“I set a deadline for myself. I said, I have to be married by the time I’m 40. I was dating David P. He was 50 and dishonest. I told him I wanted to be married. He kept making excuses. Sucking me back in. ‘Let’s just go on this one trip to China and when we come back, we’ll figure it out,’ he’d say. And then we were in Venice, at the Gritti Palace, one of those rooms with the wooden shutters that open onto the Grand Canal. ‘Let’s face it,’ he said. ‘You’re never going to find anyone in Manhattan who’s going to want to get married. So why don’t we just stay like this forever.’”
When Marguerite got back to Manhattan, she dug out all her old Filofaxes and called every man she’d ever met in Manhattan. “Yes every one of them: all the guys I’d passed over, who I’d thought were dweebs, nerds, losers, didn’t have enough hair.”
“My husband’s name was on the list—he was the last one,” Marguerite said. “I remember thinking, if he doesn’t work out, I don’t know what I’m going to do.” (This, of course, was typical New York woman modesty, because New York women always know what they’re going to do.)
When it comes to marrying a man in Manhattan, two rules apply. “You have to be sweet,” said Lisa, 38, a correspondent for a network news show. But at the same time, said Britta, a photo rep, “you can’t let them get away with anything.”
When one of these New York women targets a man as a potential future husband, there is usually very little he can do to get away. For these women, age is an advantage. If a women has survived being single in New York until her mid- to late 30’s, chances are she knows a thing or two about how to get what she wants.
“You have to start the training from day one,” said Britta. “I didn’t know that I wanted to marry my husband at the beginning. I only knew that I wanted him, and I would do whatever it took to get him.”
Keeping him, however, is another story. “Women in this town don’t care if a guy is married or engaged,” Britta said. “They’ll still go after him. You have to be on top of it all the time.”
Sometimes Mr. Big seems to retreat into himself, and then there is only the surface Mr. Big. Friendly to everyone. Maybe affable is the word. Always perfectly turned out. White cuffs. Gold cuff links. Matching suspenders (though he almost never takes his jacket off). It isn’t easy when he’s in that mode. Carrie wasn’t always good with people she thought were too conservative. She wasn’t used to it. She was used to everybody being drunk and doing drugs (or not doing them). Mr. Big got mad when Carrie said outrageous things like, “I’m not wearing any underwear,” even though she was. And Carrie thought Mr. Big was too friendly to other women, especially models. They’d be out and a photographer would say, “Do you mind?” and then motion for Mr. Big to have his picture taken with some model, and it was insulting. One time a model sat on his lap and Carrie turned and said, “Gotta go,” with a really pissed-off look on her face.
“Hey, come on,” Mr. Big said.
Carrie looked at the model, “Excuse me, but you’re sitting on my boyfriend’s lap.”
“Resting. Just resting,” the model said. “There’s a big difference.”
“You have to learn how to deal with this,” Mr. Big said.
Rebecca, 39, a journalist who got married last year, recalls a moment when she found another woman’s phone number jumbled among her banker boyfriend’s business cards.
“I called the number, and asked the bitch point-blank what was up,” Rebecca said. Sure enough, the woman revealed that Rebecca’s boyfriend had asked her out to dinner. “I hit the roof. I didn’t scream at her, but I became like something out of one of those nighttime soap operas. I actually told her to keep her hands off and not to call him again. She said, ‘You’ve got a great one there, you should be nice to him.’ I said, ‘Well, if he’s so great, how come he called you when he’s living with me?’
“Then I called him. He had the nerve to be livid with me for ‘interfering in his private business.’ I said, ‘Get one thing straight, buddy. When you’re going out with me, there is no private business.’ I knew we were finished. Then we got over it and he asked me to marry him about three months later.”
There are other methods. After Lisa had been seeing her future husband, Robert, for two months, he started to get squirmy.
“What do you think if I go out with other people?” he asked.
“I think you should do comparison-shipping,” Lisa said, supercoolly. “How else can you possibly appreciate me? I’m not a jailer.”
That really blew him away.