Long before I married my American wife, who is, of course, the most beautiful, clever and supremely fascinating woman north or south of the Mason-Dixon line, I suppose I must have dated to use a term of art one or two Americans.
If there is one thing that separates UK from US romance, apart from the obvious expense of crossing the Atlantic to have dinner, it's the complex business of 'dating'. This is a subject with more rules than the MCC handbook, and as many snares as Shane Warne on a turning wicket.
By the time my future wife and I had reached the tipping-point of actually getting engaged American women are surprisingly traditional and socially conservative in the wedding departmentI knew all about the 'date with benefits', the 'booty call', and could have written a short bestseller on the 'non-date date'. My wife was fairly expert in British mating rituals, too.
As a single woman, she'd had her share of the nightmare known to her girlfriends as the 'English date', and was not nostalgic to repeat the experience.
To her, the Englishman's idea of foreplay seemed to involve sneaking up on you when your back was turned and rugby-tackling you into bed. If women are from Venus, she likes to say, British men are from the primordial swamp. I - or perhaps I should say 'we' - had also discovered that there are at least three - and potentially 3, - essential differences between the thirtysomething English woman and her New World cousin.
This, by the way, is a subject I have discussed almost every day of my married life with the beautiful, clever and fascinating Sarah Lyall, so you can take it as axiomatic that this wisdom has been thoroughly researched.
Why american women are sexier than british girls - by a man who knows
An essential element of that research is the t study of the contemporary American soap operas, small masterpieces of popular theatre: Six Feet Under, The West Wing and, supremely, Desperate Housewives. The ups and downs of Wisteria Lane may seem light years from reality, but the adulterous scheming of Gabrielle and her gardening hulk John or the school-kid hell of Lynette Scavo's family open a window on to the enthralling mystery of everyday life in the United States.
Call them what you like, but these addictive dramas are, to me, documentaries that underline the ocean-wide gulf between my American wife and almost all my English women friends.
First, never underestimate the American woman's belief in her fundamental right to be happy. The first line of the US constitution speaks of 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness'. In contemporary secular terms this translates into a relentless quest for improved material and psychic well-being in a scarcely believable range of mundane domestic arenas.
Get serious with an American woman and you are soon into any of therapies, and a regime of self-help from the colon to the molar.
The truth about dating american girls from a brit
Apart from the suspect bowel, one of the American woman's obsessions is teeth. The British, apparently, suffer terrible dental hygiene and typically display the kind of prehistoric snaggle-toothed smiles that would not disgrace an Iron Age cave.
Date an American and, likely as not, you will find yourself visiting a new dentist, too. Speaking of gritted teeth, Britons tend to stoicism. Happiness in a relationship might be a goal, but it's not one we set out to achieve by following a step programme.
Just at the point at which the pursuit of happiness threatens to become a relationship deal breaker, an unexpected ingredient - part hormone, part culture - kicks in to restore your romantic equilibrium: the special relationship.
This marks the second key difference between the US and the UK. Politically speaking, the special relationship is a myth. But in the tortured antechamber of love, it is still quite surprisingly potent. In the transatlantic battle of the sexes there is, whatever people claim to the contrary, a subcutaneous anglophilia at work.
Why britain's most eligible bachelors are falling for spruce all-american charms
It is, of course, a staple of transatlantic comedy like Four Weddings and a Funeral that American women are weirdly attracted to British men. In some circles, 'snagging' or shagging a Brit is a rare, but highly prized accomplishment, like beach volleyball or collecting harpsichords. The special relationship goes both ways.
British men who date American women are, in my experience, attracted to their candour, their openness, and their directness. Sex for American women is often more recreational, pleasure-oriented and fun. The absence of hang-ups and inhibitions has many different kinds of expression, with all kinds of consequence. Say what you like about Bill Clinton, but his difficulties with Monica Lewinsky arose, in part, from her impressive libido and from his attachment to the time-honoured Southern belief that 'If it's not in, it's not a sin'.
And here's the third essential point of difference between the women of London or Manchester and, say, New York or Los Angeles.
First and last, they are pragmatic. Not for them a swoony surrender to the mysteries of the human soul. Before, after, and even during, the all-important first dates they are on the alert for false notes. My wife and her friends even devised what they called a Flaw-o-matic to winnow out dud males.
Make a slip as a prospective date with these ladies and you were toast. We stoic Brits may not be able to put our affections into words as freely as our American rivals, but frankly we are more romantic.
Robert Louis Stevenson, an archetypal boy if ever there was one, once wrote of love that, 'the ideal story is that of two people, who go into love step for step, with a fluttered consciousness, like a pair of children venturing together into a darkened room'.
These fine sentiments are meaningless, and faintly sinister, to your average American woman.
You can be anything you want … be an ultimate tosser !
They never go into darkened rooms with almost total strangers until and unless it has been thoroughly checked out by a real estate agent, a trusted girlfriend and, probably, an expert in feng shui. The only fluttered consciousness they'll experience is if you cannot agree to split the bill, I mean 'check'. And the idea that love might be ish matter is almost heresy in the American bible of the heart.
But - and here's the delightful part - once they've made the emotional transition and ditched their other dates, they are usually committed, heart and soul. All that's left for the snaggle-toothed, tongue-tied Brit, a cross between Hugh Grant and Matthew McFadyen, is to say, with the poet Donne, 'O my America, my new found land'.
They like that, too. The new series of Desperate Housewives starts on Channel 4 from 18 January.
The Observer Life and style. Why American women are sexier than British girls - by a man who knows.
Robert McCrum on the pleasures of having an American spouse about the house. Robert McCrum.
Topics Life and style The Observer. Reuse this content.