[Ed. note: this article was originally published on December 11th, 1995.]
In the last few weeks, several seemingly unrelated yet similar incidents occurred.
“Simon Piperstock,” 52, the owner of a software company, was lying in bed in his plush two-bedroom apartment, nursing the flu, when the phone rang.
“You piece of shit,” said a woman’s voice.
“What?” Simon said. “Who is this?”
“Oh. M.K. I was going to call you, but I got the flu. Terrific party the other night.”
“I’m glad you enjoyed it,” M.K. said. “Because nobody else did.”
“Really?” Simon sat up in bed.
“It’s you, Simon. Your behavior is reprehensible. It’s disgusting.”
“What did I do?” Simon asked.
“You brought that bimbo. You always bring a bimbo. No one can stand it anymore.”
“Hey. Hold on a second,” Simon said. “Sabrina is not a bimbo. She’s a very bright girl.”
“Right, Simon,” M.K. said. “Why don’t you get a life? Why don’t you get married?”
She hung up.
“Harry Samson,” 46, a well-known, eligible-bachelor art dealer, was having one of his typical drinking evenings at Frederick’s when he was introduced to a very attractive woman in her mid-20’s. She had just moved to New York to be an assistant to an artist with whom Harry worked.
“Hi. I’m Harry Samson,” he said in his East Coast drawl, affected, perhaps, by the fact that he had a cigarette hanging from his mouth.
“I know who you are,” the girl said.
“Have a drink?” Harry asked.
She glanced at the girlfriend who had accompanied her. “You’re that guy, aren’t you?” she said. “No thanks. I know all about your reputation.”
“This place sucks tonight,” Harry said, to no one in particular.
There’s something rotten in New York society, and it’s the character formerly known as the “eligible” bachelor. It’s not your imagination. Those men in their 40’s and 50’s who have never been married, who have not, in years anyway, had a serious girlfriend, have acquired a certain, unmistakable stink. The evidence is everywhere.
“Miranda Hobbes” was at a Christmas party when she ran into “Packard and Amanda Deale,” a couple she had met briefly through Sam, 43, an investment banker she had dated for three months over the summer.
“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.”
“What’s he doing now?” Samantha asked.
“The usual,” Caryn said. “He went through all the girls in New York, and when they finally got his number, he moved to L.A. From there, to London, now Paris. He said he was back in New York for two months, spending time with his mother.”
The two women screamed with laugher.
“Get this,” Caryn said. “He tells me a story. ‘I really like French girls,’ he says. He goes to dinner at the home of this big shot Frenchman with three daughters. ‘I’d take any of them,’ he says. He’s at dinner, he thinks he’s doing pretty well, he tells them about his ‘friend,’ some Arab prince, who has three wives, all of them sisters. The French girls start glaring at him, and the dinner ends almost immediately.”
“Do you think these guys get it? Do you think they realize how pathetic they are?” Samantha asked.
“Nope,” Caryn said.
The next day, Simon Piperstock made several calls from the first-class lounge at Kennedy International Airport. One of them was to a young woman he’d dated several years back.
“I’m on my way to Seattle,” Simon said. “I’m not good.”
“Really.” The woman sounded almost happy about it.
“For some reason, everybody is telling me that my behavior is reprehensible. They say it’s disgusting.”
“Do you think it’s disgusting?”
“A little bit.”
“My relationship with Mary isn’t working out, so I took a beautiful young girl, a friend of mine, to this party. She’s a nice girl. And she’s a friend. And everybody was on my case about it.”
“Your relationships never work out, Simon.”
“Then I ran into a woman at the theater who I’d been fixed up with a couple of years ago. She came up to me and she said, ‘You know, I would never want to get involved with you. I would never want any of my friends to be involved with you. You’ve hurt too many women.’”
“What am I supposed to do? I suffer from the problem of never thinking that I’ve met the right person. So I take people out. Geez. Everybody’s done it.”
“When you were sick yesterday, in bed alone, did you wish you had someone to take care of you?”
“Not really,” Simon said. “I mean, I was only sick for a little bit. Yes. I did think about it. Do you think I have a problem? I’d like to see you. Talk about it.”
“I have a serious boyfriend now,” the woman said. “I think maybe we’re going to get married. Frankly, I don’t think he’d appreciate it if I was seen out with you.”
“Oh,” Simon said. “O.K.”
“But if you want to call, feel free.”
Candace Bushnell began Sex and the City as a column in The New York Observer in 1994; it subsequently became a book and a series on HBO. She is also the author of Four Blondes, Trading Up and Lipstick Jungle, which is being filmed as a pilot for NBC starring Brooke Shields. Ms. Bushnell is also the host of Sex, Success and Sensibility, a live weekly talk show on Sirius Satellite Radio. She lives in Manhattan with her husband, New York City Ballet principal dancer Charles Askegard.