There it was, a Saturday night, in an East Village bar. I think it was called the Music Box, one of those places so sure of itself that it sees no need for a sign, no use of pulling open the window guard. Drinks were flowing and good-looking women were in abundance.
And I had my arm around a younger guy who’d just bragged that he was a man-whore, a he-slut, a fellow at a stage in his life in which he couldn’t be held down by one woman. Yes, I had my arm around him and I found the following words coming out of my mouth: “Dude, you have to be careful with that.”
“Oh, I keep it wrapped up,” he started to say, but I interrupted.
“No, not with the equipment, that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the whole thing. You get used to that whoring around and it’s not an easy habit to break. You see a good woman, you should hold on to her.”
Yes, I was drunk. And yes, as stated before, I am a hypocrite. Hell, I am the hypocrite of hypocrites. I, a former man-whore myself, was standing there telling a younger man to cut it out, to settle down.
All of you single people out there can point to me and say, “You’ve become one of them. You’ve turned into one of those people who, once you’re coupled, feel an incessant need to make sure everyone around you is consigned to coupledom as well. You are a sick, sick man.”
To which I say: “Not really.” Sure, I might be a sick, sick man, but I’m definitely not the sort who tries to arrange all of my single friends into relationships now that I’m in one. Yes, those people do exist. Yes, I have studied them. Yes, I know some of them. There are two kinds. There are those in relationships -- typically women -- who are so blissed out to be in one, who are so in love with the very idea of relationships, that they actually pity those who aren’t in one and do their very best to get their friends coupled as soon as humanly possible. These people like to share the joy. Then there are those in relationships -- typically men -- who don’t quite know how they got there in the first place, find the experience as a whole rather enjoyable, but feel that they’re missing out on something that their single friends are still in on. They feel a little lonely without the old crew and more than a little jealous and, as misery loves company, they too suddenly feel compelled to talk their friends into relationships, so that they’ll have at least one moderately cool couple to hang out with -- or at the least, one coupled friend to commiserate with (because, let’s face it, the old lady is much more comfortable when guys night out is with coupled guys, rather than the single friends who are still running ass.)
But I fit into neither category. This, I swear to you. Yes, if I know two people who might hit it off, I may put them in the same room at the same time. But I’m not the meddling type and I know that trying to force these things always leads to embarrassment and tears. (GF, on the other hand, never met a person she wasn’t immediately willing to set up.) I also know that there are plenty of people in this world who just don’t want or need relationships. Now, some out there will deny that these people exist, will claim that these people are just bitter, simply haven’t met the right person yet, are just waiting to be hit by cupid’s arrow. I say project all you want, but leave all the happily single people alone to gallivant and fornicate at their leisure. Plenty people don’t need sustained romance, plenty people can get by with getting off. And more power to them.
So what, then, was I doing drunkenly talking to the young man in the bar and warning him about the perils of man-whoredom? I’ll tell you what I was doing: I was warning him about the perils of man-whoredom. Why? Because I looked into this young man’s soul and saw that he isn’t the type who’ll grow old happily single. A nice southern boy, he’ll want to settle down at some point -- probably sooner rather than later -- and meet someone perhaps not just like mom but similar in sensibility.
And a place like New York is a danger to a young man -- or a young woman – such as he. Sure, across this great country of ours, young men and young women feel free these days to sow their wild oats, to get it out of their systems, to not marry young. And that’s fine. More power to them. I certainly agree. It’s a great period in a young person’s life: drinking the forties, dancing to the loud hip-hop rap, doing the chronic, knocking the boots.
But all good things must come to an end. Well, they do in small communities. And by small communities, I mean everything from Podunk, U.S.A, to substantial cities. Because even in many of our bigger cities, the communities we find ourselves -- whether they be defined by class, work or geography -- grow smaller as we age. Even if you are rocking like a rabbit into your thirties, you wake up one morning and find you’ve pretty much slept with everyone. You’ve been there, done that. So along comes Sally (or Bobby) and you decide to settle down.
But New York. New York is a wide open playground. What communities there are can be quickly escaped. It’s quite easy to have three, four, five circles of friends, none of whom know one another. And it’s even easier to go prowling at one bar for weeks on end, sleep your way through the entire clientele and move on to another pasture.
Not that I’ve done this. I don’t want to give the mistaken impression that I, myself, was a he-slut extraordinaire. Okay, maybe I kind of want to give that impression, but the fact is, I wasn’t. Not really. I had my flings, did my things, but I’m not going to go down in the record books. Hell, plenty of my gal pals have more notches on their bedposts than I do.
But this mindset isn’t just about reality. Hell, the reality is that when you’re single, the amount of time you spend chasing after tail almost cancels out the joy of partaking when you do catch it. Then there are the tears, the phone calls, the broken hearts, the rashes, the burning sensation when you pee.
No, this is about perception. And the most common perception in New York is this: I can do better. Or failing that, I can at least do more. Sadly, only the second of these is true.
Call it the grass is greener mindset. I think, in general, guys are more likely to be susceptible to this. Think about it. You see pretty girls all the time “settling” for guys who don’t quite seem up to their caliber in the looks department and, more often than not, the ladies seem happy. Sure, they’ll give you all sorts of bullshit about a GREAT sense of humor, an AWESOME personality, but we all know it’s about the benjamins. I kid. I kid. But women, I think, ARE more likely to settle down (or just settle) and be at peace with a guy who’s decent (and has money).
And men? Well, we all know fat, ugly, hairy, short, semi-retarded, stinky, broke-ass men. And, just like all the other men in the world, they spend quite a bit of their lives convinced that their own personal super model is just around the next corner. Go on guys, look into your own hearts and admit it. And ladies, this isn’t just an adolescent fantasy. Or, rather, it starts out as such, but for many guys it sticks until it becomes some sort of alternate reality. We do believe that we’re going to catch us a hotty. And not just any hotty. One who could work at a strip club, or at least a Hooters! It’s just a matter of figuring out the game. And, for many men, figuring out they game boils down to chugging along until their mid-thirties when they’ve learned all the mental tricks, have amassed a decent amount of scratch, and have held onto just enough virility to go find some 22-year-old with daddy issues they can sucker into getting married before she hits 28 and realizes what a mess she’s made of her life.
But that’s material for another post.
As I’ve said before, though, smaller towns and communities have a way of working on their members. As men grow older, they realize that this quest for a supermodel is unlikely to pan out. If they’re the sort for a relationship, they do wake up one day and realize that this current broad or the next is probably as good as it gets. So they settle for a decent lady, someone they find attractive and funny and tolerable and such. If they’re not the settling sort, the become a tennis instructor, hang out at hotel bars and shag divorcees.
Except in New York. The chase is always there to be had. And a fellow can get addicted to that, to the rush, to the adrenaline, to the possibility. It’s a land where the grass is always greener, where the people in the next bar are hotter. Hell, I’ve been to countless bars in the East Village, one of them two doors down from the Music Box, but had never even heard of the Music Box.
And there it was, full of strange and new women I’d never seen before and will never see again. I had friends there who throughout the night had been pointing out this girl and that, shaking their heads and making like a Campbell’s Soup commercial with their “Mmm-mmm goods.” And there was that little voice in me, the one from last year at this time that was thinking it would be happy to go home alone that night if only it was given a chance to at least run out into the field and chase a couple of girls. “I don’t need to catch any,” it was saying. “Just let me out.” (Ladies, if you’re having a hard time imagining this, try to hear your inner credit card voice, the one that pops up after you’ve paid off the card and have hidden it.) But despite having a good amount of Jack Daniels in me, it was a week and feeble voice -- or, to mix my metaphors, nothing more than an itch on the phantom foot of an amputee.
I was there for the GF’s birthday, after all (and she’s a subject for … well, there won’t be any big posts about her. None of your damn business and all that). I had my arm around a young man and I was telling him to be careful. Be careful in New York if you’re the sort who wants to settle down. Because you can lose yourself in the chase. Here, you don’t have to grow up. And you won’t. Even when it is finally too late, you’ll be too long gone to realize it. You’ll end out your days in one of those nameless bars, the old sad guy, balding up front and a pony tail out back, telling people you’re a “producer.” You might think the chase is still on, but all the kids will be laughing, laughing at you, not with you. PREVIOUS POSTMAIN