"I Used to Have a Polish Girlfriend"
Ever since I came to the United States seven years ago, I have had this repetitive episode with newly introduced men. Regardless of their origin, once they get to talk directly to me, the first sentences invariably are, "Where are you from?" and after I state I am from Poland, this annoying declaration comes, "I used to date a Polish girl." My bitter reaction used to be, "So where is she now?" or a number of variations of this accusing question. Obviously, I never got a clear answer. They ranged between, "She is around" or "It didn't work out" and an awkward silence. In the process of developing my social good manners, I stopped asking my tough questions out loud. Still, they are always ringing in my mind when I hear this annoying declaration, "I used to have a Polish girlfriend." I always ponder what is the need of men to say this to a basically strange person.
One explanation is that these unacquainted with me men are trying to establish a common ground. They may think that since I am of Polish origin, I will feel closer to them if I know that they used to date Polish females. Maybe, their previous acquaintances with my fellow countrywomen should make me friendlier towards them. Or maybe, the statement merely implicates that they know Polish culture and Polish women, so they know who I am and what to expect of me. Another explanation could be that these men are indicating that they wouldn't mind dating me - I sure hope it is not the answer because that would totally freak me out. Other possible reasons could be that these men are proving their open-mindedness and non-discrimination towards females of other nations or that they want to show how adventurous their past was. Finally, this statement could also mean that Polish women are found attractive and desirable ladies by all kinds of men and this person speaking with me right there recognizes and appreciates that fact. I am afraid I will never know the actual answer.
Regardless of the reasons behind the declaration, there are other implications of it as well. First, since the relationship "used to be," someone had to break it. My curiosity instantly tempts me to ask who dumped whom and why. As much as I refrain myself from doing so, I immediately feel natural animosity towards those guys because there is always a chance that they took advantage of some poor Polish girl who was vulnerable in a new country and then they dumped her. Second, past relationships are a very personal information I find inappropriate to share with strangers neither as a listener nor as a speaker. Sometimes, sharing past affairs is not beneficial even if done between good friends. Third, if the man thinks that he knows me because he dated Polish women before and I happen to be from Poland, this tells me that the man operates on stereotyping - a very negative characteristic displaying limited horizons.
To conclude, just a bit of practical advice. Next time, when you speak with me, a Polish girl, or any other girl, and you feel an irresistible urge to ask about the nationality, please do not refrain yourself from doing so. This is good for avoiding gastric ulcers. Still, do not deliver in replay a dull statement that you used to have a Polish girlfriend or any other nationality girlfriend for that matter even if it is true. This will serve you no good unless you are specifically asked to do so. Instead, remain in the same subject area and tell her or me where your or your parents' origins are from. This will be a much better start for the newly started acquaintance.