“Where have you been?” Amanda asked. “We called you to come to a couple of our parties, but we never heard from you.”
“I couldn’t,” Miranda said. “I know you’re friends with Sam, and, I’m sorry, but to tell you the truth, I can’t stand being in the same room with him. That man is sick. I think he hates women. He leads you on, tells you he wants to get married and then doesn’t call.”
Packard moved closer. “We’re not friends with him anymore, either. Amanda can’t stand him and neither can I. He’s gotten to be friends with this guy named Barry, and all the two of them do every night is go to these SoHo restaurants and try to pick up women.”
“They’re in their 40’s!” Amanda said. “It’s gross.”
“When are they going to grow up?” Miranda asked.
“Or come out of the closet.” Packard said.
On a gray afternoon in late November, a man we’ll call Chollie Wentworth was holding forth on one of his favorite topics—New York society. “These perennial bachelors?” he asked, ticking off the names of some well-known high rollers who have been part of the scene for years. “Frankly, my dear, they’re just a bore.”
Chollie tucked into his second Scotch. “There are a lot of reasons why a man might not get married,” he said. “Some men never grow past sex; and for some people, marriage spoils sex. Then there’s the difficult choice between a woman in her 30’s who can bear you children, or a woman like Carol Petrie, who can organize your life.”
“Mothers can also be a problem,” Chollie continued. “Such is the case with X,” he said, naming a multimillionaire financier who was now in his late 50’s and still had not tied the knot. “He suffers from a permanent case of bimbo-itis. Still, if you’re X, who are you going to bring home? Are you going to challenge your mother with a real stand-up woman who will disrupt the family?
“Even so,” Chollie said, leaning forward in his chair, “a lot of people are tired of these guys’ commitment problems. If I were a single woman, I’d think, ‘Why bother with these guys, when there are 296 million amusing gay men out there who can fill a chair?’ Why waste your time with X? Who wants to sit there and listen to him drone on about his business? He’s too old to change. A man like X is not worth the effort. These men have cried nonwolf too many times.
“After all, it’s women who decide if a man is desirable or undesirable. And if a man is never going to make the effort to get married, if he’s never going to contribute … well, I think woman are fed up. And for good reason.”
“Here’s what happens,” said Norman, a photographer. “Take Jack. You know Jack—everybody knows Jack. I’ve been married for three years. I’ve known Jack for 10. The other day I’m thinking, In all the time I’ve known Jack, he’s never had a girlfriend for more than six weeks. So we all go to a Thanksgiving dinner at some friends. Everyone at the dinner has known each other for years. O.K., not everyone’s married, but they’re at least in serious relationships. Then Jack shows up, once again, with a bimbo. Twenty-something. Blonde. Turns out, sure enough, she’s a waitress he met the week before. So, one, she’s a stranger, doesn’t fit in and changes the whole tenor of the dinner. And he’s useless, too, because all he’s thinking about is how he’s going to get laid. After Thanksgiving, the women in our group all decided that Jack was out. He was banned.”
Samantha Jones, a 40-ish movie producer, was having dinner at Kiosk with Caryn P., a novelist. They were discussing bachelors—Jack and Harry in particular.
Someone said that Jack is still talking about who he scored with,” said Caryn. “It’s the same conversation he was having 15 years ago. Men think that a bad reputation is something that only women can get. They’re wrong.”
“Take a guy like Harry,” Samantha said. “He says he doesn’t care about power and money. On the other hand, he doesn’t care about love and relationships, either. So what exactly is he about? What is the point of his existence?”
“I ran into Roger the other day, outside Mortimer’s, of course,” Caryn said.
“He must be 50 now,” Samantha said.
“Close to it. You know I dated him when I was 25. He’d just been named one of New York’s most eligible bachelors by Town & Country. I remember thinking, it’s all such a crock! First of all, he lived with is mother—O.K., he did have the top floor of their town house, but still. Then there was the perfect house in Southampton and the perfect house in Palm Beach and the membership at the Bath & Tennis. And you know what? That was it. That was his life. Playing this role of eligible bachelor. And there wasn’t anything below the surface.”