LAST WEEKEND was Labor Day weekend and I spent the holiday with a friend on Fire Island, a short ferry ride north of Long Island. For two days, I didn't wear shoes. I rode a bike for the first time in ten years. On Saturday night there was a big cook-out on the beach. Everyone in the neighbourhood came and sat on blankets and ate hot dogs and hamburgers and watermelon. As the sun went down, one fearsome woman with a sun visor and a megaphone organised potato sack races for the kids, with bumper packs of Reese's Pieces and M & Ms as prizes. Middle-class Americans have been complaining for some years about the decline in their living standards, but Lord knows, their quality of life still looks pretty enviable to a Brit. What typically British Bank Holiday scene can we offer the visiting American? Grim nuclear family groups eating scotch eggs in lay-bys on the M24?
The only downside to the Labor Day weekend was the intimidating preponderance of handsome twentysomething females. Looking at these women, with their rock-hard thighs and their bouncy little pony-tails, it was hard to believe I was of the same species, let alone the same sex. They were all incredibly enthusiastic and sportif. By day, they bounced around with tennis racquets, shouting "Owl raght!" "Wassup?" "Waydago!" and "Good job!" at their male companions. Come evening, they'd scurry into their bedrooms to apply make-up and blow-dry their hair before emerging all slinky and whouffed, to cook dinner. While the great lunks lounged on sofas, swigging beers and watching sports on TV, these perfectly cosmeticised cuties ran around chopping vegetables. Everyone knows it's a man's world, but in New York it's a man's Utopia.
I first realised this several months ago, when I went on a blind date with a doctor. The man wasn't just not my cup of tea, he was absolutely loathsome - smug and unctuous and given to vile sexual innuendo. He kept barking questions at me - did I like to ski? Was I a good cook? Did I work out regularly? - as if he were interviewing me for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of getting into his pants. Excuse me, I wanted to say, what makes you think you're such a prize, you complacent creep? Whatever happened to trying to win a woman over?
The answers to these questions were quite simple, I've now learnt. In Manhattan, heterosexual single women outnumber heterosexual single men. I have seen no official statistics on the subject, but all the unofficial evidence suggests that the surfeit is substantial. My doctor was really only responding to the laws of supply and demand as they pertain to the New York dating market. These dictate that women count themselves super-lucky if they bag anybody male and straight with functioning genitals, while men wander about at their lordly leisure, taking their pick of the pulchritudinous crop.
My English friend Nathan, whom I met years ago at Columbia grad school, recently got his doctorate and started work as a management consultant. …