The Sept. 11 Boyfriend

Everyone knows that last Sept. 11, many New Yorkers reconnected with their exes. Or they found themselves forgiving when former personae non gratae contacted them. There were sparks and rekindlings and, from what we hear, a few earnest restarts.

We’re guessing that the Sept. 11 ex reconnection will become an annual ritual, like the lonely-hearted calls people make during depressing December holidays or after a few eggnogs late on New Year’s Eve. The anniversary of the terror attacks on New York and Washington will trigger many emotions in people, but the date will likely always serve as a marker for where one’s romantic life stands. And chances are that means we’ll pick up the phone and call the same exes we did one year ago.

Ben, a 34-year-old entertainment lawyer, is thinking of spending some time on Sept. 11 talking to a faraway ex who called him a year ago. “Four years ago, I met a guy in London who I thought I was in love with, the folly of which was revealed when he visited and we had nothing to talk about,” he said. “No contact for years, until Sept. 11. I was so touched to hear from him. I felt as if the different strands of my world were being sewn back together. This Sept. 11 has reminded me to get back in touch.”

It’s not hard to see what makes Sept. 11 a date of romantic reflection. Sept. 11 made one intensely aware of his or her relationship lot in the world-if you were alone or unhappy, you were instantly more so. It reconfirmed romantic priorities, and it asked the question we never thought we’d have to answer. For years we joked-rather ghoulishly, it seems now-about who we’d want to spend time with if the world was about to end. Sept. 11 was a real-life drill.

And when we called, our intentions were more honest than they’d ever been. It goes without saying that in the past, an ex who called you unexpectedly was often looking for a return to the sack. Surely that happened with a few of the Sept. 11 reconnections-we’re not made of wood, after all-but most of the callers that day were looking for the earnest basics: a familiar voice, comfort, a hug, for goodness’ sake. It was the emotional opposite of the Booty Call.

Sept. 11 helped rehumanize relationships and dating in this city. New York likes to style itself as a dating shark tank, but Sept. 11 brought a new vulnerability to the ritual. Being cynically single wasn’t so cool any more; for a few months, it really sucked. Likewise, hating your ex was cheesy and over. Amy, a 25-year-old teacher, made amends on Sept. 11 with a volatile ex, and the two have remained friends, if just that. “We’ve put our petty differences aside and realized that we’re just lucky that we’re in each other’s lives,” Amy said. Last weekend, as an anniversary homage, she and her ex got ice cream and walked around the city together.

Which leads us to another Sept. 11 development: the Sept. 11 partner. Plenty of people we know will be spending Sept. 11 with the same people they spent the last one with, and in a lot of cases, it’s an ex. Mitch, 42, a copywriter, is getting together with an ex to attend memorial events. The two are just friends now, he said, but there’s still a pull. “On Sept. 11, I was the first person she called,” he said. “We’re spending this Sept. 11 together because neither of us is in a relationship, but we want to be around someone of the opposite sex whom we’re close to.” A little over a year ago, that would have sounded like a line, but now, it’s the straight truth.

-Lynn Harris

The Problem With Tennis

People sure like getting mad at the Williams sisters. First it was that their games were too reckless, that they’d never evolve into tennis champions because they lacked the discipline needed to capture Grand Slams. (There was also the bit about them playing too few tournaments, remember that?) Then Serena won a Grand Slam, and it was poor, poor Venus , she’s been surpassed by her kid sister, how’s she gonna cope? Then Venus herself won and won and won, and then it was poor Serena -but wait, now Serena has won three Slams in a row. Over Venus. So now it’s poor Venus again-who, we’re told, was a little dour after losing in the U.S. Open final, and now wants a little time off. Imagine that. Fax machine breaks down in my office, and folks want a little time off.

People get mad at the Williamses because they don’t hang out off the court with the other players on the tennis tour. That’s understandable, since the only thing real tennis fans care about more than good tennis is making sure everyone on the tour gets along with each other off the court. Why just the other day, my father and I were having a long conversation about whether or not Anastasia Myskina and Magdalena Maleeva get along off the court.

People also think that Venus and Serena care too much about careers in fashion, and that’s also understandable, because if you spend a lot of time around young women in their early 20′s, the last thing they think about is fashion. People gripe that the outfits that Venus and Serena wear are too risqué. The Williamses should understand: If you’re going to get ahead in this country, the last thing you want to be is a young woman in risqué clothing.

People get mad at the Williams parents. But they’ve always been mad at the Williams parents, especially the dad, Richard Williams. Remember – “That Richard Williams, he’s crazy, he doesn’t know the first thing about tennis, he needs to get them a real coach.” Women’s tennis has a proud tradition of stable parenting, of course, and Richard Williams must be the craziest know-nothing-about-tennis who’s ever had two daughters ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the world. People even seem to think it’s crazy that Richard Williams now wanders around the tennis court with a big camera, taking photographs of his daughters. And it’s true. Whenever I go to a Little League game, the last thing I want to see is parents taking photographs of their kids.

Now the big complaint is that Venus and Serena are too dominant. True again. Women’s tennis has prospered because it never had dominant champions-except for Suzanne Lenglen, Helen Wills Moody, Alice Marble, Pauline Betz, Margaret duPont, Maureen Connolly, Margaret Court, Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf, Monica Seles and Martina Hingis.

There’s also the grievance that the Williams’ Grand Slam showdowns are too boring. True: Their matches haven’t exactly been triple tie-break nail-biters. What’s interesting is how people explain the lack of suspense in the Williams-Williams jousts. There was the claim that the matches may have been fixed by Richard Williams-a neat charge, since no one has ever produced a shred of evidence. Then there’s the belief that Serena and Venus like each other too much to be blood-lustily competitive with each other on the court. That’s a shame-sisters liking each other too much to want to kill each other.

The solution, of course, is for Venus and Serena to move to the men’s tour, and the women’s tour could free up space for exciting competitions between Daja Bedanova and Silvia Farina Elia. But wait: Haven’t male tennis players complained that the Williams sisters couldn’t compete with men? Maybe Venus and Serena should start thinking more about careers in fashion.

-Jason Gay