It occurred to me this morning that men in Ottawa and Abu Dhabi might greatly improve their chances of hooking up with women if they sorted their tactics and met somewhere in the middle. Canada's capital is a lovely but staid government town, and its single women are prone to lamenting a lack of forwardness from the male half. I can vouch for this; it always shocked me a bit whenever I left, even for Toronto or my hometown of London, where men are not afraid to look a woman in the eye and smile. You know, because it doesn't mean anything.
Then again, a boyfriend of mine, while we were still together and I could be sure he was not referring to me, liked to lament Ottawa had offered him "a lot of low fruit". Who is to say, right?
Men in Abu Dhabi (and I am talking about men from the region here) think nothing of stopping to talk to a woman they like. If that doesn't work, they'll follow her. I've been boxed in with a shopping cart at the fruit counter, tailed at Abu Dhabi Mall and shadowed home from a store near my hotel, until I yelled "GO AWAY". Even then the guy didn't look convinced I wasn't interested. Last fall, a friend of mine made the ill-advised move of giving her phone number to a normal-seeming, fun man from Oman a group of us met in a bar. (He also met her boyfriend, and knew it was her boyfriend). He bombarded her with calls and texts the next day. He has only just stopped. Another friend was looking through a rack in Mango when she felt she was being watched; she peered through the clothes to find a man staring at her from the other side. He asked her to go for a coffee.
Working late the other night, I went out to hail a cab. I heard a car pull in behind me – just a couple of metres away – and I turned to look. There was a man, his tinted windows rolled down, staring at me. "Hello" he said. "Do you speak Arabic?"
I ignored him, and turned back to get the cab. Hoping really hard one would come. "No cabs," he said. "Big problem."
He wanted to give me a ride, asking over and over. I said "no thank you", several times. A few minutes passed, him imploring, me ignoring, and finally a cab stopped. I was very relieved when I was inside. Five minutes later, as we waited to make a U-turn at a traffic light so I could be dropped off right in front of my hotel, I had a strange sensation. I turned to look out the window, and there he was in his car in the next lane, tinted window rolled down to expose just his eyes. Staring right at me. Eeeek! I asked the driver to step on it and we did some manouvres and managed to lose him.
The next morning, after a visit to the doctor, outside a hospital, as I again tried to hail a cab, a man in a suit in a Mercedes whistled, yelled and honked at me to get in his car. Why I felt embarrassed to be ignoring him I will never know, but I again felt extreme relief when a cab stopped and I was inside.
Every woman in this office has a similar story, I reckon. And on second thought, those shy Ottawa guys don't seem so bad after all.