The New Victorians

Another 26-year-old Brooklynite and New Vic, named Christine, is hardly “drifting”—she’s also an editor, a literary one—but she is more introspective than many of her contented brethren and sistren. “Maybe this is also fallout from the sort of these boomer ideas about what sexual freedom is,” she suggested. This theory is a popular one among New Vic observers, just as it was popular to blame the priggishness and probity of the Old Victorians on the ill example of their Georgian predecessors. In this case, the reaction isn’t against specific syphilitic laxity and moral decay, but is rather a vague fear of too much sex (hello, STDs!) as well as the pressure for procreative sex (even men have biological clocks these days!) and the attendant nightmare of becoming—pardon the phrase—an aging spinster, lurching around New York sloshing cosmos and wearing age-inappropriate Capri pants, as in the TV version of Sex and the City and its many spinoffs.

“Don’t people in New York always talk about how it’s hard to find men?” Christine asked rhetorically. She has already received a lifetime’s worth of warnings from elder “singletons”—that overly chirpy, Brit-inflected term. Time and again she has been lectured on the scarcity of men, the sorrows of solitude, and the Clomid-chomping horror of post-35 pregnancy attempts.

In fact, just a few months ago, Christine was out with friends when a pair of slightly older women launched into a jeremiad of dating and despair, imploring her to hold tight to her boyfriend, lest she wind up single and, gasp, 30-something, just like them. “It’s like I was being terrorized by these older women who were like, ‘Don’t let him go, there’s nobody out there!’” she recalled with an alarmed laugh. “I was really scared.”

And then there are the moments of revelation, the ones when a New Victorian stumbles, say, into a book party at a bar celebrating a gay-interest anthology, as Christine recently did. “I felt really, really straight, and really, really normative,” she said. “Because there were all these gay men who were obviously trying to get with each other, and I was like, ‘Oh, my God, this is New York, and I’m living some weird other place that’s not New York, but I don’t know what that place is!

“You have to confront this question of, ‘Am I a deeply conventional person?’ she said. “It kind of throws the idea of who you thought you would be into question.”