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No Expiration Date

For single women without marriage prospects who are pushing 40, getting ready for that 300th first date isn’t always as hard as you might imagine.

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Next month, when Sex and the City airs its last batch of episodes, audiences will learn whether Carrie Bradshaw gets hitched to one of her many men or sent into television history eternally single. As the show has aged, so have its fans—single women in their early thirties six years ago who are now nearing 40 and still looking. But instead of panicking, the two women I spoke to are staying as level-headed and hopeful as Carrie herself.

Piera Lombardo, 38, is a vivacious Italian social worker with a healthy figure and plenty of self-effacing charm. Over lunch at Avenue, she tells me that she recently had an epiphany about her singlehood: “I was having dinner with this wealthy divorced man at his hotel. There wasn’t any chemistry, and when I said I was going to drive home, he got this closed-off look and told the valet to get my car. We waited in the lobby, and then he stood up and said, ‘You know what? I think you’re perfectly fine on your own.’ At that moment, I thought, I am going to be alone for the rest of my life, and I guess that’s okay.”

She was able to accept it, she says, because of something her late mother and grandmother used to say: “La forza del destino.” “It means ‘the force of destiny,’ ” she says. “You can’t fight destiny. Maybe it’s my fate to be single.”

But even though it might be her fate, she still gets annoyed when her father and stepmother set her up with a dud. One of the more memorable was Vinnie, a construction worker with a mullet who picked her up in a hot rod: “I invite him in, and I start telling him about my job. He says, ‘You talk so good. Did anybody ever tell you you could be a receptionist?’ ” They went to the movies, to see Bad Company, and in the middle Piera began choking on a kernel of popcorn. She erupted in a fit of desperate coughing, but he was too engrossed in the movie to notice. “I wound up having to Heimlich myself on the seat in front of me,” she recalls. “The popcorn went flying out of my mouth—he looked over and said, ‘You okay there?’ When we got home, he asked when we would see each other again. I said, ‘Not in this lifetime.’ ”

Part of what keeps her optimistic in the face of dates like that is the fact that her married friends are always telling her they’re jealous. “When you’re a married mother,” she says, “you come third—first the kids, then the husband, then you.” Still, lately she’s been wanting a child, and she says she wouldn’t have one without a husband to help her.

“My date said, ‘You talk so good. Did anybody ever tell you you could be a receptionist?’ ”

So, after hundreds of dates, with no prospects and declining chances of getting pregnant even if she does find someone, what does she tell herself so she can put on lipstick and go out again? “When I go on a first date, I’m excited to meet a new person. I love to get into people’s minds. And I keep telling my family, ‘The older I get, the less chance there is that I’ll get divorced.’ ”

‘Laura Weiss,” 36, is an art curator and an avid Sex and the City watcher. A fair-skinned brunette, she says the show has changed her perception of her own singlehood. “We are going through something no other generation has gone through,” she tells me over coffee at Café Rafaella. “There never used to be any such thing as a singles community, but I have one, a circle of friends who are just like me.”

She, too, has had her share of horror dates—and they’ve taken their toll. One night last year, she went out with a guy she liked, and a week later, she got a call on her cell phone: “The guy says, ‘There’s a Fellini documentary at the Film Forum—do you want to see it?’ I had talked about movies a lot with him, so I said yes.” She didn’t see him when she got to the theater, so she called his number. “I hear a cell phone ring, and from behind I see a bald, pudgy man in a baseball cap pick up his phone. It was definitely not the guy.” When he turned around, she realized she knew him; he was an acquaintance she’d seen several times at parties who had never called her before. Figuring he was interested, she played it cool. “How are you?” she asked. “Pretty good,” he said. “I’ve been seeing someone for about three months now.”

In the spring of 2001, after a bad breakup, she forced herself to put an ad on Match.com and met a well-traveled businessman named Yury. On their third date, they went to her apartment, and just as they were about to make love for the first time, Laura got a horrible shooting pain in her eye: “I raced into the bathroom stark naked and took out my contact. He says, ‘There’s nothing in there. You’re just nervous.’ Then he disappears, and when I come back, he’s totally clothed. He says, ‘I’m going to leave. I have a plane to catch in the morning.’ I thought, This is it. It’s over.

The next day, she woke up and the pain was gone: “He called me that night and said, ‘Have you ever seen A Passage to India?’ He said we were about to experience something unknown, and I lost the ability to see, just like the woman in the movie.” Instead of finding this patronizing, she was deeply moved. They kept dating—on and off for a year—before he said he wasn’t sure and stopped calling. Still, she has no regrets. “Someone brilliant and incredible saw me,” she says. “What’s missing in all this serial dating is that no one’s connecting. Yury made me feel human again.”

These days, she tries not to put too much weight on each individual date. “I believe that everyone is alone in the end. It’s up to us to fulfill ourselves. Life is beautiful and short, and it can’t be just the sum of my idiotic dates.” She pauses, then adds, “Which isn’t to say that I won’t keep going on them.”


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