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Report From the Front


On top of that (or underneath) is the problem of the New York gay male who pretends to be straight -- or the straight male who pretends to be gay. “You’ve gone to bed with someone eight times, and then they tell you in this very earnest tone, ‘Well, I’m not really gay, you know,’ “ says one man. “One time it happened with an actor I was seeing, and I said, ‘What, were you practicing for a role?’ “

“Let’s face it,” says a lesbian, 39, who describes herself as “a recovering editor.” “It’s impossible to develop a relationship in New York City. Everyone is intimidated by the prospect of happiness. They’d much rather suffer.”

And whine to their friends. Life imitates art -- or at least Seinfeld -- in New York, where every bad date, every searing relationship, turns into another great story for your cronies. “The first thing I do after a bad date is go home and call up my friends and tell them about it,” says the woman who had to spend the evening with the man who kept spiders. “The next morning I come into the office and tell all my friends there about it. And then we all get to work.”

But some people still dance. At the coffee shop in the Barnes & Noble on Union Square, I actually came across a happy couple, who say they met “dancing the Argentine tango.” They would not give their names because, they warned, “the New York tango community is very insular -- and very jealous.” She was quite a bit older than he -- around 45 to his 25 -- and both were wearing the sloppy smiles of people in love. “Tango is about men and women and what goes on when they embrace,” she explained. “You are cheek to cheek, chest to chest, feeling each other’s heart beat.”

He took out his Walkman, wrapped the headphones around my ears, and suddenly I was hearing what sounded like the soundtrack to a Charles Boyer movie. Then, right there in the book store, the couple started to dance, heavy-lidded, lunging elegantly across the floor.

“Oh, please,” said a single friend of mine when I called him up later to tell him about it. “In two months, they’ll be throwing knives at each other.”

Meanwhile, he added, “I’m happy as a clam here alone with a good book in my bed full of cracker crumbs.”


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