DURING one incredible month in its dotcom heyday, Silicon Valley
was minting 64 millionaires every day, many young and mostly male.
It was a heady frontier of newfound gold, a realm of fast profits
and fast people.
The San Francisco Bay Area, by media accounts, was a
bachelorette's dream - "The Valley of the Guys." Palo Alto boasted
36 percent more men than women. Magazines and Internet sites
profiled male tech magnates in all their Palm-Pilot splendor,
inviting women to drool over "Hunks of the Web."
But when the dotcom bubble deflated, hot air left the singles
scene, too. Gone are the Gatsby-esque parties and use of job titles
as pickup lines. In the wake of dotcom breakups, many singles are
trying harder to build long-term relationships in their personal
lives. Men are less arrogant, women less choosy.
The saga of courtship here, in America's capital of new wealth,
is a parable of the cultural excesses that can accompany sudden
riches - and the realignment that results when wide-eyed dreams
While the tale reflects wider societal trends, it is also a
window on the unique culture of America's high-tech entrepreneurs in
this bucolic region of sun-bathed hills and tinted-glass software
Clearly, in the domain of love, this area has clicked onto a
whole new URL.
Thanks to company shutdowns, Palo Alto - the erstwhile mecca of
masculinity - is now just 49 percent male.
But bigger than any numerical adjustment is the shift in mood.
It's evident at City Tavern, a mecca for 20-somethings in San
Francisco's ritzy Marina district. Gianni Arnoldi, who has worked
behind the U-shaped bar for five years, recalls the frenzied social
scene. Swaggering dotcomers, with exuberance matched by narcissism,
often approached romance as another adventure in capitalism, he
says. "Guys would say, 'I work for this company, this is how much
money I'm making, this is what I'm driving' - and that's what the
girls would gravitate to."
Today, several Nasdaq nosedives later, the bravado is gone.
The protocol of courtship is not to ask someone what they do -
but if they work. And if they don't, "there's no stigma," says
Andrew Stern, a 20-something employed at San Francisco's Bang
Networks. "How your company's going to take over the world is no
longer something you talk about "
And fancy dinners? So 1995. "There's not the same cachet to being
a dotcom CEO or a director of business development," continues
Stern, himself a director of business development.
Values - not BMWs
Personal ads have also undergone a sea change - or at least an e-
change - growing more numerous and more humble. Where ads in the
late 1990s hinted at expensive lifestyles, today's wishlists are
"more down to earth," says Craig Newmark, who runs the San Francisco
online community Craigslist.org. Increasingly, he says, the
personals refer to "old-fashioned values," or wanting to "start out
Julie Paiva of Table for Six, a San Francisco matchmaking club
for "elite singles," also sees a dramatic value shift. She says the
men she interviews now have wishlists emphasizing personality - and
mothering skills. It's no longer "someone who's 5-foot, 8-inches and
120 pounds," or "someone who looks good on my arm when I go to ...
And where women once demanded men with impeccable social skills,
they're now focusing on "his values, if he's interested in family" -
and are more open to "nerds."
Since tech stocks tumbled, Paiva's business has soared. And since
the crash, she says, clients "freeze" memberships far more often -
meaning they've found serious partners, and are taking a break from
Marriages, indeed, are on the rise. Between the "boom time" of
1997-1999 and the bust of 2000-2001, the number of marriage licenses
issued annually in Santa Clara County leapt 19 percent. …