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Report From the Front

It’s a war zone out there. Casualties mount. Supplies are low. Time is short. Everyone is insane. But single New Yorkers soldier on, looking for love.


There are 1.3 million single men in New York, 1.8 million single women, and of these more than 3 million people, about two thirds have never married. “I’m starting to think I never will,” says Sandra Korsak, a pert 33-year-old artist in a hat made of a white fur she identifies as “rat.” It’s not that Korsak doesn’t want to find a long-term mate, she says, but “most of the people in this city are insane.”

Such despair -- bordering on horror, drifting toward resignation -- was echoed by most of the singles approached at bars and other random spots throughout the city. “You’d think, Whoa, I’m single in New York, great! But it’s not all it’s cracked up to be,” says Jason Brand, 20, an NYU drama student collared on a downtown subway platform, where he was caught practicing his tap-dancing routine. “It’s more like playing Russian roulette,” Brand says. “Some girl tells you she works at the pastry shop down the street, but then it turns out she’s a terrorist spy who puts on a doggie collar at night at the Vault. You can’t trust anybody.”

Being single in New York is “difficult,” sometimes “trying,” almost “a pathological state,” report those who would divulge the intimate details of their love lives in a heartbeat. It seems there simply isn’t enough time in the average New Yorker’s day to find and woo a significant other -- forget about nurturing a satisfying relationship. “You have to hand it to Donald Trump,” says Allison Miller, a 26-year-old freelance writer. “When his marriage to Marla broke up, he said something like, ‘Yeah, well, she wanted to work on our relationship, and I work all day -- I don’t want to come home and work.’ At least he was honest . . . this time.”

“Things get incredibly sped up here,” says a real-estate lawyer, 29, who asks not to be named. We’re jammed against the wall at the crowded Red Bench, where he says he likes to go because “there are a lot of foreign girls here, and they’re usually only in this country a short time -- and accents are sexy.” “You meet some woman at a bar,” he says, “and decide she’s the love of your life, because usually you’re in the office, where all the women are fighting you tooth and nail to get ahead. So you take her home and you have this whole twisted relationship in a single evening. I call it ‘Nine and a Half Hours.’ You tell her how your mother screwed up your birthday cake; she tells you her father never took her to see Santa. Then you have sex, and at like four in the morning, you move into the phase I call ‘The Crying Game.’ She’s sitting naked on the edge of your bed weeping -- you’re not sure why. I used to try and comfort them, but now I just ask them to go home. I feel like a bit of a schmuck, but I have to get up in the morning.”

Women also complain that work robs them of time for romance, and that men here treat them like workers. “I don’t have the time to become some man’s temporary wife -- which is what most men mean by girlfriend,” says a sales rep for a clothing designer, 35, applying lip gloss in the ladies’ room at Tramps. “Unless I know I’m really going to marry him. You start going out, and immediately you’re the one doing most of the work -- the shopping, the cooking, the talking. All that for somebody I might not ever see again in six months? I could have spent the time working out.”

Women despair of the acceleration in intimacy that results from the time crunch, too. “I know it goes against all The Rules,” says a photo editor, 28, “but you feel like if you don’t have sex on the first date, your schedule’s not going to permit your seeing each other for another two weeks, and then it’s ‘Who are you?’ “

When sex is out of the question because of the absence of attraction -- or even when sex is still a possibility -- both men and women complain that their dates try to turn the evening into a networking opportunity. “Every New York encounter starts out with credential swapping,” says Greg Cerio, 37, a writer. “What primitive ritual compares to it? Possibly sniffing.”

“I once went out on a date with a musician,” says a 31-year-old gay publicist, “and the whole time, he kept asking me if I could get his tape to Russell Simmons. I was like, ‘I do publicity for restaurants, okay?’ And he kept saying, ‘But you must know people who know people.’ “

Protests from heterosexual men fell into two basic areas: New York women pay too much attention to their dates’ wallets and, unlike in the Oval Office, too little to their zippers. “I guess you have to be a millionaire to get a blow job in this town,” says a mid-level manager at a magazine company.

“There’s only the most perfunctory acknowledgment of oral sex until you’re in a video-renting, Ben & Jerry’s-sharing relationship,” sighs a midtown waiter.

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