THIS WEEK IN NYC 
 
 
ARCHIVE: MANHATTAN CHRONICLES ESSAY  
 
ARE MEN GOING TO BECOME REDUNDANT?
By ALEXANDRA ARES
Published: October 10th, 2009
 
 
“I think in the future men are going to become redundant. Science will help women find a way to have children without men, and men will gradually disappear as a species. Because more and more men are becoming parasites,” Madeleine told me last night.

This shocking opinion was voiced in Central Park; not in a Third World country afflicted by physical violence against women, but in Manhattan, in a county silently afflicted by emotional cruelty against women.                  

“This is kind of radical. Why do you think so?” I asked, stirred by the unexpected passion in my friend’s voice. It didn’t sound like a joke.

“In many workplaces, women already do all the legwork and men are the parasite bosses. It’s the same in many marriages. And, after a divorce, most guys send the check and pay courtesy visits in between their golf and dating schedule, while the woman is stuck doing the work of raising the child. And, in dating, most men want a free ride. The women always want structure and strive to keep everything together.”

She has a point. However, I’m thinking of men in science, married men, men in finance, artists, all sorts of irreplaceable men,  and I wonder how her theory fits with them. So I ask. 
 
“Today, I went to the funeral of the father of my friend Helen,” Madeleine started indirectly. “She was totally a daddy’s girl: She loved him and her father never disappointed her. He was a good husband and a good provider. Her parents had a solid, happy marriage, with no divorce. He was a kind, loving, hardworking man she’s always looked up to. How many men like this are left? How many men like this do you know?”  
 
I stood there silently. I tried to remember. There must be one person like this that I know. One fantastic or at least solid husband and father figure. The unbelievable truth is I don’t know any men like this. All the men with children or “expecting” who I’ve met this year in Manhattan were divorced, or never married with kids from different women. And they were more “Abercrombie and Fitch” than “ghetto.”

“Not many,” I replied evasively. “I’m sure there must be plenty. I just didn’t have the luck to run into them,” I said fearful that there is something wrong with me. “I guess just one or two in the last ten years. Not even my dad. He managed to keep the marriage intact, but his many affairs and constant fights with Mother wrecked my childhood.”

“You were still lucky,” Madeleine said. “I would have both my dads executed by a firing squad. My natural dad abandoned me when I was two; my second one is extorting money from me at every phone call and makes my mom miserable if I refuse.”

It’s a cool, breezy evening, and a pack of runners storm by us like a herd of wild horses.

“Good men are an extinct species,” Madeleine goes on matter-of-factly, her glance following the young athletes fading in the dusk. “Our society claims to have certain values on paper, but in reality most of the men I meet are not living by them. It’s a big show of hypocrisy and a struggle to keep up appearances. They are living by their penises.”

Madeleine doesn’t sound bitter. She doesn’t sound whiny either. She is a low-key, well-educated and attractive woman in her late thirties who studies thoroughly any subject she is interested in. This is something that she has obviously thought about for a long time and she kept for herself, fearing perhaps that I’ll judge or misunderstand her.
 
But I wonder. Aren't so many examples out there that tell, if not the opposite story, a story of men's heroic and larger than life deeds? ? Aren't there so many men who go on a limb and do everything to earn the approval of the women they love? We've all heard of men - usually either teenagers or at the cusp between middle age and older age - who, when they fall in love do crazy things for the woman they love, and there is no limit for the time, effort, devotion, and money they happily spent. Definitely, there are women who have a certain talent to inspire this attitude in men, women who don't, and many shades in between. Very often, but not all the time, the apparently harmless, deceiving ones are the ones who succeed. Or the much younger women who exploit, directly or indirectly, many men's desire for fresh flesh, ego gratification and novelty. But we've also heard countless surprising stories of men who, when they stopped loving or wanting their girlfriends or wives - who, for while inspired them to do great things - showed less care for the future life of their former love than they would show to a stray cat, and less consideration for hurting their feelings than for a dead dog. 
 
Madelaine didn't take into account these men who do grand things or buy their love, because in her eyes many of them are the same ones who previously broke or betrayed their families and relationships, leaving behind a trail of  "stray cats" and "dead-dogs".  For sure, in due time, things even out anf they also karmically become "dead-meat." 

GOOD-BYE RELATIONSHIPS 

Arthur

Arthur may not seem like the typical Wall Street, Yale-educated, successful trader. He is sophisticated, generous, kind, and cultured, and has a soul and personality unmatched by most of his more linear, dull peers. He started out with grand dreams, and at one point, he had a grand love affair and almost got married. He is the type of guy I want to root for that he won’t turn out like all the rest. We met for brunch the other day, eager to catch up with each other. I hadn’t seen him in about three months because he had been busy with women.

“How many did you sleep with?” I can’t refrain from asking. “Ten?” I pressed on.

“More,” he says, half proud, half embarrassed. 

Arthur slept with a new woman last Friday night, is in love with a married woman, is disheartened about another woman who just left him because she found him a bit overbearing, and has a new date tonight with another woman he wants to take to bed. On their second date, he wondered where he should take her, if he knew of any place that was fun. He is nervous about kissing her this time around, or else the relationship will turn into “a weird friendship.”

Courtship has been erased. There is only an ego game of hit or miss, win or lose. No one has “relationships” anymore. I mean, almost nobody in his circle, or in mine. At least, no one who I know of. I sometimes hear that someone had a relationship long ago. Mostly, there are just brief or sporadic sexual affairs overlapping with other brief sexual affairs.

So, when it’s all said and done, I don’t mean to be unfair to Arthur: He’s just a typical Manhattan guy. Actually, more considerate, intellectually alert, and sensitive than many others.  He is just going through a "phase." 

HELLO DEPRAVATION

Madeleine

“It’s the Generation of Excess. Promiscuity and depravation has become the new standard,” she continues. “Even the American Psycho and his Wall Street pals had steady girlfriends. It was mostly a social thing, but they still cared for the idea of having a girlfriend. This was in 1990. Now, it’s no longer the norm. Guys have dates, flings, casual sex, open relationships, but no girlfriends. ”

I am taken aback by the irony in her observation: taking away the murders, which were a metaphor anyway, the average Manhattan guy today has a more erratic love life than even the American Physcho. And just to buy more time for my thoughts I asked her: “When do you think it all started?”

“I don’t know. The movie Wall Street perhaps. The invention of the Internet. Online dating. And finally Craigslist, that brings depravation to your fingertips. Craig was a visionary and an idealist who wanted to create a community where everything was easy and for free. But look where we are now.”

Is there any way out? I wonder, staring somewhat startled at several cute children walking hand in hand with their domesticated parents. Married Manhattan is so different and parallel to the wild, single, Manhattan. Or it is not? And everyone’s on the internet looking for fun…  

 
THE MANHATAN SEX SCRIPT

Christina

You meet the “great guy,” have a romantic evening, you can’t believe you have such a good time together, drink a tad more than you should, make out, and, right before the ball is in, so to speak, he pauses and gives you “the talk”: He doesn’t want anything serious. Each guy has his own rehearsed stick. He is honest; he expects a little applause when he’s done telling you he doesn’t want to mislead you. At this point, you’re already half naked or overly excited, it’s 2 a.m., and you don’t want to make a scene, so you say to yourself, “Fuck it,” and go on with it. At least, you know what you’re in for. Some are even worse: They tell you what you want to hear, charm you, and win your trust, and the next day, they pull the plug. So you have to pull the plug first. It's like in the old western movies. It's all about shooting first. The relationship gets killed either way.  

 
THE MANHATTAN DATING DRILL 

Madeleine

“You sleep with a guy on a Thursday night, and you like him, and you hope that you are going to build a relationship, and you think the entire weekend of him. You are enchanted. Little do you know that on Saturday night he’s on a second date with someone else, scrambling his brains how to finesse everything to sleep with her or at least make out.

Unknowingly, you meet him again the following Tuesday, full of hope and desire, and have another romantic interlude. Then he disappears over the weekend, to go with the “guys,” which is to say to go out and have fun, and at the end of Saturday night, go to bed with another woman who he sleeps with occasionally, or just to go to a bar alone or to a nightclub with friends, hoping to meet a new woman to sleep with.

The third time you want to see him, he cancels, or reschedules, or he’s busy, or he’s hinting that he’s not interested in anything serious. This is your cue to play it cool and say—as all the self-help books advise—that “it’s okay; I am not looking into anything serious either.” So, you don’t look desperate to want, good forbid, a relationship, or marriage, a word that has become a modern-day leper.

In other ways, it’s okay to suck all his body parts, have intercourse, exchange words, thoughts, emotions, deep kisses, and all the bodily fluids, be the most intimate possible for a few hours, and then not even conceive that the two of you may become a couple. Otherwise, you’re labeled a bit “intense.”

I grew up in Germany, and there the rule was that everybody had a boyfriend or a girlfriend. I mean a real one. Then I got married, came to New York, and divorced after my husband had an affair with a woman he met over the Internet. So I was thirty when I first started the Manhattan dating game. Each time I met a guy I liked, I tried to create a relationship, or even worse, I wanted to believe that we were in a relationship, only to discover that all the dinners and walks in the park and blissful moments of intimacy meant nothing: We were so not in a relationship. There was never the real deal. 

These fucked-up affairs brought me a lot of pain. At the beginning, and for many years, I thought it was my fault. I was not good enough, I was making stupid mistakes, I suffered and blamed myself. Gradually I realized that this is not about me, I am not the odd woman out, and this is the sick rule for mostly everyone else. I know very few people who are in real relationships. This is why I gave up on men. This is why so many women my age (late thirties or older) gave up on men for long chunks of time. At first, they all tried to keep up with the Jones, so to speak, compete with men in an arms’ race of depravation, hoping that it’s just a numbers game. Then one day it dawns on you that with each new fling or one-night stand, you’re further away from what you actually want. You only create a promiscuous habit, a thick skin, and lots of hurt and depression. So you stop and go to the sidelines.

 
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE BLOWJOBS?

Arthur

“I used to be a nice guy, but I stopped,” Arthur had told me while walking to me to the Boat House earlier yesterday. We met to catch up after a few month hiatus and he’d told me that he had slept with an average of one or two different new women a week. “Works better this way. Women want to be dominated, crashed, emotionally destroyed. Then they look at you as a real man.”

“You think so?” I reply absentmindedly. In a flash, I recall all the new generation of men’s dating advice that encourages guys to behave like jerks. God forbid you may think to develop character or an interesting personality. The values are upside down, it's a race to the bottom in many facets of life: mores, manners, ethics, elegance, profit, scrupules... More and more people aim low, yet they have high self esteem. Pulp media encourages that. Men must break dates, behave like play hard to get, and bend over backward to make women miserable, just to play with their heads. “After my last failed 'relationship', I think I need to go into therapy, ” I tell Arthur. “Do you think you’ll ever have a good relationship if you don’t take one person at a time? Once you sleep with someone, you create a bubble with that person, and when you sleep with someone else right after, the bubble bursts.”  

“Men are not monogamous,” Arthur replies, annoyed, staring at the empty baseball field across from us. “And women are not ladies anymore. Do you know how many give me blowjobs? Once you marry them, they never give you blowjobs. This is what all my married friends tell me.”

“So, it’s all about the blowjobs?”  

The question flew between us rhetorically and stood still for a few seconds for Andrew to pick it up. But he changed the subject. “Last night, I had twenty-five drinks, many tequila shots. I think my skin is starting to get old prematurely because of all the booze.”

I look at his face, and he is right. I love Arthur, as a friend, and I want him to stay forever young with me. I could not stand to see him turn into an old creep.

 
A BLACK TIE AFFAIR 

Madeleine

I was standing at the white round table with an eighty-year-old man to my side who was telling me that he was dating a woman but he was not in love with her and said that he dated other women on the side, hoping to find the one. At one point, he sneaks in a comment about a woman in her mid-thirties he took out to dinner recently: “But nothing more happened.” It was his charming way of telling me that he didn’t find the forty-plus age difference such a big gap.

At my other side at the table there was a doctor in his late fifties who claimed he was forty-five and who told me that he too had a “friend with benefits,” a distinguished professor at NYU who was “nice” but not the love of his life. He stopped and said jokingly that he still accepted applications for “girlfriends.”

“Does he know about this arrangement?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“Is she happy about it?”

“I guess so. I guess she wants a relationship more than I do.”

His seductive gaze fell flat on my raised brow. I turned my head and looked at a bunch of old people in tuxedos drunk and happy and dancing like clowns.

 
THE OTHER HALF IN MODERN TIMES

Alexandra

At the beginning I thought this was only Madeleine’s shocking story. Her peculiar doom view. Not mine. I love men with all their flaws and I’d hate to imagine a world without them. Then, right after I’d  thought I was off the hook, a small epiphany dawned on me: In 2005, I wrote a novel (Dream Junkies) about two Manhattan women, Kitty and Desert Rose, who were two friends pulling in different directions: Younger Kitty (in her early thirties) still believed in true love and was desperately trying to find her other half in a man, whereas Desert Rose (a little bit older) was past this point and was trying to find her other half in Kitty’s pure platonic friendship. Kitty was frightened at the prospect of ever becoming Desert Rose and was rushing blindly away from her and toward an impossible love. And, should I say it? Kitty was me. Four years have passed since then, and I didn’t manage to find or to build a real relationship in Manhattan. Although I did love, and from all my heart, and I turned my life upside down for it.

Ironically, my other half, my reliable, dependable significant other, and my best friend has become someone of my own sex, not a man. Madeleine. Both of us are straight. I still find this unnatural, and hope it’s a passing phase. This is why what she told me tonight shocked and upset me, and I bet I am not the only one feeling this way. But it also made me wonder: If things go on like this, are men slowly becoming redundant? Are sexes becoming redundant to each other?

 Alexandra Ares is a novelist living in New York, NY, publisher of www.ManhattanChronicles.com