Monday, April 13, 2009

Too Many Menus?

Manhattanites take it for granted that any desire or need they have can be easily met at any time, any day of the week. Hungry? Are you in the mood for Italian, Mexican, Turkish, Lebanese, Vegan …? Oh, you’re craving Asian? Why didn’t you say? Here are a few delivery menus for Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, and, of course, a few pan Asian. Japanese, it is? Do you want to go with Fusha, Sushi Hana, Monster Sushi…? Oh, you want to go out instead…?!

It’s a wonder anyone ever makes any decisions in this city!

In the dating world, it’s not surprising that such an embarrassment of riches has both a positive and deleterious effect on single New Yorkers who are looking for the “real thing” (or so they think) in a city of overwhelming options. On the positive side, you have far more choices than if you were stuck in suburbia with the mommy and me crowd and married folk whose weekend activities include mowing the lawn and cleaning out the garage. On the down side, the abundance of choices can lead to a syndrome of indecision and option-weighing that can continue ad nauseum.

Indeed, anyone with minimal dating experience in New York knows that any guy or girl you meet at a bar, party, charity event, clinic (just making sure you’re paying attention!) etc. can also be easily juggling several Janes or Joes. Thus, even if this new object of your affection may be likewise intrigued by you, it doesn’t necessarily translate into her cancelling her full roster of dates that week or refraining from planning more the following week (men have always been great at playing the field, but New York women have become a quick study).

Now, some would posit that having a full menu of choices at one time is essential in making the right decision for a potential partner. The argument goes something like this: “I’m not getting any younger. I can’t waste valuable time being exclusive with someone until I really know this person and am absolutely sure this is someone I could spend my life with.” What might have been wonderful, immediately exclusive girlfriend material at 25 is no longer cutting it at 35. By dating a few people at once, these multi-taskers rationalize that they are in the best position to make a fully informed decision about who they want to spend the next 50+ years of their lives with. When you think about it, is the reasoning so unsound?*

Another somewhat obvious benefit of dating several people at once is that you tend not to get fixated on one person. This is especially important for women. When you have a long line of suitors, one’s threshold for bad behavior gets inversely lower. Indeed, “Tim’s” last minute invitations are no longer so easily accepted because “Dan” is more than willing to bring you to his ski/beach/country house next weekend.

Has anyone ever walked into Dylan’s Candy Shop and walked out empty handed because you were simply overwhelmed? I admit to experiencing such paralysis at being besieged by candy of every sugary color and shape (coupled with walking in not knowing precisely what I was in the mood for). Knowing that Dylan’s is soundly at the corner of Third and 60th gives one the peace of mind that you can choose nothing, but the next time you have a craving you can always go back and satisfy your every sweet tooth need.

This calls to mind my friend “Suzy” who has been going out with a few different guys over the past few months. Suzy called me recently, curious to know what I thought about one of her men du jour who I happen to know. During the course of our conversation, she described the benefits of Jason (very bright, handsome and interesting) but also his drawbacks (not that spontaneous, not that funny, a little pretentious). Now Phil, she explained, is also really cute and funny, spontaneous, creative and … totally unreliable. And then there’s this new guy, Andrew. Unlike, Phil, Andrew has a great job, great family and he is great to her … thing is, he’s just not that great in bed. But “will that really matter in the long run?” she asks with the slight hint of the answer in her voice.

When there are so many people in the mix, it is easy to start comparing one person you are dating to the other person you just has sushi with instead of comparing that person to the standard of the “One” you are truly looking for. “Amy has all of 'this', and I love 'this.' But Jennie has all of 'that' and I really like 'that.' But Amanda has a rockin’ body. If I could only find an Amy/Jennie/Amanda hybrid. She has to be out there! Who knows, maybe this new girl Brooke I am going out with Friday with be the perfect mix of Amy/Jennie/Amanda?!” Of course, we all know that Brooke is just Brooke with her own chart of pros and cons, and Joe’s going to be leaving hungry ...

*Of course, if the other person is not also multi-tasking and not aware of your multi-tasking, there are inherent dangers in proceeding in such a fashion. This will be addressed in a future blog whose title may be something to the affect of “Casanova or Creep? But We Didn’t Have THAT Conversation.”


  1. Very insightful. I agree with the observations but hate that this suggests that the Prince / Princess Charming ideal is, in fact, pure fantasy.

  2. Too many options may create problems for a person in every aspect of his or her life. But when that person is sure of what they want - options create far less havoc. When I choose Italian food, because in my mind I can almost taste the exquisite flavors in my mouth, it is quite easy to pass on buffalo wings. Clear understanding leads to clear action. Sought after happy and nice looking woman beats out a miserable Miss Unnverse without a second thought.

  3. I find it sad that a married person with children is perceived by you as someone who's weekends activities exclusively and limited to moving the lawn and cleaning out the garbage! isn't it the POINT OF singles like yourself to be married one day?

  4. Dear Anonymous,

    Please reread and you will see that I never said that the married person's weekends activities were "EXCLUSIVELY" and "LIMITED" to mowing the lawn and cleaning out the garage (or "garbage" as you wrote) - I simple said they "INCLUDED" those activities (which is true)... an important and accurate distinction. However, you are absolutely right - most single people would aspire to be part of the mommy and me crowd some day and would love to be mowing their lawn in the burbs (as opposed to having a two bedroom apartment in the concrete jungle). The point is simply, while one IS single, suburbia is not an ideal environment to be in to find a partner.

  5. I'd say Marni is right on about this. We are all too spoiled with riches and become a bit complacent. I believe true love exists, but with all the temptations in NYC let alone dealing with one's own challenges, it's hard to focus in and allow for a real spiritual love to blossom. That said, I've not given up and suspect anyone who's witnessed or been brought up by an amazing couple will surely continue the quest.