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Dating in NYC: Sexless and the City

Cosmopolitan

Cosmopolitan (Photo credit: penguinbush)

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.

Everyone seems to be getting worked up over HBO’s “Girls”

Photo by Greogry Kats (myself) Especially in s...

Photo by Greogry Kats (myself) Especially in spring, Victorian Houses of Park Slope Streets look so fabulous. Category:Images of New York City (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t normally write reviews, but since I tend to write about women’s issues sometimes I felt compelled after seeing the highly anticipated “Girls

HBO decided to green light a new program starring written and directed by a 25-year-old woman, Lena Dunham, called “Girls”   I think that might be too much to expect from a 25-year-old, despite her exclusive and expensive education at St. Ann’s in New York and Oberlin.  There is no substitute for life after all and most 25-year-old simply haven’t lived enough of it to fully understand its many complexities.  Reviews of the show have been glowing to scathing, and several writers have gotten worked up over the awkward and depressing sex scene in the pilot.

It breaks my heart to say it, as I should be championing a show written and created by a woman especially one that produced and set in Brooklyn.  However the show made my skin crawl.  I don’t think I am its intended audience as I am nearly 15 years older than the main character.  But I am a single woman struggling to make it in New York, why do I hate it so much?  I guess because the lead character comes across as an entitled whiny brat completely dependent on her parent’s allowance.  When her parents cut her off abruptly she flips out, quits her unpaid internship and ends up high on opium pod tea.  Her roommate complains of a boyfriend that is “too nice” and her roommate’s visiting relative from England discovers she is pregnant.

I do not come from a privileged background not even close, so I guess it might be why I can’t relate to these characters.  Not only is the creator, Lena Dunham from a certain level of privilege but one of her co-stars is the daughter of NBC reporter Brian Williams.  So two privileged girls created their little slice of New York that only they might find interesting.  I would love to see reviews of this show written by poor struggling New Yorkers, not well off reporters.  I didn’t find these characters sympathetic at all.  Dealing with real adversity actually makes people more interesting, and the obstacles these women are up against don’t seem that insurmountable.  I don’t think the creator of this program has experienced much outside of her privileged sheltered upbringing.  For example the roommate that complains about the boyfriend who is too nice, and has a proverbial vagina…comes across as completely unlikable.  What does she expect?  And how frequently is this really a problem for young women, especially in New York?  I have heard tales of both men and women treating each other horribly, not being too sweet or too nice.  Hook-ups, one night stands, sexually transmitted diseases and rude texts and emails are the norm, not overly dotting super committed boyfriends, especially at that young age.   I know a lot of women much younger than myself and I don’t think any of them has the “boyfriend that is just too nice problem”.  Not one in fact.

The apartment they live in looks to be in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn which is actually quite posh.  Their place is huge and for the most part well furnished. The rent is unbelievably low at $2100 a month as it appears to have at least three bedrooms. The furniture is beat up, cheap and secondhand…but at least they have furniture.   When I was just out of college in Chicago I slept on the floor because I couldn’t afford a bed, and I have met several New Yorkers who have little more than a mattress, yet these women have large and comfy queens with bed frames, matching bedspreads and cute little lamps, even framed art on the walls.   The characters are also obsessed with the television series Sex in the City which is to be expected as the whole endeavor appears to be some type of younger homage to the characters.  I want to inform them that “Sex in the City” is more myth than reality as most single women in New York spend the majority of their time working, the rest alone.   We can’t afford weekly brunches, constant lunches out, trips to the Hamptons and $400 shoes.  And even the characters on “Sex in the City” saw themselves as fully flawed people, not as perpetual victims.

When the lead character quits her unpaid internship she protests about another intern who was then hired as a paid employee.  Her boss responds that the former intern turned employee knows Photoshop.  Most enterprising young women would then, try to learn Photoshop or other advanced software to better their chances in the highly competitive workplace.   Instead the lead character wanders off defeated.  As a person who taught myself numerous software programs and how to type after college, how to build a website, and various other office skills,  I just felt like sitting down with this young woman and giving her a lecture on growing up.   Then there is that sex scene that everyone is worked up about.  The way her boyfriend treats her and their awkward sex scene is just flat-out depressing.  He is disrespectful and cruel yet she doesn’t seem to notice and puts up with his poor behavior.

What drives this young woman?  She is trying to publish her memoir, that is the memoir of a 25-year-old woman.  Not a 25-year-old who got back from the Peace Corps, or volunteered with orphans in Africa, is a cancer survivor, traveled around the world, or is recovering from working as a street-walker or high paid escort.  No, just a 25-year-old that went to a prestigious prep school, elitist college  and worked as an unpaid intern.  I can’t imagine no matter how skilled a writer that the fictional memoir would be all that interesting.  I know we all think we are fascinating when we are 25 but we are really just pups waiting for life to knock us around a bit and make us into more complicated adults.  Unless of course we are truly exceptional in our early twenties, but most of us aren’t.  I think I might have more sympathy if she was writing a novel, historical fiction or even poetry something less self-obsessed.

Of course there are some issues that do face young adults are addressed in this show, overwhelming student debt, a poor job market, exploitative internships and complicated dating lives.  But I can’t help but grabbing the lead character by both shoulders and say…

Try being a kid who couldn’t afford to even work at an unpaid internship because their parents couldn’t afford to subsidize them – then try to apply for jobs that require intern experience.  Try having to suck it up and take any job, even jobs you don’t want but you know you need to pay your rent.  Try living in a crappy neighborhood in a barely furnished hell hole with broken plumbing and spotty electricity.  Try living next door to a drug dealer.  Try living without health insurance for years because you simply can’t afford the coverage.  Try being the kid with a high GPA from a state college who has to compete with graduates from Oberlin whose parents subsidize them.   Try having your phone shut off or not being able to pay your rent because you are working but not making enough.  Try living next to neighbors who can’t stop fighting morning, noon and night.  Try almost getting mugged in your elevator or grabbed on the street.

Would a truly realistic portrayal of young artists trying to make it in New York be a watchable program?  Perhaps?  I don’t know.  But let’s not create a fake harshness and call it compelling.  When entitled wealthy young women make art, this is what we get.  The day mommy and daddy finally cut you off, should be the first day of the rest of your life, not the end of it.  If Dunham is the “voice of her generation” I shudder for our nation.  If we have managed to produce a bunch of helpless, entitled whining self-obsessed dolts we really are in trouble.  Eating cupcakes in the bathtub of a huge apartment in Park Slope is not struggling.  Just stop by a trailer park in Missouri or a housing project in the Bronx if you want to see a real young woman fighting against the odds.

I really wanted to like this show, I really did…but I hated it.  Here is a link to the pilot episode, maybe you will love it and if you do, it’s all good.  We don’t have to agree upon everything, and again I don’t think I am the intended audience for the show.  I am sure there are many 25-year-old women who would hate the brilliant, nuanced, dark and surreal dramatic/comedy about a divorced man in his early forties “Louie” which is one of my favorites.  But then I am a 39-year-old divorcee who has been to hell and back, so “Louie” speaks to me in ways they would never understand.

Girls – Pilot Episode

Dating in NYC – A city of SLUTS

New York City

New York City (Photo credit: kaysha)

 

This is the earlier version of a post that I submitted to the Huffington Post.  So it might seem familiar to you if you read the shorter more streamlined version.  I just wanted to point that out in case anyone was confused.  Basically after I wrote this one, and got overwhelmingly positive feedback from it I was encouraged to submit to HuffPo.  Although I have posted in the comedy section before the divorce editor did not know me from Adam, and I didn’t even know if they would publish me much less feature me.  So to any bloggers out there who want more traffic and a larger audience, just do what I did, and you might get lucky.  I love how the internet has a level of democratization to it.   You don’t have to go to an expensive Ivy league school or know the right people…anyone can self-publish!  So do it!  I had to cut this post in half, as the Huffington Post suggests 500-800 words, this was something like 1600.  🙂

 

It seems since I left my husband I have been unable to do a number of things, I won’t list them all here, but the most frustrating lost skill is the ability to date.  That is, date anyone for any significant length of time.   Admittedly it is a bit of a problem because I am out of practice as I was with my husband for a total of nine years.  And after nine years together in a committed relationship I have extreme difficulty navigating the nuanced dance that is dating.    One can not be too direct, overly eager, needy, desperate, clingy, emotional, commitment pressuring, or baby daddy seeking.  And at the same time not be too cold, aloof, bitchy, mean, shallow, negative or distant.  And never shit talk an ex in front of anyone, or even talk about an ex in any capacity, even if the past nine years of your life was living and working with him!!!!   Then there are the crazy games of when to text, email or call, when not to get back to a person and when to answer immediately, when to act interested and disinterested and when to completely blow them off in the hopes that they will come running back after you have ignored them a while.  The last tactic being one I absolutely loathe as it goes against everything about me.   As a person who is by nature very direct and to the point, dating is a mystery wrapped in an enigma to me.

 

I am also straight edge in that I don’t drink alcohol often and I do absolutely no drugs.  Now mind you I hang out with a bunch of artistic types so this can really make life difficult for me, as the majority of my friends use at least one if not more substances on a regular basis.   I am not judging anyone, and I have no problem with my friends that are regular pot users or heavy drinkers.  I am perfectly comfortable for the most part hanging with my friends, but it can make me a less than attractive partner in some eyes because of my drug and alcohol-free lifestyle.  Add to that my vegetarian diet of over 20 years and my two cats, and for some that is just too many deal breakers to handle for many men.

 

But the most distressing behavior that I really can’t justify or figure out in New York is the casual sex hook up mating habits that I frankly have no desire to engage in.  Yes, I know I get on stage and joke and tell a blue streak of obscenities and adult themed humor, but in my personal life I am a committed relationship type of gal.  I make no illusions to being anything but this, and I do not judge others for their behavior.  If a poly amorous life of multiple lovers works for a person, then I say go for it.   Or if a string of emotionally detached one-night stands with perfect strangers is what makes a person happy then great.  But I know there are others like me that aren’t wired this way, and seek something more substantial and with some level of greater commitment both emotionally and sexually.  I have a myriad of friends who complain all the time

 

“I am not slutty enough for this city”. 

 

And I can relate.

 

I have made failed attempts at living a Sex in the City style life of hooking up with partners for something casual, and every time I have tried it the results have been disastrous.   I either am disgusted by the man, or the man won’t stop calling.  I had one man who kept calling me for months afterward, another who rudely told me about his other women, and yes there is a polite way to handle this, and yet another who had what I would call a mild breakdown in my apartment about how he couldn’t handle the “gray area”.  So I realized, I am not this person, I need to be true to myself so I went back to my serious relationship commitment roots.   But no matter how much I keep trying to go for a traditional path, the hook-up scenario keeps rearing its ugly head.

 

Just the other night an attractive man was coming on to me HARD.  He was so obnoxious and obvious about it that a bunch of my friends noticed and even some of his friends were trying to set us up.  But I had never met this man in my life and to be quite honest his overly aggressive approach was off-putting.  He was also over a decade younger than me and was a bit of a jock.  Not exactly the brainy nerdy guys that I normally find much more compelling.  I like a man who can intellectually stimulate me, plus pretty boy jocks tend to get women easily, and as I always say….

 

He who gets the pussy easily, does not treat the pussy well.

 

And that tends to be true.   So I was mildly deflecting his advances when a much younger and age appropriate woman arrived on the scene.  Eventually Mr. Meathead instantly moved on to her, I had no idea if she knew the show he was putting on in front of me or how aggressive he had been.  Would it have mattered to her?  I doubt it.  She was young, she hadn’t learned some basics about men yet.  That any guy who is that attractive and that aggressive towards women is not what you would call relationship material.  And maybe to her credit that wasn’t what she was looking for anyway.  I couldn’t care less.  I knew I wasn’t going to sleep with him or do anything else with him that evening so if she wanted the pretty boy jock she could have him.  And part of my ego was stroked anyway in that he approached me first, and I was 16 years her senior.  So for bragging rights, at least I have that!  She went up to him.  He went up to me!  I have to take what I can get!  HA!  The same girl was chatting up another male friend of mine earlier in the night.  So much so that I thought they might be dating.  Little did I know, it seemed she may have been looking for whatever was the best option available that evening.  Or maybe she just met her future husband last night.  I don’t really care.   Whatever works for her!!

 

I find this all the time when dating.  It is just sort of expected by many that you start the physical part of the relationship first, and then see if either partner wants to continue after you have had sex.  Sort of a try before you buy situation.  Sex before emotional attachment, sex before any form of relationship, sex before everything.  Or  what I like to call how to be treated like something in between a booty call and a girlfriend.   And as a person who doesn’t like being treated poorly, these setups are not usually to my liking.

 

  • The guy will call or text when he wants to hookup but that is about it.
  • You are supposed to be on call to wait for the opportunity and then run to see him
  • Don’t reveal too much about yourself, but listen to him complain about his trials and tribulations
  • Don’t expect commitment, or exclusivity
  • Don’t expect any emotional bonding
  • Don’t expect much effort on his part to impress you, or make you feel like you are important in his life.

 

Not exactly what I call fun, but again everyone is different and for some people this situation is ideal.   What I find frustrating is that if you really want to get to know a guy first before having sex with him, it seems like there is no end to the women who will jump into bed with them.   And this isn’t to say that only men do this, as women engage in the same behavior.  But I didn’t think that in order to try to have a healthy sustained relationship with a person I am supposed to have sex with them hours or even minutes after meeting them.  It seems more like long-term relationship suicide.   Sure the sexual relationship might be great at first, but sex doesn’t really hold much together as far as compatibility in concerned.  Sex is usually the mortar between the bricks but the bricks have to line up or the whole thing collapses.

 

I know there a plenty of men and women who are frustrated like myself out there.   I hear it all the time from my friends, sometimes they think the fast life of hookups and one-night stands, friends-with-benefits, or fuck-buddies is working for them.  But they soon grow tired of it and want something steady with one person.  But what are we supposed to do when everyone around us seems to be whoring it up?   If a guy can so easily get no-strings attached sex, and then never see the woman again if he chooses, then why would they try for anything else?  And when a man is tired of the hook-ups himself, how does he then make the transition to getting to know a woman when he has been hooking-up for years?  Of course the same goes for women, and people of all sexual orientations and persuasions.    When do you decide to stop and settle down?  And when you do settle down, then what?

 

And in the online dating field, I will occasionally get a man from out-of-town send me an email announcing he will be in New York city in a couple of weeks and would love to “have coffee” with me.  As if “having coffee” has turned into the ultimate euphemism for anonymous sex with a stranger.  Funny how drinking a hot caffeinated beverage is somehow the equivalent of sex with no strings.    Again I am sure some women will go for it, but what kind of women? How likely are they to look like their actual photo? Or not be a total psycho?  Or not be a scam artist?  I bet some men have tried these arrangements only to wake up in a strange hotel room hours later missing their computer, their wallet and anything else of value.

 

Is it survival of the sluttiest?  I have friends that are in committed relationships and seem happy and most of them didn’t meet by having sex with total strangers.   There are no real rules with relationships and sometimes sleeping with a someone you barely know leads to years of coupled bliss.  This city doesn’t make things easy and I have trust issues on top of everything due to my divorce.  I ask myself this question almost daily…

 

Do I have to change who I fundamentally am as a person in order to survive the dating scene in New York city?

 

I keep answering, no, but I am not so sure how much longer I can live like this.