Saturday, February 08, 2003

Transactional Romance: Matchmakers vs. Madams: Is there really a difference?

It has become abundantly clear that love, sex and perhaps even romance now come with a price tag. As one of my friends stated, Chris, if you think about it, you either Pay $1.99 per minute (actually more like $3.99 per for fetish stuff), $500 per hour or more like $1,000 (actually for 4 star quality women) or by the lifetime sentence (with any random spoiled Princess you can meet in Manhattan). That does not include investments in 8 Minute Dating, Cosmo Party,, Drip Café, J Date,, It's Just Lunch, tickets to multiple charity and networking events, stocking the home bar and nesting ground with top shelf alcohol & Godiva chocolates. On top of that some have even made the further investment of hiring their own personal Yenta, such as Janice Spindel, Samantha Daniels or Denise Winston. Although, I would be the first to tell you that an investment in the spiritual guidance of Mama Gena & her Courtesans is clearly a worthwhile investment, whether you are an aspiring goddess or adonis looking to understand or attract your very own Alpha Female Goddess. Nevertheless, it is ever hard to notice that in down economy the quest to connect however intermittently is a thriving business.

There is unquestionably a transactional element to love, romance and sex in this town; money for orgasms with a different level of assistance and emotional involvement dependent upon what you offer in return. Sure, I, like many others had forsaken the phone sex, massages with happy endings and even escorts because due to inflation, the ones that one would most want to hire were costing a lot more these days. Yes ladies, men and in all likelihood your boyfriend, your husband etc...if he has a penis, has sampled some or all of the foregoing whether or not he ever intends on acknowledging it with you. In the words of Jack Nicholson..."You can't handle the truth." But frankly most men, could not handle the truth of your experiences either; yeah perhaps you did sort of fool around with your girlfriend or experiment with your personal trainer...and his buddy at the same time in between relationships. Sure it had nothing to do with was your need for affection not his great body and enormous phallus.

Nevertheless, with the stagnating economy’s impact on my livelihood, $1,000 per hour for pleasure at the hands of a sexy willing female sort of seemed financially irresponsible. It was also actually unnecessary. Not that I have become any Master of the Game, other than to note the ultimate irony in the mating game is that the less you try or desire to run into the Princes or Sex & the City Class of fems in this town, they are seemingly everywhere all over the lounge and charity circuit from Manhattan to the Hamptons. Admittedly, perhaps less so in the East Village and Williamsburg, but I digress.

But then it hit me. The dates, dinners, wine, romance, travel, chivalrous gifts of jewelery and the like, haven't I basically been paying for it all along? Is that too crass a way too look at it? If so, then essentially the freebee's, the girls you hooked up with and took home from Jimmy’s Downtown, The W, Serena or other Midtown watering holes really are the true values in the market place. They offer the best bang for the buck.....literally. Had my romantic ideals made me inefficient in the love game? Like many in a soft economy with evaporating retirement and investment accounts I found myself suffering from that Italian disease “DeFundsALo” and wondered what those vacations, spa and pampering treatments, Champagne and 5 pound lobsters at The Palm and jewelry might have gotten me by the hour on NYExotics or ErosNY. Maybe I could have gotten a tall Nordic goddess at least for a few hours or smokey brunette dominatrix? If we as men are to be so objectified in crass financial terms, than perhaps many men will continue to explore other alternatives to the mating game or make investments based upon the level of commitment that they seek in return. That would certainly be a logical effect of "free market economics."

In fact, that brings me to my point about whether there is actually a distinction between the "Love Brokers." How is a matchmaker (a.k.a, a Yenta) any different than a madam in this town? What are yenta's doing that is really any different from what Heidi Fleiss and Sydney Biddle Barrrows and other smaller time love brokers have been castigated, harassed, arrested and in some cases even imprisoned for? It would be unfair to focus the spotlight exclusively on the matchmakers of the Janice Spindel, Samantha Daniels, and Denise Winston variety (the "Yenta Class" of love broker). What has also interestingly emerged is a middle ground of love brokers somewhere between the yenta class and the Heidi Fleiss and Sydney Biddle Barrows class (the "Madam Class") of love brokering. Some of these services known as Prime Connections or VIP Life offer a full array of "Concierge" services to the executive including the model of his choice at whatever his destination and invitations to private gatherings where other similarly situated executives can meet the female counterparts or models associated with the service. What do we call this hybrid class of service (Intermittent and semi permanent liaisons) which seems to blur the line between Madams & Yentas? The Concierge Class or the Models for Wallets Class?

You see my dilemma is that these services evolved to meet existing needs in the market place. Without the need they do not exist. Rather than pass judgment or attempt to draw hairline distinctions between these services we should instead draw no distinction between one service vs. another because in essence they are all to varying degrees catering to and servicing the market for transactional romance or contractual sex. As one who is a lawyer and legal search professional or in more common parlance, a "Headhunter", my business is a similar talent search but for jobs or firms. Thus, I do not condemn the concept of hiring someone as your agent to procure for you precisely what you desire. But tell me how and why we should draw distinctions between yenta's who cruise the city for fresh young attractive female flesh to add to their data base to feed the hunger of a well heeled clientele of gentlemen willing to pay $25,000 per year for a Platinum service contract and those who serve as a madam to their clientele for less "permanent" associations, including contractual sexual encounters?. What is being sold is a promise of beauty or variations thereof for variations of wealth & status. What is fraudulent is to label it as anything other than that. There are also several little known trade secrets that I have come to learn. There seems to be a very flexible standard as to whom is the paying client. More often than not the less eligible party finds themselves in the predicament that the service costs more for them. Secondly, far too many yenta's have a data base full of women who's money they took for services that they can never render because there are not enough men or men who have paid for Platinum service contracts are not interested in the lower echelon members of their data base. Or as my female friend Lisa cracked, "why do I need to pay an unmarried Yenta Spinster $10,000 to help me meet a bunch of older balding men when I can meet them online or at J Date party for free." It’s the economic evolution of transactional romance, the objectification of the opposite sex based upon money (men) and beauty (women). Investments are made based upon the relative level of commitment to the service and what is obtained in return. If all parties to the transaction understand that so be it. But if you can license yenta's finding wannabe models and princesses their matching wallets in the form of a well healed gentlemen, then why harass the Madam or the guy who calls the escort service and orders in a professional sex worker for his preferred level of commitment? Furthermore why is there any difference between a high class escort who makes it very clear that her form of companionship has a price vs. the all too typical Manhattan Princess or Gold digger who does not quite make clear that her form of companionship also has a price or that she is in earnest looking for a sugar daddy and not a partner? Also, in the end, is there not more hustling around legitimate human emotions by legal matchmakers than illegal madams? Transactional romance between willing patrons and consensual professional sex workers in a way seems more above board and straight forward. Not a critique..but rather just an observation.

Monday, February 03, 2003

The Economics of Transactional Romance & The Dating "Biz" In NYC

No sooner had I gotten off the phone with my ex girlfriend, did I ask myself “why couldn’t I meet someone with her intelligence, wit and sex appeal?” It’s then that I realized, I already had and that chapter was now closed. How could I forget that our emotional battles which were more like “Gangs of New York” than the “Age of Innocence,” had left me calling my doctor for a prescription for Paxil as well as Viagra. Stripped of the burden of failed expectations and intimacy, we now have a platonic friendship which is far less stressful. Any anger or resentment that I once held for her as a result of my broken heart has since dissipated into a dispassionate, semi-intellectual association. Even her musings about a desire to settle down with the right guy do not slice or wound my ego but instead have got me thinking who I could introduce her to, since she is such a “catch.”

You would have to be Amish (not there is anything wrong with that) or a cavemen not to notice that there seems to be an ever growing list of services to help us access the inventory of singles in society. After a spirited discussion regarding the relative value and credibility of these services, we both agreed, given the options at our disposal these days, why commit? The need to do so becomes eviscerated when services exist which offer the illusive possibility that you can order a mate via an itemized menu of characteristics from height, weight, income, career and social status, ethnic character and other social and tangible skill sets and attributes. Has romantic love truly become something that we can shop for and procure dependent upon our ability to access that person with the perfect list of attributes? The multitude of options has created a pervasive transactional mercenary like mindset on the dating scene. Despite the endless array of options that these services have made available to facilitate access to the inventory of singles in our society, ironically enough the Manhattans Singles class continues to grow. In fact, an all to often complaint overheard is that women still can’t meet the right guy. As a friend Shari recently told me of her experiences on J Date, “Chris last week I must have profiled at least 100 guys, met approximately one dozen but none were for me and then I went to an 8 Minute Dating event and did not match with one person.” Thats when I suggested that she try DRIP CAFE, it apparently being one of the only services thats she has not yet tried which actually has arranged 134 marriages to its credit. Obviously the technological revolution while it has provided more options to access the inventory of singles does not necessarily result in a “hit” if you do not find someone with “ALL” of your enumerated criteria. Perhaps many men and women will continue to harbor unrealistic expectations and thereby resist and forsake the allure of marriage and commitment in perpetual quest of the BBD (The “Bigger Better Deal”).

These services have succeeded and will likely continue to thrive because they feed an insatiable consumerist appetite for "options" and they align themselves with the growing "Cocktail Culture." The freedom to pursue your dreams is core value of our society. After our need for food, water and shelter, the urge to pair bond is a strong biological need but the need to "commit" is not. Do not think that the founders of these services care much about whether you find true love. That is NOT their mission. Their business model is predicated on getting you hooked on bouts of intermittent pair bonding experiences so that you perpetually return for more. Perhaps this is too much of an indictment of our culture or the businesses that have evolved to feed these desires.

Sunday, February 02, 2003

After an otherwise stressful and exhausting week, and after a grueling back and abs workout at Equinox and a Schvitz at The Russian Spa on Wall Street, I had the opportunity to partake of the nearly “2 hour open bar from 8-10” last night at Scott’s Winter Bash at Coda. They actually shut down the open bar at 9:30 and converted to cash bar early once they ran out of the cheap stuff. Scott and friends, including my friend Chris” Networking Girl” Marashio who really put 8 Minute Dating on the map in NYC, should however, be commended for a superb turnout. While we actually had to start shelling out for the Grey Goose, about a half hour earlier than planned, nobody seemed to care about the inconvenience since the bartenders were gracious, extremely adept and efficient at serving drinks, eliminating any wait time.

With the number of familiar faces and mutual friends in attendance it actually seemed like it was my party. I enjoyed cocktails and spirited conversation with some of my friends which included the Founder of the MTG Foundation, made a new friend “Valerie,” founder of New York Planet, and the infamous founder of Club Marty, the mensch of Manhattan/Hoboken & the Hampton’s share house which has historically had attracted the best and most diverse crowd, thrown the best parties and single handedly been responsible for more hookups, ongoing friendships and in some case even marriages.

If you were male, there was simply very little to complain about. The presence of ABC Family Channel, casting for an upcoming reality relationship show Perfect Match seemed to bring every “L’L Hottie” out of their Manhattan apartments on the early side of a Saturday night in NYC. Whatever your “type” is, in all likelihood she was in attendance. The quality and quantity of beauty in attendance made it quite difficult to focus. It was truly a commitment phobes paradise! For a few hours some of us were able to have a lot of fun and forget that we are living in challenging times. Although, I may sound like I have velvet claws, it did occur to me with the over abundance of “blondes” in attendance that either there was an ABBA revival, Swedish convention was in town or perhaps despite the downturn Madison Avenue and 57th street salons have been doing a thriving business. It also occurred to me that in all likelihood with how primped the women were in attendance, that I would guess that a good 50% at least were clients of the infamous Jay Sisters on 57th street. As much as I may critique the “high maintenance” women, these Alpha females are some of God’s most beautiful creatures and certainly inspiration for continuing my workouts at Equinox and Balance. Perhaps they can make up for my late night indulgences at Jackson Hole.

Anyway, what's what a renaissance man (by his own definition) to do on Sunday without football, Soprano’s, other than listen to some Andrea Bocelli, tuning into MSNBC, reading the Times over some home made Chicken Pizziaola and Linguine. So this was not one of my better entries, I cannot be brilliant or controversial every day.