By Lauralyn Avallone
"But you know where you came from, you know where you're going and you know where you belong" - "These Things Take Time" The Smiths
Part I: The Suburban Girl Heads to the Big City
I'm on my way into the city for a girl's night out. Changing at Jamaica, you can spot the unattached. They're decked out, standing alone, checking out the platform for leads. The guy next to me, no older than seventeen, keeps looking my way. I stay focused on the track, checking my watch out of boredom. Feeling his heavy stare, I finally meet his eyes. He nods and says, "hey." Twenty-seven years old and being picked up by a high school kid. I smile; the kind I'd flash to the elderly or a deacon at mass.
"Where were you when I was your age," crossing my mind.
And so, the night begins.
Once in the city, my friends and I walk the singles stance down to the east village, where a benefit for NYC firefighters is being held. Inside, the place is packed with Long Islanders, paying their donation to the fundraiser, an open bar and open mating season.
"If you see a guy with red hair and glasses, stay away from him," one friend says. "I met him in the men's room at the last benefit, the girl's line was too long. On the first date, he ignored me. The second, his friends were rude to mine. The third, he invited himself over to watch The Sopranos and put his feet up on the coffee table - he was wearing dirty sneakers!"
We all gasp.
"My mother was giving me the eye," she continues. "Then he sends me an e-mail saying he didn't like me that way, but he wanted to know if we could be friends with benefits."
Not new to our ears. We've known women who've had no more than three dates with someone, hear lines like this. Maybe in other words, such as "I'd love to have afternoon delights with you, but not date you."
Next thing I know, we're huddled in a circle like a sports team, fitting since the benefit is for the Bravest Football team, exchanging our "types" to map out the plan of how to assist one another in finding meat in this particular market.
"I feel like we're on a egg hunt," I say. "But instead of looking for eggs, we're looking for men."
"Hey, you can't use one without the other," one friend says.
A district attorney or paralegal (the soft-spoken are easily drowned out by oversized amps), approaches one of my friends on the subject of hockey. They jump into a conversation about the Rangers, she thinking, wow, it's cool to meet someone who knows about the game. He thinking...
On the dance floor, women let loose to the music, men stand anxiously on the perimeter, hands in their pockets or on their hips, nodding seriously, watching the women dance with the same concentration paid to sports games.
A man, dapper in a rat pack hat, approaches me as I sit out a dance.
"What do you do?" he asks.
"I'm a writer. What do you do?"
He looks at me as if I'm challenged. "I'm a firefighter."
"Oh," I laugh nervously. "Well, not everyone here is a firefighter."
"That's true. I'm also a writer."
"Oh, really? What do you write?"
"I see. That's a pretty broad topic."
We both nod and smile.
The girls regroup near the bar. A guy looks us up and down hungrily as if we're on a singles sales rack at Sears. We all cringe.
Spotting a nice looking fellow, social butterfly, my friend brazenly bumps my hip so I'm an inch away from him.
"Having a good time?" he asks.
Looking into his pretty, hazel eyes, I could tell I'm just a reflection.
"Definitely," I respond.
A woman hands him a business card.
"Networking, good for you," I say.
"Yeah, it's weird this woman wants me to come to her bachelorette party."
"Are you a stripper?" I ask.
"No, no. She wants me to bring friends."
"Oh, so you're a pimp."
He smiles, all charm, and then as quickly as his butterfly wings set on me, he's off to another flower.
"Oh my God," one friend says, when I return to the group. "That guy was a bouncer at our college bar, and he still remembers me!"
"Well, go for it!" we chant.
But she doesn't. None of us throw out the fishing poles, as maybe we should have. We curiously watch the one in the bunch who aggressively tackles her men like bait, reeling them in, amazed by her technique.
Numberless on the bus home, a friend says, "Maybe if we wore low-cut shirts, more men would come up to us."
"Yeah," the other contemplates.
"Well, how does the other girl do it?" I ask.
"Oh," a friend says. "Guys there know her as a slut."
"You can't win with guys," the other says. "You're either too quiet or too forward."
We all nod in thought.
On the way back home, settling into the comforts of the LIRR passenger seat, I reflect on being single in the city as opposed to single in the suburbs.
"When you say it's going to happen 'now' well, when exactly do you mean?" --"How Soon is Now?"
Part II: It Ain't That Bad
In a previous column, I touched on the difficulties of being single in the 'burbs. Rides are a pain, and distance can be prohibiting. Well, back in the city (being a born and bred Long Islander and a former Manhattanite), I recognized the benefits of being single on the Island.
I know a lot of Islanders opt for nights in the city as opposed to nights here, but this is what you'll get for a late night stint on the LIE or LIRR. Nightspots so overcrowded with the single in search of, that passerby can view their fashionably clad backs stuck to the windows. A stern man strolling down the sidewalk, walking a hefty black mut in a red doggie sweater, sporting a dark blue jacket, that reads: "Canine Fecal Engineer - Stay 200 Feet Back." Confusing and threatening street signs, such as: "Don't Honk - $350 fine" and "Don't even THINK of parking here."
And the classically misunderstood: Upon hearing you're from Long Island, people saying, "But you don't have an accent."
Or big hair; or long, decorative nails.
City guys and gals may be bolder, aggressive and more likely than Islanders to approach their prey, but most Island bars are less crowded and more laid back than city bars.
Walking off the train and smelling the fresh air, appreciating the clean, neat little houses and quiet streets, I realized, Long Island is a simpler kind of life than the city. Yeah, we singles deal with the same issues of finding our match among the many, but regardless of whether we meet that spine tingling passion or venture home to the flashing of friends' messages on the machine, our ears are open to peace of mind. The hustle and the bustle is our choice, it's not imposed on us.
I'm not denying that Manhattan has a tempting nightlife to offer Long Islanders. What I am saying is don't sell your neighborhood short. To some, it may seem lacking in excitement and opportunity, but there is something to be said for the comfort of community. And Long Island has a small community, as one colleague described, "the biggest small town in the world," a small town with credible references. There's something to be said about a neighborly joint where everybody knows your name and you're more than just a tab.
So, breathe in the fresh air Long Island has to offer, and before signing our nightspots off, consider your options. Singles, no matter where they live, are in the same situation. Endlessly looking for the person who will make their world a more colorful one. Sometimes, you don't have to travel far to find that one - most likely, they're right under your nose.
What's Up and Coming :
Charley O's, the home away from home for Long Island singles
Desperate times, desperate measures: When to take advice, and when to say, stop marketing your silly rules to an already complicated singles life!
Cool, Quotable Singles
"Always want to go to the dance club, that's where my buddies want to go. 'Dude: the dance club - that's where the chicks are.' That's why we go there, we don't go there to dance. Women go there to dance. They get all ready in the mirror with their friends and they're like, 'I just need to go, I just need to dance. Tonight, no guys, screw guys! I just need to dance. I've had a rough week and I just need to dance it out. I just want to stand in a circle around our pocketbook and shoes and just dance.' You will never ever hear a guy say to one of his friends: Mike, tonight, bro, I gotta dance, dude. Screw chicks tonight, bro, I gotta dance!"-Comedian Dane Cook
Copyrighted 2002 L.A.