For anyone interested in the ways of love, $18 doesn't seem that steep to find out what eligible women are looking for these days. And so on Tuesday night this married Salon Books correspondent traveled to the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan to hear a panel confront the topic "What Do Single Girls Want?" If this discussion was any indication, they don't want very much.
The moderator, author Meg Wolitzer ("Surrender, Dorothy"), opened on a promising note: "Good evening. I'm Cynthia Ozick, and I'm here to talk about the burden of history." It may have been the evening's funniest line. The two other panelists, Helen Fielding (author of "Bridget Jones' Diary") and Melissa Bank (author of "The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing") didn't supply the hard answers single men need to hear. Instead of addressing the topic, they addressed their personal histories, their trepidation about being unmarried and their vexation at being pigeonholed as Single White Female Writers. We learned that Fielding had tried on a triple-click cleavage bra at Victoria's Secret. Bank, whose ironic sneer became increasingly irksome as the evening wore on, didn't offer much in way of responses -- "What she said" (referring to some comment or other from a co-panelist) seemed to be her line of choice. Nervous giggles greeted nearly every utterance. After a while they sounded like a laugh track.
All this evasion wasn't of much help to the few men in the crowd on reconnaissance missions, such as Pancho Cohen (no relation to Leonard), a lady-killer acquaintance whom Salon Books spotted at the back of the auditorium, head down, taking notes. "At first, I thought I'd be like meat waiting for the flies," Cohen said. As he's gotten older, he has settled down with one woman (only one, as far as Salon Books knows), but nonetheless such events are staples for this quester after the ineffable qualities of a woman's soul. "I'm here to check out the talent and to do a little opposition research," he explained.
Cohen was dismayed by the outcome -- not only because no woman would approach him ("He's been around the block," Salon Books overheard a pair of audience members smirk) but also because only after an hour and six minutes did the panel finally tackle the topic at hand. "I liked that line 'Single men are the new single women.' I didn't understand it, but I liked it," Cohen said afterward. "It's kinda like, Orange is the new pink." He thought the premise of the symposium was wobbly. "I don't think New York women are going to pay $18 to find out what they want if the answer is going to be something like 'Love, support, and understanding,' if you know what I mean. I myself wanted something I could sink my teeth into." To that end, he headed downtown for a filet mignon.