Manhattan Humberts, Watch It!

On a recent Friday evening at Tao, the cavernous Pan-Asian restaurant on 58th Street, Alexis (not her real name) met eight men before she got one menu.

The men flirted with Alexis, and Alexis flirted back. The guys were cocky; the lady was confident. The fellows talked about their jobs and cars; Alexis told her smart little adult stories, too.

It all seemed innocent: a bunch of ambitious, attractive New Yorkers having fun. Nobody had to know Alexis’ little secret:

She’s 16.

Listen up, fellows: Rich, bored teenage girls in New York City are on the prowl for twentysomething (and in some cases, thirtysomething) men. And this time, they’re not just arming themselves with fake ID’s. Young women barely past puberty-and before, ahem, the age of consent-are sashaying onto the Internet, researching adult life, and constructing elaborate alter egos designed to dupe men all too willing to believe their lies.

Consider Alexis. By 14, she was fed up with the dopey guys in her age group. This 5-foot-9 private-school student and class treasurer likes them older- much older.

At first, Alexis employed a simple alias: She would tell the older men she met that she was a junior majoring in communications at the University of Pennsylvania. Everyone bought the lie. It went well until a 24-year-old man asked her out, and mentioned that he, too, went to U. Penn.

“I, like, totally bugged out,” Alexis said.

Alexis scrambled home and went on the Web. She spent the next 24 hours researching the U. Penn. campus, her major, the names of professors and other campus activities. She called a friend’s older brother who went to Penn, too, and he gave her some more inside dope: the names of dorm R.A.’s and the local drug store.

From this information, Alexis created a U. Penn. cheat sheet that she carried with her on her date the next night. Oozing with information, Alexis spewed out fact after U. Penn. fact. The hunk from Morgan Stanley never knew what hit him-and readily accepted her story as truth. Though she’s moved on to other men since then, Alexis has kept her U. Penn. persona intact.

“If one guy believes your story,” she explained, “then most guys probably will.”

Lauren (also not her real name), a sultry 17-year-old from midtown, met her last beau on a recent cruise vacation. While dancing the night away at the ship’s on-board club, she fell into the arms of her 22-year-old honey.

“We hit a bumpy patch in the water and I slipped,” Lauren said with a smile. “He caught me and offered to buy me a drink.”

But things got tricky the next day. Lauren had told the guy that she was 21 and on her school’s winter break. Now the beefy frat boy wanted to know all the intimate details of her college life. There was also the issue of Lauren’s parents, who were both on board as well.

The Web saved the day again. “The boat had an Internet connection,” Lauren said. “So I devised a schedule that would allow me to do research without getting caught.” While her man was asleep in the morning, Lauren would eat breakfast with her parents and fact-check her story.

“My parents thought that I was looking up college Web sites to see which ones I liked,” she laughs. “They were so proud.”

Lauren would spend the rest of the day with her boyfriend. Fortunately, as an only child with a personal cabin, there was always plenty of privacy.

“Catherine,” a 16-year-old lanky brunette with almond-shaped green eyes, attends a single-sex school, but she, too, was tired of the boys from the surrounding locations.

One afternoon, while sunning in Central Park during her lunch period, Catherine spotted a gorgeous man walking a golden retriever.

“He looked like a movie star,” Catherine said. “Very tall, dark hair, tan skin and very muscular.”

The man was a personal trainer, on a break between clients. Catherine instantly transformed into an aspiring actress who had just moved to the city from L.A. When he offered to show her some of the sights, she declined. (She had to get back to school for sixth period.)

Catherine agreed to see him the next day at the same spot in the park.

“I was lucky because we met on a Friday, and we don’t have to wear uniforms on Fridays,” Catherine said. Since she had school all day, Catherine came up with a reason why the two would never be able to see each other: “I told him that I couldn’t hang out during the day because I never knew when I would have to go to an audition.”

Catherine remembers her boyfriend being very understanding and supportive of her “dreams.” However, when the two would get a chance to catch up, the man always hounded her about which auditions she attended and if she got any call-backs, which meant Catherine had to log on and spend hours researching potential roles she could go out for.

“I always had to find out what I could be auditioning for because I told him I was always busy,” she said. “It was getting in the way of all of my other homework. It was almost like I was taking a sixth subject, and I just don’t have time for that.” (Catherine and her trainer split, and she said she now keeps time with her SAT tutor.)

With all this duplicity going on, what if a girl gets in over her head? To avoid bad scenes, “Lindsay,” a high-school senior who said she dates “only investment bankers,” has created a set of guidelines-kind of a Rules for teenage girls dating older men.

Lindsay’s first rule: no more than five dates, so the girl’s tale doesn’t get exposed. Rule No. 2: All dates must occur in public places, just in case the guy turns out to be a true weirdo creep who knows full well he’s dating someone under 17. Lindsay also suggests never using the same story twice. “I never want to get too close to any of them,” she said.

Another one of Lindsay’s rules is that she will only date a man who approaches her, never vice versa. “That’s one of the reasons that I never feel bad about dumping the guy after a few dates, because he was the one who came up to me and technically started the whole thing.”

Of course, all this teenaged running-around brings up the question: How do the guys feel about being duped by 16-year-old girls?

“If they look like they’re 21 and they act old, then it doesn’t really matter,” a 24-year-old commercial real-estate agent said the other night at Serafina on 61st. “I mean, as long as I’m not getting sued and whatnot, it’s all good.”

Not every guy was so turned on. “I have a younger sister, and to think of someone using her like that is disgusting,” said “Ben,” a recent college grad. “I’m not looking to be a baby-sitter; I’m looking for a friend.”

As it turns out, teenage boys are getting into the action. One high-school source said that guys, too, are concocting fake personas to try and trick women in their 20’s.

“Oh sure, I know guys who lie all the time,” the source said. “They say that they’re 25 and work at Goldman. And you should see the pathetic women who try to devour them because of it.”

Back at her family’s house, Alexis was getting ready for another night out on the city. She had decided on a denim miniskirt and a white wife-beater tank for the evening’s attire. She laid the clothes on a chair.

Alexis was talking about books, and she went to her shelf and pulled down her favorite.

“I’ve read it so many times I can practically recite each line,” Alexis declared.

What book was it? ” Lolita, ” she said, not missing a beat.

Saturday Night Pollitt

Quiz time! Try and guess if the following passages are from Katha Pollitt’s July 22 New Yorker essay “Learning to Drive,” or from Saturday Night Live ‘s “My Lover” sketch starring Will Ferrell and Rachel Dratch as an amorous academia couple:

A) “My culinary skills deteriorated precipitously while I was living with my former lover, a fabulous cook who had once prepared dinner for the mayor of Bologna.”

B) “For three glorious days, I handed my lover plump strawberries and smoked duck meat.”

C) “What was my lover thinking, I wonder, when we cruised Route 1 … was he thinking what a drag it was to have a girlfriend who … never once woke him up with a blow job?”

D) “One day I whisked my lover away to a room at the prestigious Wesley Arms Hotel, bringing along some of my favorite erotic Persian lithographs.”

E) “That was another accusation my lover flung at me the day he left: ‘You bought The Joy of Sex but you just put it in a drawer!'”

F) “When I am careering up Riverside Drive I sometimes fantasize that I see my lover and his new girlfriend in the crosswalk … the car, taking on a life of its own, homes into them like a magnet smashing into a bar of iron.”

G) “Sometimes during the night I become scared, and cry out for my lover’s touch … and I become soothed by the hot breath of my lover’s whisper.”

Answers: A) Pollitt; B) SNL ; C) Pollitt; D) SNL ; E) Pollitt; F) Pollitt; G) SNL.

-Jason Gay

Manhattan Humberts, Watch It!