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Lowering the Bar

Tramping through Manhattan on a quest to cure her love jones, Amy Sohn came up empty.

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My boyfriend and I broke up this summer, and since then I've been on the prowl. I've gone on a few dates and even met a guy I could dig, but I haven't had any sleazy bar hookups and my life has been feeling incomplete. So I decided to go on a manhunt.

I chose as my companion "Ellen," a 31-year-old schoolteacher with flowing black hair and a body kissed by God. She showed up in a fancy slinky black dress, while my look was more ghetto slut -- tight, cheap Joyce Leslie T-shirt, knee-high f-me boots. Our first stop was the Astor Lounge, which was loud and crazed. I wanted to leave as soon as we got there, but Ellen spotted four yuppie men and dragged me over to them. "Large groups are good," she said. "It gives men a sense of glory to pick you up in front of their friends."

She planted her purse on a chair, looked at one of the guys, and said, "I need to nestle my bag against your bag."

"That would be fine," he said.

"Well, they can meet."

And so did we. Their names were Nick, Don, Peter, and Jae -- goateed, slight, Asian, and swarthy. They were financial consultants but not high-powered -- one wore his beeper on his belt. We bantered with them about our investments, and then Jae bought us drinks and moved closer to me. "You look like someone," he said. "The hair and the eyes . . . Sarah Jessica Parker." I didn't think it was accurate, but I let it go. Guys have a hard time distinguishing women.

"Are you seeing anyone right now?" he asked shyly.

"Why?"

"I thought I could give you my number. Maybe we could go for a drink." My jaw dropped in horror. I was retro and out of the loop, but wasn't he supposed to ask for my number? Is it such a passive era that men now forced women to make the first move? I couldn't take all this responsibility.

I gave him my voice mail, grabbed Ellen's arm, and hauled ass. In the cab, we compared notes. My score: 1 for 1. Ellen's score: 0, but she learned to keep her money in her pension plan.

Our next stop was the Monkey Bar in the Hotel Elysée. The house pianist, Michael Garin, was crooning into a mike, and although the scene was swinging it was also geriatric. As Ellen headed to the bar, a tall, fiftysomething balding guy came up to me and bought me a beer. I noticed he had elephants on his tie. "I just came from an RNC fund-raiser," he said.

I looked over at Ellen. She was bantering with a weathered middle-aged guy with slicked-back hair. Her fogy was hotter than mine. She put on her glasses and scanned the beer list. "If I had eyes like yours," the fogy told her, "I'd never wear glasses." This was too much. She got the charmer; I got the GOP.

Ellen and I headed out and her fogy followed us and took her number. Older men know male passivity is unappealing. We waved good-bye, and he called to me, "Take care of her." She was the one who needed to take care of me. She got three martinis and a date with a millionaire. I got a Sierra Nevada paid for by a Republican.

Our next stop was Max Fish on Ludlow, where we picked up our friend Joanna, 27, a salty magazine editor. I suggested we try the seventies suburban theme bar, Welcome to the Johnsons, but it was so smoky and packed we did an about-face. When we got outside, a short, decent-looking guy came running after us, shouting, "Don't go!"

"Why not?" Ellen asked.

"Because I have two nice friends in there and you are three sweet, beautiful ladies."

"What's so special about us?" I asked.

"You're together. I see a lot of hot women, but you're together." Ellen headed down the street. "You're like Charlie's Angels," he offered.

"Which one am I?" said Ellen.

"The smart one, Kate."

"And me?" I asked.

"The pretty one, Farrah."

"I'm Farrah! I'm Farrah!" I squealed, jumping up and down.

"And you're Jaclyn, the one in between," he said to Joanna, "sorta pretty, sorta smart."

"Thanks," she said tersely.

He went back inside while we conferred. I told the girls we should give it a shot. He wasn't a hottie, but he was clearly available.

His name was Greg and his two friends were Eric, a cute Wasp, and Yigal, a Semitic-looking guy with pointy sideburns who was visiting from Israel. As Yigal cornered Ellen, Joanna and I sat next to the other two.

"What makes you so confident in your womanizing skills?" I asked Greg.

"My friends pushed me to do it. But you know what? It's always the quiet one who gets the babes. The quiet one sits back while the dummy goes in and makes an ass out of himself. And the chicks are always like, 'I don't want a crazy guy. Hey -- who's your quiet friend?' I know that, but I can't help myself."

I realized Greg and I had something in common. Joanna's the quiet one and I'm always the ass. This guy and I could be asses together. He tended bar, he was funny, and he was Jewish. When he asked if he could give me his number, I didn't flinch. I just took it.

Just as I was starting to think it had been a good night, I spotted Ellen and Yigal sucking face like horndog teens. This broad was a fast mover. "Jo and I are leaving," I said as she came up for air. "But don't let us rush you."

She frowned for a second and said, "Just give me one minute." She whispered something in Yigal's ear, kissed him again, and then we three Angels strutted out.

"That guy had the biggest penis," said Ellen. "He had the biggest hard penis, and he was pressing it up against me."

"So go back," I said.

"I want to, but I can't," she said. "When you go home with a stranger, no matter how great it is, in the morning you want to kill yourself. And then when he says, 'So I gotta go, whatever, thanks,' you're so depressed you understand why people become heroin addicts. One thing I've learned in my thirties is that if you can't wait to do it, you shouldn't do it at all."

"So are you calling him tomorrow?" I asked.

"Are you kidding?" she said. "I'm calling my therapist!"


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