Despite having an almost palpable beating heart, New York City is a lonely place.
It might never actually rest its weary head on a comforting feather pillow, and this persistent activity may be much to its detriment. When you can’t take time to stay in one place and reflect and decompress, how can you take on a new day refreshed?
But in New York, where every minute is a new day, each shift of the sun brings a fresh possibility. You can smell it outside, in between the pungent blasts from subway grates, waves of cigarette smoke and thick, aromatic chicken from 1,001 food carts dotted up and down the streets.
I’ve said before: it’s hard to meet people here. It’s not hard to have brief encounters, and no, that is not a euphemism for some kind of insane sexual activity (although for many, this is likely the case.) You can have a captivating conversation with a random actor on the subway, meet a Russian immigrant taxi driver who has lived in Queens for 44 of his 60 years, and discuss literature with a bartender on the Lower East Side. But when it comes to anything really sticking…well, let’s just say you’re more likely to catch a poor mouse in those so-called humane sticky traps than keep a relationship going. Romantic or otherwise; New York is a city of flakes, and text messaging has made it worse.
So instead, people look to online dating, meetup groups or other hedonistic pursuits in order to cultivate this sense of belonging, or at least try and meet someone to make the city’s insomnia a little more palatable. (And yeah, to probably just get laid.)
There are also a lot of speed dating events. Said speed dating events are also occasionally discounted which – besides looking for a couple of interesting stories – is the reason why I decided to sign up for one. Note on the “stories:” I’m not looking for recognition, renown or ridicule; I’m a writer and am interested in experiences. Plus, when you stick a writer at a job in the Financial District (and said writer is not financially inclined at all) the writer in question finds it (again) hard to meet people and therefore tries what she can.
Did I mention it’s hard to meet people in New York?
However, I had low expectations for speed dating – a sense that fell even further towards the slightly misty East Village streets when I saw the dreary purple awning of the bar at which said event would take place. And things didn’t improve once I breached the interior; two groups of girls filed in past two other already drunk apparent participants. The cattiness started as soon as I tried to be friendly and witty. And taking a seat on the sunken couches, the female mistrust and competition thickened the already heavy air. Once the men filed in and began their carousel of introductions and awkward, repetitive questions, the whole proceeding began to make me feel sad. And tired. I mean, really, the amount of energy needed to talk to 18 individuals is far beyond what one should have at the end of a workday.
But the sadness? People actually expected something from the poorly-organized, bizarrely structured event. There was an eagerness – a desperation, this powerful need to find connection and meaning in a city that’s unsympathetic to those without a backbone. Until a person can stand up and give New York the finger, the city won’t lend a helping hand; it has far too much else to deal with given its long hours, little pay and streets filled with the high-flying to the utterly poverty-stricken. So, instead, these hollow enclaves of lonely form and people strive to connect and find meaning in an overwhelming place.
Personally, any funny stories I hoped to glean from the event lost some of their humor when the sincerity of some candidates hit me smack in the face. I felt sad for them. I felt sad for the environment. Fortunately, it was misty and raining at night and, even though I hate cliches, I walked happily without an umbrella, the droplets dissolving some of the heavy emotions from the room. I let the city take me in and walked home.
This post originally appeared here.