A 32-year-old ad copywriter, who sings in a downtown band and has a lot of tattoos, was on the phone from the East Village. His tone was confessional.
“For the last two years,” he said, “I’ve been chasing tail, sowing my wild oats, literally meeting girls and bringing them up to my apartment. And now”—his voice dropped a decibel or two—“I’ve gone three weeks without having sex. And I’m getting this response from some of my male friends: ‘Oh, good for you, that’s great.’ Almost like that’s more manly, more studly. They’re saying, ‘Oh, that’s cool, you’re laying low, maybe you’re clearing the way for something more meaningful.’”
The foppish owner of one of the city’s more exclusive nightclubs agreed. “Instead of saying you bedded four models, now it’s, ‘Hey, I’m in love,’” he said. “Now it’s like, ‘Check it out—I’m in a relationship.’ They rub that in your face. When he’s known the girl for three days.”
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Are New Yorker’s infamously brutal bachelors becoming lovesick? While it’s too early to tell if the wolves have decided to leave the hunting ground and search for a warm den, there’s no question that the appeal of playing erotic pinball through the city’s beeping and buzzing and blinking female population is wearing thin.
Meet the New Romantics. Perhaps stunned into hibernation over the past decade by the city’s Sex and the City-spawned, stiletto-and-Stoli succubi, New York males are often more apt to be spotted scribbling wistful journal entries while sipping tea at Smith Street cafes these days than prowling the night for nookie. And it’s not uncommon to hear a swain declare he’s itching to meet a woman for a “real” relationship—“but not one from New York.” Their role models are sensitive, wounded mooners such as Owen Wilson, Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Gosling.
Until very recently, to be a single man in your late 20’s to early 30’s was a perfectly acceptable, indeed desirable, station in Gotham society. The bachelor walked tall with a devil-may-care air; he was the pride and joy of the gender. Go on, rough beast, his married buddies would say under their breath, survive as long as you can. Of all New Yorkers, he was willing to be lucky, and by God if he didn’t get lucky. And if he wound up barking at love’s door, so be it.
But today’s bachelor seems in a hurry to flee his lush prison of desire.
Over the past two years, Andrew, a 28-year-old lawyer, has witnessed the bachelor backlash. “Those in relationships have been getting engaged,” he said. “Those who were dating have been getting into relationships; and those who were playing the field have been dating.
“This Valentine’s Day, I’ll be hard-pressed to think of a friend who won’t be out on a date, and that’s definitely the first time I could say that,” he continued, noting that he has only one friend left who is not in a serious relationship.
“Bachelors are the ones who haven’t yet passed on to the higher level of Scientology,” joked 29-year-old novelist and man-about-town Dana Vachon, who added that when he’s around married couple friends, he feels as though the women are checking to see if he has hair on his palms.
In addition, a priapically-prolonged bachelorhood may raise questions about a man’s sexuality (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) “It was much better to be a bachelor in my day,“ said novelist Tom Wolfe. “Because today anyone who is not married or in a flamingly obvious affair is questionable sexually.”
“The bachelor stereotype has lost its luster,” said Adam, a 27-year-old consultant, explaining that he “signed off” the bachelor game about a year ago. Two years of chasing women had gotten the best of him.
One of Mr. Vachon’s pals recently got hitched. The news tore through his group of single friends like a love train. “We all psyched ourselves into thinking we really wanted to be in meaningful relationships,” he said. Mr. Vachon found himself on a trip to Madrid to meet a girlfriend’s parents. Another friend embarked on a “wooing campaign” in Monterey. The sea change reminded Mr. Vachon of a Gore Vidal line about how when he hit his 30’s, he watched so many of his friends “vanish into marriage.”
Speaking of woo: The owner of Magnolia Flowers confirmed that he’s had many more “young, hip” male patrons of late.
For Kenyon Phillips—the ad copywriter and rock crooner we met above—weddings have become a dreaded event. Weddings! The event bachelors once anticipated with bated breath. And, he allowed, “Even to be at a dinner or just going to parties, just going out—the fact that I’m alone, I feel like the odd man out.” He said he recognizes a similar sense of discomfort in his fellow young bachelors: “You can see it in their eyes, and in the fact that they’re alone.”
Mr. Phillips said he knew he’d reached a desperate, crazy place when, after a third date recently, he found himself blurting out, “I really think I’m falling for you.”
Within an hour, the girl was out the door.
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