When Christine Sciulli moved from the East Village to Hudson Street with her husband Carter Burwell in 2000, nursery schools were the last thing on her mind. Mr. Burwell, a film-score composer ( The Alamo , Adaptation , Before Night Falls ), “liked the scale of Tribeca, the amount of space available and the quick access to the riverfront,” said Ms. Sciulli, an interior-lighting consultant and artist who was childless at the time. “Kids had nothing to do with it.”
But nature ran its course and, in the spring of 2002, Tycho Che Burwell was born (Tycho after the Danish astronomer, Che after Guevara). When it came time to get Tycho some learning, “I didn’t consider going anywhere else other than Washington Market,” Ms. Sciulli said, referring to the preschool where Spike Lee, Julian Schnabel and Nicole Miller have all sent their kids, and where the average annual tuition runs about $14,500 if your child goes five days a week. “I thought the whole process would be very egalitarian.”
Ali Kane, a former fashion stylist, and her husband, Randy Kane, a management consultant, were also looking forward to a non–92nd Street Y experience (“Honey, where did we put Sandy Weill’s direct number?”) when they applied to Washington Market for their son, Spencer. “We moved to Tribeca because it wasn’t the Upper East Side, and we figured it wouldn’t be so hard to get our kid in,” says Ms. Kane.
But it wasn’t the typical strings-pulling, checkbook favoritism-so familiar to parents of the more established residential neighborhoods in Manhattan-that blindsided the Kanes and the Sciulli/Burwells. No, their cruel preschool-admissions reality was something far more capricious. Simply put: too many boys.
“I began to notice it when we started to go to ‘Mommy and Me’ classes and there were a lot of babies Spencer’s age who were boys,” said Ms. Kane. Jill Riedman, a mother to two sons, Matthew and Jordan, who lives on N. Moore Street, said, “I did notice on the playground an overwhelming number of boys.”
According to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, there is, in fact, an XY cluster among Tribeca tots. In 2001, 53.7 percent of children born in Community District 1 (which also encompasses lower Manhattan and Wall Street) were male, versus 46.3 female. (The ratio for Manhattan overall is about 51 percent male to 49 percent female.) What’s more, there was a similar imbalance in Community District 1 in 2002, the most recent year for which statistics are available.
What this means is that boys age 11¼2 to 31¼2 years old outnumber their female playmates born in the neighborhood by 478 to 412. And while 64 more males wouldn’t particularly trouble a demographer, the surplus has been enough to muck up the admissions process at schools like Washington Market, which strives for a nice, even boy/girl enrollment.
“Children develop along gender lines, and when the genders are even, it keeps things more balanced,” said Ronnie Moskowitz, the head of Washington Market, which is split between two locations on Hudson and Duane streets. “In this very beautiful, magical time, a balance creates diversity.”
According to Ms. Moskowitz, there were 122 boy applicants to the younger class in the lower school this year and 99 girls, with each group vying for the same number of spaces.
Not that this seemingly rational explanation was any consolation to the parents of boys who got the thin envelope.
“As soon as we found out about Spencer, my husband went over there in person, and they said they had many more boys apply,” said Ms. Kane. The Kanes immediately put Spencer on the waiting list, and because they were the first family to do so, he was ultimately accepted. Jill Riedman wasn’t so lucky. When her 2-year-old, Matthew, was rejected by Washington Market, “we initially thought, ‘He has no preschool-we’ll have to move to the suburbs!’” she said.
Thankfully, Ms. Riedman and others in her position have been able to secure spaces for their boys at the more freewheeling Park Preschool on Greenwich Street, which operates on a first-come, first-serve basis.
“We don’t discriminate-we just take kids as they are,” said Khris DellaPace, the administrator at Park. “There’s no interview process. You know, they’re two years old-what am I going to ask them?!”
As a result, Park’s total enrollment is 65 percent male. One entering class of 2-year-olds has 12 boys and only seven girls. A 31¼2-to-5-year-old class has 15 boys and four girls. Dede Wells, whose 22-month-old son was wait-listed by Washington Market and will be attending Park, said, “I think Lucas plays better with boys than with girls, so it might actually work out better for him-though maybe not for the teacher.”
Park is taking the boy onslaught in stride by making some changes in its fall curriculum. “For example, we already know that we’re going to be doing dinosaurs first,” said Ellen Offen, a co-director, co-owner and teacher. (Washington Market, on the other hand, would not be so sanguine. “Boys are more physical,” Ms. Moskowitz said. “You have to make sure that you have a teacher who can deal with that kind of sexual energy.” How about some saltpeter in the Go-gurt?)
And to what might we attribute the boy cluster? “I can’t really explain it,” admitted Michel Cohen, M.D., a pediatrician on Harrison Street who has 325 2- to 4-year-old boys in his practice, but only 283 2- to 4-year-old girls. Some moms point to the popularity of fertility monitors such as Clear Plan to time conception efforts more precisely; this, some would say, inadvertently increases the likelihood of conceiving a boy. According to a theory developed by Dr. Landrum B. Shettles, co-author of How to Choose the Sex of Your Baby , male sperm are faster but more fragile than female sperm, and therefore are more likely to reach the egg if released right at ovulation. (Ladies: If you want to have a girl, you should have sex a few days earlier in the cycle.)
“I used a monitor when I got pregnant with Spencer, and I’ve since heard a lot of other moms used one, too,” said Ms. Kane. “Lots of people are trying to time conception more closely now because they’re worried about fertility.”
If this is indeed the case, girls may soon be losing their affirmative-action status. Last year, Ms. Kane got pregnant again-this time without using a monitor-and recently gave birth to a girl, Olivia. “Now I’ve noticed that it seems like lots of second-children girls are being born,” she said. “Maybe all those people who already had boys are now timing it for girls.”
-Ruth Davis Konigsberg
Hot! Sex! Live! Frum!
Visitors trolling for casual sex on Craigslist.org last week were left scratching their heads over an unfamiliar reference that has surfaced in a flurry of recent postings.
“I keep seeing this term ‘Frum.’ Can somebody please clue me into what the hell that is?” wrote Jeff, a 30-year-old regular on the site.
“O.K., I give up … what does ‘frum’ mean?” huffed another.
To the posters’ disappointment, frum (pronounced “froom”) is not shorthand for a kinky new posture or adventurous attitude. It’s a Yiddish word that technically means “religiously observant,” but for all intents and purposes is used by men and women who identify themselves as Orthodox Jews.
Jeff, an events planner who grew up Catholic in the Midwest, said he kept seeing requests from frum men and women seeking frum sexual partners.
“The only thing that was in my mind was fru- strated, m- arried … ? I had no clue what it was,” he said. “I didn’t realize it was an Orthodox Jewish person. From what I understand, they’re supposed to put a sheet between them when they have sex.”
It turns out that the deeply religious have sexual tastes as mundane as the rest of us. “Single frum guy for single frum girl for fun!” wrote one 24-year-old. “Married, frum guy looking for a frum girl (married or unmarried) for some NSA [no strings attached] fun. We can have good time ‘learning’ together,” a 31-year-old posted.
“Frum married guy looking for frum guy to explore,” wrote another, continuing: “I am a frum married 28 yr old guy … during the summer my wife will be upstate and I am looking to explore having sex with a man … please be frum.”
That’s not to say that this frum frenzy hasn’t ushered in a whole range of heretofore unimaginable caveats such as “We could do as little as you want,” written by a gentle soul seeking a frum woman, and “No chassidish,” written by a 24-year-old married Manhattanite, referring to the ultra-Orthodox denomination whose members wear black hats and suits and sport long sidelocks.
Or, less chastely, a poster seeking “Frum girls gone wild” for an orgy in Brooklyn, or another one advertising a Yahoo group for married frumsters seeking “extracurricular fun.”
Though the posters are seeking members of their observant sects to romp in the sack with, none seem to be under the illusion that this is, well, kosher. “Frum guy seeks frum girl for not such frum fun!” writes a 32-year-old from Brooklyn. And one might question whether picking someone from the notoriously tight-knit community would be a discreet move.
In case there were any doubts, Orthodox Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, confirmed that Jewish law prohibits such shenanigans-either in the form of extramarital affairs or premarital sexual contact.
“Rabbis have taught that there is a prohibition of all contact of a sexual nature between male and female prior to marriage,” he said, referring to Maimonides’ encyclopedic code of Jewish law. “But we’re not talking here about a man and a woman who are emotionally bonded and have difficulty with a specific Jewish law. We’re talking about people who are completely disconnected and lonely. It’s sad; it reflects the reality of our time.”
Rabbi Tsvi Blanchard, director of organizational development for the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, added that while traditional Judaism discourages sexual relations outside of marriage, “historically some were permitted if the relationship was ongoing and committed” in the case of concubines.
“I assure you, they know very well that society doesn’t approve it-that’s why they’re going to the Net,” he added. “If they belong to parts of a classically frum society, they can’t exactly go to a party and say, ‘Do you want to come back to my place?’”
“That’s so funny,” said Jessica Ressler, 26, a modern Orthodox Manhattan divorce lawyer. “I just posted an ad on there for a nanny. I didn’t know they went on there for that.”
Of course, it was only a matter of time before a class of frum frauds emerged on Craigslist. But if the missives from neighborhoods like Borough Park and Flatbush are to be believed, where there are frum, there is desire.
“Are there any frum men here that want to meet for real?” wrote one Borough Park single gal. “I am sick and tired of all the fakes here.”
Only one pizza place in New York City serves crooked slices-Buono Paolo, on West 27th Street. When they cut the pizzas, the bakers close their eyes. Some pieces come out small and shaped like the island of Anguilla, others are oblong and nearly square. Prices vary, too. I’ve seen a slice go for as little as 7 cents-or as much as $4.05! Warning: They pour soda the same way. You might end up with a half-ounce of Pepsi! Call 212-657-4112.