Sarah Lyall is like an American Jane Goodall, but instead of mist she's got fog, and instead of apes she's got a more inscrutable species: Englishmen. A reporter for the New York Times, Lyall has lived among the repressed wit-machines for 13 years — even married one — and writes about them in her new book, The Anglo Files: A Field Guide to the British. If you're thinking of dating a Limey, some things to know first:
1. They exaggerate. Lyall explains: "If a Brit tells you he was chained in the basement growing up and fed only bones and wore rags and couldn't make it to school, that's his way of saying he didn't get along with his parents."
2. Self-deprecation is their way of bragging. "Underneath the modesty is often a man who knows he can bow humbly and it won't be taken seriously. A good example is the two-time Nobel winner in science who described himself as 'just a guy messing around in a lab.'"
3. They drink because they care. "Even on a first date, an Englishman is going to drink a lot more than you. It shows he likes you, because he's repressed and he wants to be unrepressed, so he can impress you. Just don't attempt to keep up. Ever."
4. Not all of them are gay or into spanking, but they all, deep down, want to wear your frilly dresses. "Most Englishmen at one time or another have worn a dress. And might do it again. We don't know why this is, but studies are being conducted."
5. They're all secretly attracted to Margaret Thatcher. "She's pretty in her way, and she's a great flirt. But she also scolded and lectured and shouted at the men in Parliament. Everyone in her cabinet had a crush on her. It's a kind of nanny fantasy."
6. You're exotic to them. "American women tend to be more open and honest and candid than what they're used to, and they like that. Also, they can't place you — England's tiny, and America's vast and varied. Places like Arizona and the Midwest are wild to them. Plus, you adore them, which doesn't hurt."