“If you’re Diane Sawyer, you’ll always be able to get married,” said George. “But even women who are A’s and A+’s can miss out. The problem is, in New York, people self-select down to smaller and smaller groups. You’re dealing with a crowd of people who are enormously privileged and their standards are incredibly high.
“And then there are all your friends. Look at you,” George said. “There’s nothing wrong with any of the guys you’ve gone out with, but we always give you shit about them.”
That was true. All of my boyfriends have been wonderful in their own way, but my friends had found fault with every one of them, mercilessly chewing me out for putting up with any of their perceived, but in my mind, excusable, flaws. Now I was finally alone, and my friends were happy.
Two days later, I ran into George at a party. “It’s all about having children,” he said. “If you want to get married, it’s to have kids, and you don’t want do it with someone older than 35, because then you have to have kids immediately, and then that’s all it’s about.”
I decided to check with Peter, 42, a writer, with whom I’ve had two dates. He agreed with George. “It’s all about age and biology,” he said. “You just can’t understand how immense the initial attraction is to a woman of child-bearing years. For a woman who’s older, 40 maybe, it’s going to be harder because you’re not going to feel that strong, initial attraction. You’ll have to see them a lot before you want to sleep with them, and then it’s about something else.”
Sexy lingerie, perhaps?
“I think the issue of unmarried, older women is conceivably the biggest problem in New York City,” Peter snapped, then thoughtfully added, “It provides torment for so many women, and a lot of them are in denial.”
Peter told a story. He has a woman friend, 41. She’d always gone out with extremely sexy guys and just had a good time. Then she went out with a guy who was 20 and was mercilessly mocked. Then she went out with another sexy guy her age and he left her and suddenly she
couldn’t get any more dates. She had a complete physical breakdown and couldn’t keep her job, and had to move back to Iowa to live with her mother. This is beyond every woman’s worst nightmare, and it’s not a story that makes men feel bad.
Roger was sitting in a restaurant on the Upper East Side, feeling good and drinking red wine. He’s 39 and he runs his own fund and he lives on Park Avenue, in a classic six apartment. He was thinking about what I’ll call “The Mid-30’s Power Flip.”
“When you’re a young guy in your 20’s and early 30’s, women are controlling the relationships,” Roger explained. “By the time you get to be an eligible man in your late 30’s, you feel like you’re being devoured.” In other words, suddenly the guy has all the power. It can happen overnight.
Roger said he had gone to a cocktail party earlier in the evening, and, when he walked in, there were seven single women in their mid- to late 30’s, all Upper East Side blonde, wearing black cocktail dresses, and one wittier than the next. “You know that there’s nothing you can say that’s wrong,” Roger said. “For women, it’s desperation combined with reaching their sexual peak. It’s a very volatile combination. You see that look in their eyes—possession at any cost mixed with a healthy respect for cash flow—and you feel like they’re going to Lexis and Nexis you as soon as you leave the room. The worst thing is, most of these women are really interesting because they didn’t just go and get married. But when a man sees that look in their eyes… how can you feel passionate?”
Back to Peter, who was working himself up into a frenzy over George Clooney. “The problem is expectations. Older women don’t want to settle for what’s still available. They can’t find guys who are cool and vital, so they say screw it—I’d rather be alone. No, I don’t feel sorry for anyone who has expectations they can’t meet. I feel sorry for the loser guys who these women won’t look at. What they really want is George Clooney. There isn’t one woman in New York who hasn’t turned down 10 wonderful, loving guys because they were too fat or they weren’t powerful enough or they weren’t rich enough or indifferent enough. But those really sexy guys the women are holding out for are interested in girls in their mid-20’s.”
By now, Peter was practically screaming. “Why don’t these women marry a fat guy? Why don’t they marry a big, fat tub of lard?”