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Sex: The Multiplicity of Desire


The Copacabana, midtown.  

It’s late. Outside, Scott hails Amy a cab back to Manhattan. She refuses to let him pay for it. The truth is they are very drunk. They agree tonight was fun. They discuss their weeks, they are both busy, they agree perhaps the weekend after next. Before she climbs into the backseat, Scott leans in and kisses her cheek. She smiles. The Scott of two years ago was an altogether different beast: Bringing a cute girl home was the only measure of a successful night.

Walking home, he stumbles a bit. He is still smiling. He is, he thinks, an old soul. It takes some effort to climb to the top floor of the brownstone apartment he shares with two girls his age and to his bedroom at the top, beneath a low, sloping ceiling. He lies down on his bed. On the walls, which he’d painted blue, hang a few medals from races he’s run, a map made of license plates, a Chris Mullin jersey, and an abacus. Lying there alone, still in his clothes and boots, he falls soundly asleep.

Her Name Is Tina, She Was a Showgirl, but That Was 30 Years Ago, When They Used to Have a Show
A golden-years mixer at the Copacabana, near Times Square.

A few blocks from Times Square, about 200 men and women congregate on the top-floor atrium of the recast Copacabana for a mixer organized by the New York City Baby Boomers group. They range in age from 49 to 80 and are all single. The ceiling rises dramatically; there are blue laser lights, a D.J., and a dance floor where a portal has opened, time has collapsed on itself, and they have returned to the eighth grade.

Marc Anthony implores: “Tell me baby girl ’cause I need to know.”

They stand around the perimeter, watching about a dozen couples dance. The aptitude of the dancers varies: Many shuffle back and forth from foot to foot, clapping off-rhythm; others bob like buoys; two showboaters betray their obvious time in ballroom-dancing classes. A fiftysomething in a tweed sport coat and black pants, his thin hair dyed the same brown as his mustache, approaches an Asian woman in a partially sheer black dress: “You dance the hustle?” he asks, shifting on his feet. She smiles demurely. “You gonna dance with me?” She does not answer. He keeps at it. What ensues is a public molestation punctuated by twirls.

Whitney Houston declares: “I’m every woman.”

Jackie has come to the Copacabana with some girlfriends from New Jersey. She will not say her age. She dated a guy she met here—a college professor with whom she’d connected “intellectually”—but after five months, she’d cut things off: Despite being a millionaire, he would not spend any money. She’d been married previously. She’d loved her husband but for a very long time “was not in love with him.” It wasn’t that they grew apart; “we just never really grew together.” She’d read the other day in the Times that a lot of people were divorcing in their fifties, “like 50 percent.”

The problem is there are so few options. The guys at the clubs are too young; she’d tried eHarmony; she’d wanted to go to another, similar event yesterday hosted by one “Steve Fox,” who tends to attract men of “a higher caliber,” but they—Jackie gestures to one of her friends standing beside her—couldn’t. Her friend, bolder and with a thicker North Jersey accent, makes a face and points to “that one, over there,” a woman in the middle of the dance floor who at this moment throws her head back, tosses her bright-yellow hair, and playfully pushes away the man in Dockers she’s dancing with, simultaneously tugging down on the tiny black Lycra dress that meets her fishnet stockings at the base of her buttocks. Jackie’s friend continues: “Disgusting … get a fucking grip … with the tits sticking out? … I mean, Jesus Christ … that’s all they want.” Jackie is nodding. I ask if they know her. They do not. The friend says: “What’s there to know?”

Her name is Tina. A few minutes later, she is catching her breath, fixing herself, running her fingers through her blonde hair, pulling up the Lycra around her chest. She crosses her legs, leans very close on the couch to talk. She smells like roses and speaks English with a thick accent. She is a blonder version of Charo.

She tells me she grew up in Puerto Rico, came here for college at Trenton State, has lived for the past 25 years in a co-op on Central Park West. Her last relationship was with a professional soccer player from Kazakhstan who approached her in the park a couple of years ago while she was walking her bichons frises, Flash and Scratchy. He was in his thirties, beautiful. At first she resisted, she knew it would not last. It did not; his visa expired. She was alone again, very depressed. Coming here is, for her, “just for fun.” She likes to feel sexy, to dance; the men are all silly, they have no money (the women here, they have all the money), many ask outright for sex.


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