. I like theatre and cinema, and no one wants to be approached in the dark. I’m also terrible with signals, so unless women tell me they like me, I have no idea, which puts me quickly in the friend zone. Often I think it’s going well, and they say it’s not and I think, ‘Why do you keep sticking your tongue down my throat then?’ ”
The up-and-down nature of it all quickly affects self-esteem. “A lot of the time you ask questions about their life and get nothing back,” he says. “I don’t like to think of anything as a waste of time – we’re both wasting it – but it makes me think I’m so evidently boring that they don’t need to ask me a single thing about myself.”
“Women want a Saint Laurent or a Ralph Lauren, depending on whether they want a guy to f*** or settle down with,” Cassell says. “Saint Laurent is very rock’n’roll; Ralph Lauren is the guy in chinos with parental qualities who’ll take you to the country at the weekend. If you want to be a long-term prospect, turn up as Ralph; if you want to be tied to the bed, turn up as Saint Laurent. But get it right – girls will stop speaking to you if they think you’re one and you come as the other. I know someone that’s happened to.”
Gregson, possibly, has accidentally been a bit too Ralph (not that he wants to be Saint Laurent either). “A girl matched me once and her first message was, ‘Let’s skip the back and forth preamble and jump straight to being boyfriend and girlfriend.’ I thought she was joking, but it sounded good to me. Then when I cancelled a date and tried to reschedule she said, ‘You have a girlfriend now. You can’t do that.’ She video-called me and said I wasn’t putting in enough effort. I never do this, but I had to block her because she wouldn’t stop calling.”
When the women I know say men are the worst on the apps and the men blame the women, it’s hard to know what’s happening. Something that is new, though, is that the public scepticism of men makes it more acceptable for women to have an outwardly disparaging opinion of them, sometimes using feminism as a disguise.
Armston-Clarke sums it up. “The weird thing is that, as a society, we still believe that being in a relationship is the norm. It’s a race to get on Hinge when you’re newly single and in your mid-twenties. It doesn’t feel OK to be single and not be dating, because people talk about dating so much of the time.”
Gregson considers this. “Maybe men do invest too much in matches,” he says. “I’m guilty of fantasising about my own wedding, in the same way women used to be accused of doing. When a girl’s talking to me, I sometimes hear wedding bells. Then I think, ‘You’re the worst. Put me in an asylum.’ ” Or a hotel, maybe, at least.