Let’s face it, today’s world isn’t as idealistic as we remember it in years we weren’t born, and today’s men aren’t the gentlemen we read and sigh over in eighteenth-century romance novels.
Even if you weren’t an English major lusting after imaginary Mr. Darcy in college, surely you saw him around campus. You know the kind: the serious type who was “going places”, the seemingly unattainable yet promising to love you and protect you from the outside world kind of guy. That’s the one. The one who is aloof, yet screams of a secret, charming sensitivity.
Oh, the ideal Mr. Darcy.
The rare Mr. Darcy—rarer in the real world and in New York City, truly unattainable.
I’m not sure which of the two is the culprit, but, after living in New York City for four months now, I realize that either college or the South kept us very sheltered for a long time.
Back in the student days, it was easy to stay optimistic in all areas of life. When it came to career, we were working towards our degrees so we never felt unproductive. And when it came to guys, no matter what new, profound drama was washing over our lives, we always maintained hope, spotting a Mr. Darcy working at the school newspaper, running for class president, or even sitting serious, upright, and engaging yet cool, amongst us in classes.
And it was easy to know then that the problem wasn’t that the world lacked good guys but that we just hadn’t found the right one yet.
Moving to New York with that mindset is probably the second thing you can do to setting yourself up for huge disappointment. The first is imagining your English major can lead you to any title other than The Future Unemployed. But that’s a whole other story.
The point is, in a city that never sleeps because it’s too busy getting laid, my idealism is slowly shaking and I wonder: Where are the Mr. Darcys of New York?
Is a one night stand enough to fill the void of lonely New Yorkers? As I listen to the melodic raucus in my roommate’s room—floating over the ever romantic voice of Phat Joe or Lil Jack or whatever these guys are called these days—I didn’t question for one second that he was having fun. I mean, the girl obviously had a crappy taste in shoes, judging from the ugly brown leather boots by the door, but aside from that, perhaps it was her rockin’ body, or some sexy party cocktails that had brought them together back into his room.
A common theme seems to be that boobs and cosmopolitans are enough to make a New Yorker man’s night special. If she’s good in bed, suddenly her likes and dislikes, her personality, and tastes cease to matter. If she can give his busy world a few hours’ break instead of adding stress on top of it—stress that a full-time girlfriend would—who cares if she was wearing shabby shoes or the most elegant pair of Manolo’s?
That’s the problem: nobody, except for his girlfriend across town. Or, in my roommate’s case, his girlfriend across the country. That girl, just as hard-working as he is, who lives in a dead, no night-life city in Arkansas. Maybe she goes to work, drinks tea in the afternoon, chats on the phone with her friends, reads a book, watches a movie, relaxes, and goes to bed early to greet a new day with energy. And in those few moments before sleep when she is safely sunk into cool sheets with her eyes closed and a few last thoughts seal off another day, she thinks of him, misses her man, her Mr. Darcy.
The Mr. Darcy who’s actually busy screwing some chick he met at a party in Manhattan tonight.
Of course, it’s not like this thing doesn’t happen all over the United States. Cheaters are everywhere, and you can easily find them whether you look in New York City or the quietest town of Arizona. But when I’ve only seen and heard a few of these incidents happen in the past few years of college in the South, why, in just four months of New York City, has it become a daily thing? And why do people here treat it so lightly, turn apathetic eyes to a culture of love and romance that has gone extinct?
What happened to love going hand-in-hand with sex? Has the expression become as obsolete as those New Yorkers who still believe in it?
The conundrum of New York is the overflow of choices. There’s so much to do here, so much to see, so much to eat, so much to drink, so much of this, that, so many guys, so many girls, so many people looking for the excitement that the big city offers. And when you get everything you want all the time, you forget to appreciate each little thing. So, like spoiled children, those living in New York are often overworked, overexcited, and oversexed.
And that plays tricks on the mind of a true Mr. Darcy. It’s the Great Depression effect that we saw in The Grapes of Wrath, except, in this case, women are being played as fools: If one won’t take a half-assed relationship, there is always another just around the corner available to take her spot. If one refuses to deal with a guy’s issues, it makes more sense for him to leave her than to improve himself. So in the end, it makes more sense for her, too, to put up with it or lose faith in love altogether. In the city acclaimed for its speed efficiency, values that don’t play a part in the complex scemes of convenience are simply discarded.
And that leaves me to question the premise of the grand scheme of love in New York City: Sure there are ways to save time and money, but are they right? And in the end, what are we fighting for anyway? A cheaper way of getting fit (although I will admit that a $500 gym membership may overwhelm you after having a huge school gym available for free for four years) or a human connection? Are we looking for a quick, efficient way to get a pleasurable fix or a long-lasting companion who will offer love, compassion, and support?
For many, it seems to be the first answer. Because love comes with strings these days. And not the colorful kind that can be snapped off quickly from a woman’s hips. When a man is busy with work and barely has time for the exciting social life of the bustling city, where can he find time to fit in romance, love, and courting? Only sex can be fit in, because it’s quick and yields good results. And so, women are tentatively penciled in and quickly erased.
I’ve had my share of being penciled in to be erased soon after, in my short time in New York already, and by now I realize that the Mr. Darcys of New York, if any left, are disappearing fast.
Lucky for me, I seem to have found one specimen of the rare species. My Middle Eastern man with his sharp mind, beautiful heart, and caring disposition. My hopeless romantic. The one who demands respect in public and gets it. The one I watch socializing across the room when we find ourselves at the same events, the serious, sensible man withholding his smiles around others yet offering all the pleasant talk and winning affection madly. The one who opens the door for me as we leave the bar at the end of the event, who holds my hand and once around the corner will crack me the biggest smiles, give me his amorous compliments and passionate kisses of a madman.
How do I know he’s the real Mr. Darcy in a city of fakes, crooks, and addicts?
It’s not because I’ve had more thoughtful dates with him in the past month than I’ve had in my entire lifetime. Not the big bouquet of white roses he surprises me with after a morning walk to his favorite bakery.
Not the fact that our community of friends call him “Mr. Darcy” to begin with.
Nor that after hours and hours of nightly conversations, our emotional connection is alive.
Neither his reassurances that I don’t need to feel pressured for anything. That he has all the time in the world.
But mostly because when my own demons catch up with me and I throw unfair, insecure fits, asking him things that any emotionally abused New Yorker woman would, like, “What does she have that I don’t?” he looks at me as if I’ve just asked him the simplest question in the world, smiles calmly, and pulls me close and answers, “Me.”