“Sex and the City” was released 20 years ago, and as a tribute to this milestone, I’d like to completely debunk any notion a young gal might have that New York City is a good place to date. New York, with its nine million-plus population, is one of the loneliest places a single woman can be. Many young souls, like myself, move to New York in search of excitement and adventure, enchanted by the promise of a diverse culture and a never-sleeping cosmopolitan life.
Reality has a hard history of not matching expectations, and New York is not an exception. With ever-rising rent and a cost of living at comically high levels, most people find themselves spending their first year (or first ten) in New York fretting about how to survive, not enjoying the life of glamour, dating, and culture they imagined.
Like many singles before me, I moved to the city with wide-eyed optimism about my new chic life, and thought New York to be rich with romantic possibilities. Sadly, I was way off. New York does have a lot of people, but I have yet to be convinced that more than 1 percent of those people are actually dateable.
The first problem for me is that I am a woman who is interested in men, and New York is about 53 percent women. Of the already tilted scale, 9-12 percent of Manhattan men are gay, according to The Williams Institute at University of California at Los Angeles. Then there are the men who are married, in a committed relationship, or uninterested in dating monogamously.
So straight, single women have a good amount of competition for New York City’s eligible bachelor population. While I moved to the city with the grand idea of finding a perfect boyfriend who enjoyed riding the MTA and ordering takeout at 3 a.m. as much as I did, many men my age seemed to move to the city with the idea of dating a professional model, or many professional models, preferring bottle service at secret night clubs at 3 a.m. over Chicken Lo Mein.
In my twenties, I mostly dated people who worked in the restaurant industry, as I did. Restaurants are a real treasure trove of maladjusted people, in case you’ve never had the pleasure of participating in the industry. The somewhat chaotic, unpredictable, and often lucrative life of a restaurant employee tends to attract emotionally vacant, narcissistic alcoholics—just my type. New York is a big restaurant town, so there are always a good number of men who fall into this category.
Alright, Here Are Some Terror Stories
I dated one particularly charismatic wine professional who mysteriously never wanted to hang out at his place in Brooklyn. He explained that his roommates were always around, so it was better to hang at my place. After about a month, I learned his “roommates” were actually a live-in girlfriend.
I was relieved when online dating became mainstream. Eager to branch out from dating self-loathing sommeliers, I thought apps like Tinder, Bumble, Match, and OKCupid would change the tide of my miserable dating life. Some people have had great luck with these apps, and to them I say “cheers.” They deserve all the happiness in the world.
That isn’t how it worked out for me. I chatted with and met about five people through the apps, and every single date was a disaster. The very first was a guy whose age was published as 32, and when I met him in real life, he was actually closer to 55. He explained that he just didn’t get women his age, so he flubbed his age online so he could get to know someone before revealing that he was older, and had a daughter in high school. I left when he got up to use the bathroom.
Also through an online dating app, I met a man who turned out to be a passionate environmentalist. We met at a restaurant for lunch, where we enjoyed champagne with lobster rolls. When he began to reveal his deeply left-wing political values, I decided that I would not just cut and run, but stick it out, and maybe find some common ground.
More champagne was ordered, and as I revealed my far more conservative beliefs, we began to challenge each other further and further. After lunch was over, we walked through Union Square, where a Greenpeace volunteer was signing people up for donations. I’m still not sure what happened next was out of spite, confusion, or just sheer drunkenness, but I donated money to Greenpeace, with a commitment to donate more money on a monthly basis.
I canceled my debit card the next day to avoid actually being charged, but went out with the guy a few more times. It finally ended when he insisted I go to Planned Parenthood fundraiser with him so I could meet some “real feminists.”
After a few more disappointing Internet meet-ups, and many unsolicited texts and pictures from people online, I decided I was done dating through apps. A friend offered to set me up with a guy friend of hers, whom she described as “really sweet, really stable.” I was excited to meet him. I respected my friend, and she knew my sense of humor and my values, so I hoped the guy was on the same page.
Truthfully, he might have been, but I’ll never know, because our date only lasted 19 minutes. We sat down at a bar, introduced ourselves, and he proceeded to tell me that he’s had a lot of bad luck with women, and really wanted to settle down immediately, get married, and have kids. He must have sensed my uneasiness, but attempted to sweeten the deal by letting me know that his parents lived really close by, so they would be there to help with the kids.
At this point, I still didn’t know his last name, and we hadn’t gotten our drinks yet. Part of me thought, “Maybe he’s just coming on strong, but he’s really great—stick around,” but the other part of me, the louder part, was eyeing all the exits. I made the lamest excuse I could muster, and got the heck out of there.
During my time in New York, I’ve met and dated a few actually somewhat normal human men. I’ve even loved a couple of them. Perhaps it’s the inherent wildness of the city. We all grow up with an idea that New York is the pinnacle of freedom in America. You can go there and do anything, and be anybody you want.
New York City is amazing in a lot of ways, but for a single woman, it’s no “Sex and the City.”