Loving Mr. Big

[Ed. note: This column was originally published on April 24, 1995.]

A 40-ish movie producer I’ll call “Samantha Jones” walked into Bowery Bar and, as usual, we all looked up to see whom she was with. Samantha was always with at least four men, and the game was to pick out which one was her lover. Of course, it wasn’t really much of a game, because the boyfriend was too easy to spot. Invariably, he was the youngest, and good-looking in the B-Hollywood actor kind of way—and he would sit there with a joyously stupid expression on his face (if he had just met Sam) or a bored stupid look on his face (if he had been out with her a few times). Because at that point it would be beginning to dawn on him that no one at the table was going to talk to him. Why should they, when he was going to be history in two weeks?

We all admired Sam. First of all, it’s not that easy to get 25-year-old guys when you’re in your early 40’s. Second, Sam is a New York inspiration. Because if you’re a successful single woman in this city, you have two choices: You can beat your head against the wall trying to find a relationship, or you can say “screw it” and just go out and have sex like a man. Thus: Sam.

This is a real question for women in New York these days. For the first time in Manhattan history, many women in their 30’s to early 40’s have as much money and power as men—or at least enough to feel like they don’t need a man, except for sex. While this paradox is the topic of many an analytic hour, recently my friend Carrie, a journalist in her mid-30’s, decided, as a group of us were having tea at the Mayfair hotel, to try it out in the real world. To give up on love, as it were, and throttle up on power, in order to find contentment. And, as we’ll see, it worked. Sort of.