Critics scrutinized the popular HBO series Sex and the City for the unrealistic extravagant lifestyles of its female protagonists. My biggest complaint with the series, and the myth it still perpetuates, is that I don’t know many single women who have that much sex. I have lived in New York now for nearly 12 years. Single for over three years, my existence has been mostly a solitary one. I only bring up SATC because despite the fact that it went off the air several years ago, it still casts a shadow of the archetype for urban living. In Lena Dunham‘s dreadful (I don’t care how many awards it wins) Girls one character is completely obsessed with Carrie Bradshaw‘s dream of designer labels, expensive shoes, ridiculously expensive addresses, multiple cocktail brunches and a bevy of sexual partners. The CW is currently in production of Candance Bushnell’s prequel to SATC The Carrie Diaries. No matter how fantastical or mythical, this twisted metropolitan fairy tale won’t die.
Other than my low-income, I am close to the living embodiment of the characters on SATC. I don’t aspire to trendy addresses or designer labels, but shouldn’t I at least have a complicated and active sex life? Don’t men of all socioeconomic classes need to get their groove on? Where are all the single straight guys? Where are all the single gal brunches filled with sordid tales of the size male genitalia, unusual sexual requests and liaisons with wealthy business men who tip us after the fact.
The last time I had brunch with a friend we found ourselves surrounded by families with small children. No eavesdropping parent would be concerned, as instead of swapping X-rated stories, we both kvetched about how difficult it was to date in this city. I don’t understand why it is so difficult for me, or any of my friends. Most of the single women I know are gorgeous, talented, accomplished and fiercely intelligent. We aren’t searching for Mr. Perfect, but we also don’t like putting up with terrible behavior. I cannot write from a man’s perspective, but I know many woman have gone through the following:
- Have a date stand them up or cancel at the last second
- Have a man lie about being single
- A date will expect sex only on his terms when he wants it.
- Never follow through on a date but try to keep us strung along via email or text msg.
- Flip out and have a breakdown on second or third date
- Become obsessed with ripping on or tearing apart an ex-girlfriend or ex-wife
- Become sexually dysfunctional due to a porn addiction
- Dates with men who are so socially awkward, any conversation is difficult if not impossible
- Expect sex immediately after meeting you
I haven’t lived all of these examples but I have heard so many stories from female friends it is stunning when any date works out. I have learned to no longer think beyond the first date or any date. No matter how well I think it went, I may never hear from the man again for reasons that I will never know or understand.
I have completely thrown out the rule book and lowered all of my expectations as I now joke this has been my de-evolution in the dating world. I started out quite ambitious, when I first left my husband I thought I might actually want to get married again but I quickly changed my tune. I have gone from the following
- Fall in Love, get married, start a family or become step-parent to children from a previous relationship
- Fall in Love, be in a long-term committed relationship if children are part of it great, if not then OK
- Be in a long-term relationship, not necessarily with a huge commitment
- Date the same person for an extended period of time
- Go on more than two or three dates with the same person
I dropped “Fall in Love” quickly into my search. I am not kidding or joking that I have been in the last category now for nearly three years. Something happens fairly early on in each budding relationship to muck everything up. Most of the time it is clear after the first date that it just isn’t a good match. I have also found a lot of men in my age group, extremely damaged from a past breakup. Then there are the life-long bachelors, the man-children, the commitment phobic Lotharios. I honestly wouldn’t mind these men much if they were just more honest about their intentions. Too often they blur the lines of playing the part of the would-be boyfriend while never really wanting to commit. When I try to play the casual dating game, I usually screw everything up. I am simply not used to the rules. I get told a lot that I am “too nice”. Some incorrectly think I want some huge major commitment right off the bat. Coldness seems counter-intuitive towards someone I am trying to get to know better, yet my effusiveness comes across as clingy and desperate.
My friends who seem to have the most active sex lives are polyamorous. That is, people who openly have relationships with more than one partner. Their lifestyle is a puzzle to me, and I don’t quite understand it, but it seems to work for them. I guess New York is an all or nothing town. How did we get here? And what happened to normal dating? I refuse to be treated like a doormat by anyone, and I don’t wish to have multiple partners. I don’t say this necessarily for moral reasons, I simply don’t have the time or inclination to juggle more than one person.
So instead of high priced cocktails and wild affairs, I’ll drink my coffee and go home to my cat. Maybe I’ll watch the fairy tales about $1600 shoes and a new boyfriend every night. That is fantasy land, and my life is something all together different.