20 December 2009

Where Are The Men?

We ended up with about a foot of snow. Out in the far reaches of Long Island, they had two, or even two and a half feet. Up and down the East Coast, from Virginia to Canada, people are digging out from this storm.

I am not a meteorologist, and I have practically no education of any sort in any area of science. But this storm seemed to be like a hurricane, except that the wind drove snow instead of rain--and, of course, that it was much colder than a hurricane.

The view from my bedroom window was that of a town molded in alabaster. It's lovely, and will remain so until the snow turns to slush the color of ashes.

More people were out and about yesterday were on the streets last night. What's interesting is that a seemingly large percentage of those people were in couples--heterosexual ones, mainly. That's what one normally expects to see on Saturday night, as there are clubs and bars along the commercial strip near me.

It seemed that the people who weren't in heterosexual pairings were instead mothers and daughters together. The daughters were teenagers or young adults; the mothers were around my age. That in itself is not so unusual: On the weekend before Christmas, mothers and daughters often go shopping together.

But what I found truly striking is the absence of middle-aged and elderly people, and men over 35 or so. There are a fair number of elderly people in this neighborhood, as there are in many parts of Queens. It seems that one can see just about all of them on a Sunday, as they're going to or coming from church, and possibly having lunch (They aren't the sort who "do brunch.") or dinner with friends or family members. As for the men: There seem to be fewer and fewer of them the longer I live here. If there are indeed fewer men in the prime of their lives than there were when I first moved into this area, I don't know why.

Of course, some people would argue that I contributed to that trend! ;-)

In a weird way, this reminds me of Park Slope the first year (1992) that I was living there. It seemed that there weren't any men of a certain age; there were only the very young or senior males. Occasionally I would see a thirtyish man with a woman, and possibly a child in a stroller. Those men often looked confused or resigned, as if they didn't know what they were supposed to be doing.

It may well be that they didn't know. At that time, a lot of professionals in the Wall Street-related industries had lost, or were losing, their jobs. Quite a few of them were living in "the Slope" at the time: In fact, they had much to do with turning the Slope into one of the city's more fashionable neighborhoods.

I recall stopping to use a Citibank (I called it "Shittybank.") ATM on Seventh Avenue. A fairly young woman stood at a table, exhorting people to sign her petition. I forget exactly what the petition was for; nonetheless, I'm pretty sure I signed it. Anyway, at the same time I was at her table, a man who was working in some skilled trade--I think he was an electrician--came up to the table. Then another man followed. We chatted: It turned out that both men and the woman at the table were unemployed. The second man was a Wall Street professional; the woman at the table was, it I recall correctly, an architect.

At the time, I was working on my MFA in poetry. I mentioned that to them; the woman found it really ironic that of four strangers who happened to just meet, the only one who was employed was a poet. I tried writing a poem about that, but, as you can imagine, such ironies don't work when you try to make them work.

Anyway...Something about what I saw today reminded me of those days in the 'Slope. I'm not a sociologist, so I couldn't tell you what may be causing it or what it may mean. For some time, I've heard and read that men are becoming superfluous, or at least nothing more than sperm donors. If that's true, then my transition was an even better idea than I thought it was!

Seriously...I feel that I've been seeing fewer and fewer men in these environs. As much as some of them exasperate me, I don't want to see them become superfluous or obsolete. That wouldn't be good for them--or the rest of us.

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