Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Peter Pan Lives on Perry Street (and his cousin, Paula, lives on Prince)

Ah, New York. Unlike any other place in the world. The ridiculously expensive shops, top tier entertainment, VIP nightlife, the constant energy and distractions … one big playground for high salaried adult-kids whose sense of age and aging would make Ponce de Leon think that there is definitely something in the water.

Now, I know it’s not just New York that has delayed the aging process. Haven’t you heard? All over the country 40 is the new 30, 30 is the new 20 and 20 is the new … ok, wait a minute… Anyway, you’re right - more people everywhere are going for graduate degrees, delaying marriage, living longer, etc.

But there is something about New York that is different. A feeling. A sense of control over one’s own child-adult transition, timing and destiny. A belief that you can be a kid for as long you want until the one day you decide (if you want, we all know people who never make this decision) that you’re done playing and you would like to now be a real life, certifiable adult. An official “Grown-Up.” Until then, however, there are a lot of trees you would like to climb and uneven bars you would still like to frequent. And, as all residents of Gotham City
[1] sure as hell know, there will always be an ample and steady supply of other Lost Boys more than willing to play with you. Whether you are 21, 31 or 51.

And you may ask why it’s anyone’s business when you choose to grow up. Who’s to say you can’t go out until 3 in the morning or that you can’t do 4 shots of tequila - as long as you are at work on time the next day it’s really not an issue. You get the job done. And done well.

Maybe it’s no one’s place to judge the oftentimes hedonistic and incredibly social lives we lead in New York – it’s certainly not mine. But the one thing that I can tell you, from the countless conversations I have with unattached New Yorkers (how do you like that as a synonym for “single?”), is that when it comes to relationships, this false sense of eternal youth can in fact be very dangerous for NYC singles ...

Dangerous? Yes, dangerous. More so than Barney’s Warehouse Sale. As always, I will elaborate.

New Yorkers tend to be achievers with the salaries to match the drive. They tend to take care of themselves and have the money that it often requires to look good – and younger. They tend to have active social calendars and are not sitting on the couch watching reruns when they could easily be at a gallery opening, a new culinary hotspot, or a friend’s Penthouse party. So when you look good, feel good and have more event invitations than you could possibly attend, dates scheduled than you can possibly keep track of or hookups pleasantly repeating themselves in your mind than you care to admit, it’s easy to get lost in a time warp. But oftentimes when a sociable single finally comes to realize that he or she is tired of the “carefree” single life (been there/done that) and wouldn’t mind some cares (kids, a house, and so on) it is often at a point where so much valuable time has passed that Jane or Joe Single suddenly looks in the mirror and exclaims “Holy *%!@*! How did I get here?”

This phenomenon is extremely common with NYC women, but men are certainly not immune (more on this in a moment). Anywhere else in the country (save LA or maybe one or two other urban areas) a single 30 year old woman is considered a virtual spinster. Here, no one looks askance at a group of 30 year old “hotties” out on the town looking to meet boys – they are considered to be in their prime dating age, really. However, as you might imagine, flash forward a quick 6, 7 or 8 years (yes, they go fast) and many of these same girls are very anxious to get married. Sure, they had a tremendous amount of fun dating casually, going out with the guys who weren’t good/right for them and possibly partying their fair share. Or maybe they’re “unattached” because they held out for Mr. Perfect until they realized that Mr. Perfect does not exist. Or maybe it’s because they were completely focused on excelling in their careers and it seemed as if there was all the time in the world to think about having babies. But they now realize the window to have a family is closing a little more each day. Often these women look great for their age (like many women in Manhattan do) and they don’t feel old by any means. But they have come to realize that, unfortunately, the human biological clock wasn’t set specifically for Eastern Standard Time. And, so for many of these women, dating is no longer simply dating. It has changed into a vetting process that is loaded with expectation, disappointment and frustration.

And, of course, the Big Ben reality isn’t lost on the men either. Yes, the men tell me, they want to be married and have kids. But not tomorrow. “She’s [x] years old? She must want kids as of yesterday. I want to be dating the person I am going to marry for at least a year. Then I want to be engaged for a year. Then I want to be married for at least two or three years before I have kids. So what is she going to do about having kids at [insert age]? My cut off is 36”. And you thought only women had these timelines in their heads! I literally had a conversation that went exactly this way the other day with a guy I never dreamed would have such a fixed time schedule.

If women could only hear the things I hear. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, Ladies, but being in the know helps me to convey information that can hopefully make a difference in some sassy single sister’s dating decisions. Message to the Women: You do not want to be a Paula Pan.

But before you get too smug, guys, please know that Peter Pan is not so sexy either. Many women are skeptical of a guy who is 40, 45, 48, etc. and never married and some women I know even refuse to be introduced to “those guys.” To them, it is a major, major indicator of skeletons in the closet, commitment phobia and/or a lack of desirability in general. Maybe there are enough women who overlook it, but there are plenty who will not.

And then there is the “able dad” issue. I met a guy who was 51 who told me that he still wants to have kids and so he only wants to meet women 37 or younger. I tried to break it to him that most 37 years olds don’t want their husbands in Depends when their kids are in college. Of course, I conveyed the message with more sensitivity (btw, I did not take him on as a client) … that was a year ago and he is still single and one year closer to his senior citizen discount. But he would not budge on age, consider dating a woman with kids or ever consider the thought of adopting. And for what it’s worth, let me remind my guy readers, your sperm ain’t immune from wrinkling either. See my Don’t Shoot the Messenger Part II blog (May 2009) for more on this. You have to wonder – why the hell did this guy wait so long? Because he drank the Kool-Aid, of course.

Ironically, these same New Yorkers who are uber-driven and focused in their careers/social lives frequently take a laissez-fare approach when it comes to their loves lives and often completely drop the ball. Indeed, these singles think that if they simply appear at a large number of social events per month they've done what they need to do and Mr. or Miss Right is going to magically turn up. You would not network for a high powered law firm or banking job at a local pub or leave beginning the preparation of a pitch to snare a top account to an hour before your meeting, so why would one assume he or she can take a comparably unfocused approach to finding a life partner? It seems like an obvious statement, but singles need to think strategically about dating. If they took a more focused approach to meeting their potential future partners (whether with the expertise of a service or just engaging in more deliberate dating in general) they would likely find that they can avoid the Captain Hooks of dating’s Never-Never Land.

New York is a wonderful city and it’s a lot of different things to many different people, but it’s not a children’s fairytale. And most would say that’s a good thing … after all, growing up’s not so bad.

[1] Ever wonder how New York got this nickname? Apparently, it was “first used by Washington Irving and others in the Salmagundi Papers, with satirical reference to Gotham, England, where the wise men acted as fools in order to avoid paying for the king's upkeep.” See (also addresses the Batman reference)

[2] I imagine most readers are aware of the unfortunate background story to this now common expression, but for the curious, you can find answers at the always informative Urban Dictionary site. See


  1. Great blog! I am going to take off my Peter Pan tights right now.

    - Lou

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  3. Great, Marni, finally somebody says the truth and not stuff like "age is how you feel". Yes, our lives are time bound, no matter where you live. If you didn't find Mr/Mrs Right in the age of 25-30 or, ok, maybe 35 these days, it's going to be increasingly difficult and babies are likely to be a problem. And most difficult it would be to find your equal in age, achievement and looks! Most likely you would have to compromise... It applies the same to men and women, even if reproductive restrictions don't apply at the same rate. Also not only to New Yorkers, though this city certainly offers more distractions than any other city I know. But I know men and women with the same problems in Bangkok, Washington, Moscow, Montevideo, Jakarta, Cairo, Kyiv, to name a few places outside of the usual playgrounds like London, Paris, New York. Most of them are accomplished professionals, international educated people who have options, or maybe had too many options. Of course, if things didn't work out as expected, one definitely can have more fun in NY or another major city as Peter/Paola… Or, if you are bored with parties and dating, you can do different things. The city offers a variety of options for rich cultural life, travel, sports and hobbies. You don't have to be married to grow up, but perhaps it’s important to understand the situation and not to obsess about missed opportunities.

  4. Marni, this blog was spot-on regarding several "spots." Earlier this decade I enjoyed going out to drink (and far too often, to get drunk) with co-workers. Dates here and there; some women I knew from the get-go would go nowhere (read: FLINGS); even something w/ coworkers. Some women were quality, but for whatever reason, it didn't work. Being in my late 20s/early 30s, it felt like my "prime" - independence, money, people to hang out with, and a liver which, while not as fresh as it was in the mid-late 1990s, it was still holding its own.

    How things change.

    The point you made to your female readership (6, 7, or 8 years... they go fast) is so true. I can't believe it's almost 2010. And at the age of 36 I never thought I'd still be unmarried. We are mortal and the closer I get to 40 the greater I feel my mortality, the biological clock ticking, the aching desire to find the ONE and to settle down. And as you said, one does tire of the "carefree" single life.

    I see so many single women in their mid/late 30s who fit your description exactly. I met once 3 1/2 years ago (she's now 40). We were introduced, and while she was beautiful, educated, and a sweetheart, she pushed me away. Believe it or not, she wanted me to commit after 3 weeks of dating - ironic, given I viewed her as precisely somebody "out of my league" as per Don't Shoot the Messenger II.

    I hope to be married no later than 40... and I am definitely targeting WITHIN my league.

    - Ex-Syosset Brave, Class of '91

  5. Thank you for such a refreshing post. Wondering what your definition of 'strategic' place or events to meet quality men?

  6. So very spot on and I say this as a 26 year old female, incredibly aware of the Peter Pan syndrome. I have many male friends rapidly approaching 40, feeling their own clocks start to click, but continuing in their Peter mindset. I tell them they have no right to complain about being single, because it is indeed what they want as they choose to continue the drinking and careless nights that this "wonderful" city supplies.

    And then you have me, a Paula in training . . who has options but can't seem to have her interest piqued. Ahh, the never ending cycle. Thank you for your wisdom. Strategy is required indeed.

    Thank you for this post.

  7. Dear Ex-Syosset Brave,

    Thanks as always for your comment and my apologies for the delay in getting back to you as I was on vacation.

    Your story of the woman who was so anxious to commit after such a short period of time illustrates my point quite well. Many of these singles let years go by without any focus and then all of sudden there is an urgency that often works against these men and women. So much to say on this topic ...

    I truly appreciate all of your comments - keep them coming!

  8. Hi Attaingme,

    I am so glad you enjoyed my most recent post. I appreciate your comment and my apologies re: the delay in responding as I was away on vacation.

    Yes, in regard to your 40+ yr old guy friends, typically there is a lot of complaining but little real action... You are young but at least you are aware of the potential to become a Paula, so I tend to think your awareness will prevent that from happening...

    Look forward to your continuing comments!


  9. Dear Anon,

    Thanks for your comment/question. I think where one lives affects what might be a good location to meet single men and women. I recently read a very good book called "If I'm So Wonderful, Why am I Still Single" and the author offers many helpful suggestions.

    Of course I have my own thoughts (obviously, my monthly events are on the top of the list) and will likely write a blog on this as well.

    Thanks again for your post,