Looking for Love, a Pint and a Soccer Match
Published: June 16, 2010
IN the two months that the BP oil spill has befouled the Gulf of Mexico, an American stain has besmirched the British national character. That is the charge of some Britons in high places and high dudgeon. Last week, Lord Tebbit, the one-time Conservative Party chairman, accused President Obama of a “xenophobic display of partisan political presidential petulance,” while London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, complained that the United States was unleashing a wave of “anti-British rhetoric.”
But judging from the scores of New York women who turned up last Saturday at an East Village pub called Central Bar to watch the United States play England in the World Cup tournament , the reputation of British men remains unsullied.
The match doubled as the inaugural party of the dating Web site DateBritishGuys.com, which introduces American women to British men. Throughout the raucous pregame warm-up, women in T-shirts that read “BRITISH MEN WANTED” jockeyed for position — their eyes peeled for an English dreamboat — amid an unruly throng of soccer fans.
“Who doesn’t like a British guy?” asked Meghan O’Malley, 29. “They travel a lot more, they know a lot more, and the accent is amazing.” Ms. O’Malley, who works in fashion, had spotted an ad for the site the week before. “My entire office knew about it,” she said. “The girls think it’s funny.” Quickly, she added, “It’s not that we don’t like Americans!” As she spoke, a rousing chant of “U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A.” shook the room.
A huddle or two away, another woman, a law student named Marietta Jo, 24, took a double-fisted approach to the manhunt, holding a beer (free to T-shirt wearers) in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. (It was noon.) “I need to wake up, and then I need to get drunk,” she said. “This is awesome!”
Not everyone present, particularly American men, agreed.
“I didn’t think there was a demand for guys with pasty white skin and bad teeth,” said Jason Pohl, 31.
The World Cup meet-up was the inspiration of Ben Elman (a Briton), 30, and Rebecca Elman (an American) 24, who started DateBritishGuys.com this spring. At a cafe on the eve of the match, the couple told the story of their meet-cute, in London, five years ago, at a bar called the Loop. Mr. Elman walked up to Ms. Elman (an actress with ringlety blond hair) and asked, “Are you Jewish?” (He is).
“Why?” she asked.
“I said, ‘Because you’ve got curly hair and because of your name.’�” he said. “There’s not many nice Jewish girls in London.”
“It really wasn’t about that,” Ms. Elman said. “It was just my line,” he said in agreement.
They smiled at each other adoringly.
Three years later — by which time Mr. Elman had moved to the United States and Ms. Elman was in her last year of college — they were married. Soon, so many of Ms. Elman’s friends began asking, “How can I meet a British guy?” that they created the Facebook group “Love, Becca” to merge their international entourages. On the group page, Mr. Elman wrote, “I am on a mission to pass on the love my wife and I have to the rest of the world.” That unironic mission gradually evolved into the Web site.
Two weeks ago, as Mr. Elman pondered ways of increasing the number of men on the site, he remembered soccer. “I wanted to give the women members of my group more British guys to choose from,” he said. “There’s all these women on the site, and I don’t have enough men yet to satisfy them, so I thought, World Cup!”
On Saturday, as game time neared, macho rowdies took up chants insulting British manhood. David Howe, 36, who spent his first 26 years in England but holds an American passport, questioned the notion of British-American matchmaking. “This is probably built on a bit of a fallacy isn’t it?” he said. “That we’re all debonair, articulate, and intelligent? I wouldn’t go as far as saying it’s not the reality, but ... no, it’s not.”
Nonetheless, he said, bringing up the BP controversy, “I think the current anti-Brit sentiment is a little offensive.” In light of it, he said, he was “a little blown away by how many people are wearing the DateBritishGuys T-shirts. I’m not sure if it’s for the free beer they’re getting, or if they actually do want to meet British men.”
“It has nothing to do with who the girls want to date,” said Geoff Dietz, 25, who stood with friends at the front of the bar. “They just want free beer.”
Inessa Danilova, 27, standing with her friend Talia Chung, 31, bore out Mr. Dietz’s impression. “We just love the T-shirts, and we get free beers,” she said. But her friend paused thoughtfully. “I would like to meet British men, why not?” Ms. Chung said. “It just means more options.” Two members of the Web site, Katie Homant and Jessica Rimmer, both 30, exulted that they had met “10 or 15 guys in less than an hour,” Ms. Homant said. “They said they’re going to join the Web site and look us up.”
Mr. Elman said: “I don’t know if a pub is the best environment to meet someone. I don’t ever profess to know how and why people get together.”
Still, before kickoff, 50 women had donned his T-shirts, even if it was unclear whether their goal was a British boyfriend or an American beer. “When all’s said and done, I suspect they think it’s not going to change the world, but it might change their weekend,” he said.
As the match began, and the bar grew louder, the dating game subsided and the competition between the American and British men turned purely athletic. Two hours later, the result — on the field and in the bar — was a draw.