Another Profile of a Modern American Woman

This story appears in the New York Times:

I was 37, single, unemployed and depressed because in a couple of months I was going to be moving out of my studio apartment on East 23rd Street in Manhattan and in with my mother in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. Since taking a buyout at my Wall Street firm, I had devoted myself to two activities: searching for a new job and working out. And I spent a lot of time in my apartment.

One day historians will come up with a term for the cohort of women who thought Sex and the City was a documentary providing lifestyle advice.

My 23rd Street building was near three colleges. When I signed the lease, I didn’t realize the place had so many student renters, people who understandably liked to party. Yet it was the least social time in my life. Most of my friends were married. I had no income, and rent was almost $3,000 a month. I wasn’t dating because I hadn’t figured out how to positively spin my unemployment story.

That’s why you weren’t dating? Uh-huh. Sure.

One afternoon in the elevator, I saw one of the guys from next door in jeans and a T-shirt, his dark hair slightly receding.

“How old are you guys?” I said. “Like, 23?”

“Yeah, well, I’m 23,” he said.

“I’m 37. So I hope you get a younger neighbor the next go-round.”

“I never would have guessed 37,” he said. “I thought you were, like, 26.”

Was he sweet-talking me? I looked the same age as my friends, but maybe the dormlike context had fooled him.

37-year old doesn’t know when a young shitlord is dishing out flattering comments about her age in order to see if she’d be up for a shag. Later, we’ll find out this woman worked in HR and has a Masters in Psychology.

Two weeks later, my friend Diana and I were sitting at a nearby bar, drinking vodka sodas and looking at her Tinder app, when my 23-year-old neighbor popped up.

“Swipe right!” I said. “Tell him you’re out with me.”

She swiped, they matched, and she told him I was with her. I followed up with a text, proud to be out on a Saturday night. Here was proof that I, too, was fun.

Growing old is compulsory. Growing old with dignity is very much optional.

We messaged back and forth; he was on his way home. When I asked if he wanted to join us back at my apartment, he said yes.

I bet he did.

Twenty minutes later Diana and I arrived, and he showed up with a bottle of vodka and cans of Diet Coke.

Some women get given flowers.

Soon he was laughing, saying, “My roommates can’t stand you. And I was always so confused why a 26-year-old was upset about our parties. I thought you were just an old soul.”

As if a 26-year old working in New York doesn’t need to get their head down at night.

Diana and I danced to “Jump” by the Pointer Sisters, a song he didn’t recognize. Before Diana left at 4 a.m., she whispered to me, “He likes you. Hook up.”

Ah, where would women be without the advice of their best friend?

I offered a hushed protest, insisting he was too young. But apparently the neighborly tension had been building, because he and I started kissing right after she left.

When we woke up, hung over, a few hours later, I begged him not to tell his roommates. My transformation from puritanical noise warden to Mrs. Robinson embarrassed me; my dulled brain screamed, “What just happened?”

But I won’t lie: It was also an ego boost. I may not have had a job, a husband or a boyfriend, but at least I could attract an adorable 23-year-old.

Doesn’t take much to boost the ego of a woman pushing forty in New York, does it? Flatter her by lying about her age, match with her mate on Tinder, then turn up at her door with a bottle of vodka. Frankly, most women who aren’t utterly hideous could attract a 23-year old, even an adorable one. What is more difficult is encouraging them to stick around afterwards.

Over the next few weeks, we texted constantly and kept getting together to talk about our dating and employment searches and to fool around. When I asked him if I seemed older, he said, “Not really. Mostly because you aren’t working and you’re around all of the time.”

Not only did she believe him, she recounted it in the New York Times.

I said: “When I graduated high school, you were 4.”

Okay, so…

With him, my usual romantic anxiety disappeared. Instead of projecting my insecurities onto him…

By, for instance, constantly bringing up the age gap?

…and wondering if I was enough, I just had fun because I knew our age gap made a future impossible. And I was moving out soon.

Not that my mind was entirely free of concerns. I worried people would think we were ridiculous. But when I told my coupled-up girlfriends, they said I was living a fantasy.

The first paragraph is rather inconsistent with the first. Was she really having fun, or pouring out her anxiety to everyone she met?

“At least you’re having fun,” a soon-to-be-divorced friend said. “None of us are. I didn’t even want to touch my husband at the end.”

Can we hear from the husband?

Even so, the chasm between my new friend and me was no more glaring than when he said, “Dating is fun. I get to meet lots of people.”

Here’s a tip, ladies: trawling through Tinder looking for a shag is a lot more fun for a 23-year old man than a 37-year old woman.

Dating, for me, was about as fun as my job search. And that was because I approached both in almost exactly the same way: with a strategy, spreadsheets and a lot of anxiety about presenting my best self and hiding my weaknesses.

Including a 277 bullet-point list of requirements every partner must satisfy.

Our honest exchange was so refreshing. Dates my age disguised their fears with arrogance. Within an hour of meeting me, one had boasted about the amount of sex he’d had, and another, on our second date, gave me a heads-up that his large size had caused many of his relationships to end. How considerate of him to warn me!

This is a useful illustration of the dating pool which 37-year old New York women can expect to swim around in. What, there’s no Mr Big in his limousine?

With appropriate romantic prospects, I had been overly polished and protective. Just like the men, I spun stories broadcasting fake confidence.

Those with genuine confidence got their lives in order a decade previously.

But I confided in my neighbor about how hard the year had been and how worried I was about finding a job and a man to love.

Can we check with Manhattan hospitals whether a 23-year old male was admitted over the past year having gnawed off his own arm and survived a three-storey jump from a window?

With nothing at stake, I was charmingly vulnerable.

Or, more accurately, desperate.

One evening as we cuddled in my apartment, with me droning on about my man troubles and career fears, he said, “We get so fixated on the job we want or the person we’re dating because we don’t think there will be another. But there’s always another.”

Sounds as though he had one lined up already.

I thought that was so true. Even wise. But it’s easier to have that attitude, about jobs or love, at 23 than at 37.

I suspect the reason you’re in this predicament at 37 is because you blithely assumed “there will always be another” when you were in your 20s. Wise? Hardly.

Then one night I came home a little too drunk…

Such larks! Only she’s 37 and miserably single. Any idea why?

…and encountered him in the hallway. He was the one who almost always decided when we would hang out, and I complained it wasn’t fair that everything seemed to be on his terms. I was pressuring him, reverting to my worst dating default behavior, and he fled into his apartment.

I’d love to hear the conversation that transpired with his mates after this.

The next day he texted: “maybe we should chill with this. you’ve been a good friend … we complicated it a little though haha.”

This is what’s known as being dumped. By text. How’s that ego holding up?

I knew “haha” was just his millennial way of keeping it light, but here’s the thing: In our “light” relationship, I had let myself be fully known, revealing all of my imperfections, in a way I normally didn’t. With him I was my true self, and it was a revelation.

Is that how you’re gonna spin it? Okay, but recall that the woman who shagged her way around Europe ended her article by saying how much she’d learned from each one-night stand and how it taught her she didn’t need a partner to be happy. I’m about as convinced this time around.

And a conundrum. Because I can’t seem to be my true self when I’m seriously looking for love, when all I’m thinking about is the future. To win the person (or the job, for that matter), we think we have to be the most perfect version of ourselves. When our hearts are on the line, vulnerability can feel impossible.

No wonder sonny-boy scarpered and locked himself in his flat if this is what he had to listen to after each sweaty, drink-fuelled romp. I expect he’s using the fire escape for general egress these days.

I followed up this article by doing some research on the author, and her career history is illuminating:

– English Degree

– Masters in Clinical Psychology

– 5 years in HR, holding onto a position for a maximum of 2 years and 5 months

– 4 years Vice President Equities COO, including “Led projects in business strategy, communications, morale building, hiring, placement, and training”

In short, she’s an HR power-skirt who hopped from one job to another and somehow ended up as a VP in Equities leading projects in business strategy at a major bank. One can imagine what the real bankers thought of her elevation to this post.

What’s amusing, at least to me, is that the car-crash of an article coupled with her career history ticks just about every stereotype I can think of. All that’s missing is a few more years and a bunch of cats.

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38 thoughts on “Another Profile of a Modern American Woman

  1. “I wasn’t dating because I hadn’t figured out how to positively spin my unemployment story.”

    “I sold my wall-street company” would be a pretty reasonable spin, wouldn’t it?

    I notice she’s also a “talented executive”, with no evidence that she’s ever executived anything. Or is that just where US job title inflation has got to now? I somehow doubt a Lehman/Barclays executive would have trouble with $3000 rent, even if they had a few months of unemployment. And if they did, they shouldn’t be in banking.

  2. “I sold my wall-street company” would be a pretty reasonable spin, wouldn’t it?

    Well, exactly. I suspect she’s invested so much effort in her career in attaining corporate status that she’s come to believe this is the sole measure of everything. It’s probably a complete surprise to her that successful men couldn’t really care less what job his partner does, provided she’s happy.

  3. I was going to be moving out of my studio apartment on East 23rd Street in Manhattan and in with my mother

    Mention of her father is conspicuously absent, of course. I think we can tick off another stereotype.

  4. “I sold my wall-street company” would be a pretty reasonable spin, wouldn’t it?

    I belive ‘taking a buyout’ in this context means she was offered a wad of cash to leave the company she was working for. Normally this is reserved for folks around retirement age, so it is left as an exercise to the reader as to why she was offered it at 37.

    Or is that just where US job title inflation has got to now?

    Everyone at tech startups seem to be a VP of something or other these days.

  5. Reading between the lines, I’m presuming she slept her way into the job, then the partner, CEO or senior Veep that she screwed to get the job left to work for another bank / trading company and next annual termination round she gets handed her cards.

    It’s a common enough scenario…

  6. Ooh, she sounds like a keeper.

    Can’t imagine why she’s having trouble finding a normal man her own age.

  7. I do suspect there is a cynical embellishment within these types of pieces.

    Her story does check out, in the sense she spent 3 months unemployed in 2014, before consulting then moved back for nearly a year.

    However, you would have to ask yourself, why would a non-journalist write such a piece?

    Someone who writes for a living would do so, selling their life’s (or part of) journey for money, but a HR executive?

    It will have been about building a brand or using this as an attempt to be better known (although I dont think anyone serious or with good judgement would view this tale as a wise move to publish in the NYT).

    We’ve seen this before, on Worstall’s blog a few months back there was a piece clickbaitedly titled ‘I am too smart to find a boyfriend’ or something like that. The first featured person didnt give their actual surname and one commenter mentioned he knew her and this was a ploy to gain coverage. I did some sleuthing and this was correct.

    I imagine the purpose of this piece was the same. Self-promotion.

    It is fine of course, and means we have to take the more ‘honest’ elements with a pinch of salt as it inclusion might be for effect.

  8. “somehow ended up as a VP in Equities leading projects in business strategy at a major bank.”

    VP at an American investment bank essentially means that you’re not an intern any more……harsh there, but a great deal of truth in it.

  9. VP at an American investment bank essentially means that you’re not an intern any more

    Yeah, I did know that…mate of mine has been a VP since he left college, pretty much. I bet this particular woman thought she was a lot higher than an intern, though.

  10. I suspect her firm getting bought out did not result in a massive payday because she was an HR boxticker. Not someone of value, certainly not someone the buyer would want to keep. Venture capitalist rule one, bin the useless mouths ASAP. Let the corporate you sell to hire HR oxygen thieves.

    Also her new job as VP COO blah blah whatever love involved “projects in business strategy, communications, morale building, hiring, placement, and training” which all sounds a lot like HR to me.

  11. Also, what was the whole point of that fucking story? “I shagged a younger guy and then he dumped me.” Shit happens love.

  12. “I shagged a younger guy and then he dumped me.”

    …and look how positive it all was and how empowered I am!

  13. I suspect the reason you’re in this predicament at 37 is because you blithely assumed “there will always be another” when you were in your 20s.

    I feel a song coming on!

  14. The 23-year old was a bit slow off the mark, wasn’t he? This is how he should have done it.

    “I’m 37. So I hope you get a younger neighbor the next go-round.”

    “I’d never have guessed 37, I thought you were a young 35.” Then the clincher.

    “Happily I have a soft spot for thirty-five-year olds, and I really fancy you.”

    Bingo: that’s a fortnight saved.

  15. The 23-year old was a bit slow off the mark, wasn’t he?

    I suspect he was already getting plenty elsewhere and only bothered with this woman when she handed it to him on a plate.

  16. I have to say, I’ve never heard of someone who took a buyout describing themselves as ‘unemployed’ before. Every word of that dribble screams victim, she is about as empowered as a turd on a sidewalk.

  17. “37-year old doesn’t know when a young shitlord is dishing out flattering comments about her age in order to see if she’d be up for a shag. Later, we’ll find out this woman worked in HR and has a Masters in Psychology.”

    Any guy, even the most hopeless beta understands that shaving any aging woman’s age by ten years is standard operating practice don’t they? It’s right up there with breathing.

    I thought you were being ironic about the HR/psy bit, but actually has these things and can’t see through the most elementary manipulation?! Seriously, was she in college on some special needs program for extreme low end IQ? Any 30-something professional woman I know would be deeply offended by being put into the same category as this ditz.

  18. Any 30-something professional woman I know would be deeply offended by being put into the same category as this ditz.

    But they don’t write for the NYT.

  19. “Dating, for me, was about as fun as my job search. And that was because I approached both in almost exactly the same way: with a strategy, spreadsheets and a lot of anxiety about presenting my best self and hiding my weaknesses.”

    Spreadsheets? She used spreadsheets to get ready for sex?

    Okay, I get it: this would be like me looking at my carefully stored album of Bettie Page photos before going out to the local pub to try to pick someone up, I suppose.

  20. I’ve known several people who spoke about leaving some position with a “buyout.”

    It’s the new replacement term for “I was let go.”

    Any transaction worthy of the name “buyout” wouldn’t lead to moving in with mom at 37.

  21. @Watcher

    I believe it, though it confuses me a bit she was (a) a she, (b) on the fluffy side of City work. Many a male business analyst uses spreadsheets to handle their love life, if only to keep track (in this era of internet dating) what lies he was telling to whom… though the sharper ones can use it to optimise timings and so on.

  22. “though the sharper ones can use it to optimise timings and so on.”

    The ones that can count to 28, I guess?

  23. bobby b
    “It’s the new replacement term for “I was let go.”

    Any transaction worthy of the name “buyout” wouldn’t lead to moving in with mom at 37.”

    Ah,here was I thinking it meant she had some actual equity! That’s an even deeper level of sad, a company so desperate to get rid of her they offer her cash to GTFO?

  24. the cohort of women who thought Sex and the City was a documentary providing lifestyle advice

    I have enjoyed making a gift of the original book to such women. It includes scenes like the author waking up curled around her toilet with vomit and semen in her hair. Darren Star’s genius was realizing no one wanted to watch that and turning it into a kind of Cinderella fairy tale for boozy, washed-up party girls.

  25. Other than bragging that she has a “free spirit” boyfriend that gets around town on a skateboard and her faithful cat, Tiddles she’s ticked all the boxes.

    It’s a pity I can’t attach pictures to the comment otherwise I have a doozy …

    Plus, now that she’s admitted that she is emotionally immature and shags anything and everything, what do you reckon her chances of future employment are?

  26. “Notch on ones bed post is virus proof.”

    Well, computer virus anyway. Other virus…

  27. @Daniel Ream – the Amazon reviews for the book suggest many women were very upset that it is not the fairy tale they hoped for. It also seems that Bushnell’s more recent books have gone down the fairy tale route; why disappoint your audience!

  28. “Is “buyout” the equivalent of our severance pay or redundancy pay?”

    A buyout is done when someone is important enough to have been signed to a specific employment contract with a fixed term, and you want/need to let them go. You negotiate some portion of their promised future wages as payment to them for cancelling the remainder of their contract.

    (For example: Joe has ten months remaining on his twelve-month contract at $10k per month. You need Joe to go away. You offer to pay him a lump sum today of $20k if he will simply cancel his contract and leave. You have thus bought out his contract.)

  29. Darren Star’s genius was realizing no one wanted to watch that and turning it into a kind of Cinderella fairy tale for boozy, washed-up party girls.

    I’ve heard rumours that he wanted the show to actually feature four gay men in New York, rather than four women. Having watched every episode at least 3-4 times (yes, really, I liked it) I can well believe it: the women’s lifestyles and behaviours are more like those of gay men than women looking for serious partners.

  30. Tim;

    “I’ve heard rumours that he wanted the show to actually feature four gay men in New York, rather than four women.”

    My understanding was the original script or source was written around 4 gay men, Star put women in the roles and didn’t change much else.

  31. I cant help myself when I go to the beloved NYT site where I just came across this gem.

    King Michael of Romania, Who Ousted a Hitler Puppet, Dies at 96

    Doesn’t say bugger all about this.

    Romania exposes communist crimes- As many as two million people were killed or persecuted by the former communist authorities in Romania, an official report says.

    The guy was a young fool with the blood of many of his countrymen on his hands.

  32. Why she’s every man’s dream. A woman fast approaching middle age with a bad attitude a large sense of entitlement and no capacity for humility and introspection.

    The funny thing is she could probably find some measure of happiness if she dropped the I can have it all foolishness. “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try some time…”

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