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Mr. Sensitive Comments:

America vs. the Middle East: Different Signals

I was living in the Middle East my first year of graduate school. I became friends with a local guy.

American Woman, Middle Eastern Man

He came over one day very confused. He had been out with an American woman the night before, and she became very upset with him. He had no idea why. When he asked her to explain, she became even more upset.

He was hoping that since I was an American, I could help him understand American women. I told him that I did not understand American women either, but I would try.

A Walk to Her Door

He said that most of their date had gone fine. At the end of the evening he pulled up to her apartment building and said good night to her. But she asked, "Aren't you going to walk me up to my apartment?" He enthusiastically agreed and escorted her to her door, assuming that they were going to have sex. When they got to her door, however, she just said, "Good night," turned around and closed the door in his face. He was flabbergasted. How could she lead him on like that? And by what right was she mad at him now?

Past the Door

In America it is normally assumed that the door to the woman's home is the point of no return. It is assumed that the guy will bring her at least to that point. If she invites him in past that point, there is the possibility of sex.

Past the Curb

In his local culture, however, the curb was the point of no return. It was assumed that the guy would bring her to the curb in front of her building. If she invites him to come up to her door, it was assumed that she was inviting him inside her home and the possibility of sex.

No guide book that I had ever read mentioned this subtle difference in dividing lines. The difference was so subtle that my friend and his date could not figure out what had gone wrong, or even discuss it.


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