The Doormen Watching Over Me



E 42nd St & 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10017

Neighborhood: Tudor City

Most of the time, I find that living in a doorman building is like having all the perks of living with my parents, but without any of the frustration. The doormen in my building are wonderful — in the morning, the daytime doorman tells me that I look nice and then orders me to have a good day, just like my mother used to do (but, unlike my mother, he never tells me that my shoes don’t match my skirt). When I come home from work, the evening doorman asks me how my day was — again, like my mother always did (but, afterward, he never tells me to go clean my bedroom). And, on the rare occasion that I stay out past midnight, the late-night doorman is there to tell me to sleep well, as my father still does when I come in late during a visit home (but, unlike my dad, my doorman doesn’t seem cranky that I kept him up waiting).

I’m certain that my parents sleep well at night knowing that I have a host of foster fathers monitoring my comings and goings. But, there’s trouble brewing in my relationship with my doormen: unlike my biological parents, my doormen know exactly who I’m sleeping with, and when.

For the longest time, it wasn’t awkward. This is probably because from the time I moved into the building, until recently, I had a serious boyfriend (except when we broke up for a few weeks in the fall). Let’s call him Dave. When you’re in a long-term relationship, it’s not so embarrassing to have someone know that you aren’t sleeping alone. Even my parents knew that Dave regularly stayed the night. So, the fact that my doormen also knew he was sleeping over didn’t worry me much.

But, after living in the building for several months, my relationship with Dave began to deteriorate. We began seeing less of each other, and his absence became even more pronounced when he finished law school and started studying for the bar exam. One Saturday around this time, as I was leaving my building, I stopped to chat with the daytime doorman, Placido.

“Where’s your boyfriend these days?” he asked. I told him that he was studying for the bar, so he didn’t really have time to see me.

“Well,” Placido replied, “he should make more time, you’re supposed to come first.” He was right, of course, I was supposed to come first. He went on with his questions:

“Does he call you often?” No, I usually call him.

“How long does he talk with you for, an hour?” No.

“Forty-five minutes?” No.

“Half an hour?” No, more like ten minutes.

“Ten minutes!” Ten minutes.

“Does he tell you that he loves you?” No.

“Or that he misses you?” No.

“Or that he can’t stand to be without you?” No.

“No? What are you doing with him then?” I told Placido that the situation was under review.

A few weeks later, Dave and I made the decision to “take a break,” or to “cool things down,” or whatever euphemism you want to use for “break up.”

It’s been about a month, so last week, in need of a self-esteem boost, I called an ex-boyfriend, who is conveniently located in Murray Hill. Let’s call him Steve. Steve arrived at my building, announced himself, and came up to see my apartment. We went to a nearby Greek place for dinner, and shared a bottle of Lebanese wine.

Afterward, we walked back, half-drunk, to my building. We were flirting underneath my building’s awning when I remembered that we were on camera. I was sure that Tony, the evening doorman, was inside, keeping an eye on the situation. So, I just stood there, smiling. Steve (who lives in a walk-up and seemed oblivious to the whole doorman dynamic) put his arm around my waist, pulled me toward him, and then released me. He did it again: around, toward, and release.

The sad, lonely, drunken girl part of me wanted very much to invite him upstairs, but the rational, prudent, my- father-is-waiting-up-inside part of me knew that a physical encounter with him would be a very bad mistake. So, after Steve kissed me, I said goodnight. In the lobby, Tony and Ricky, the building’s super, greeted me with wicked smiles. I couldn’t face them. Instead, I looked down and scampered into the elevator.

Now that I am preparing to enter again the bar/bookstore/coffeeshop scene and readying myself for all of the ups and downs it will surely bring, I’m troubled by my doorman situation. I know that I am an adult, living by myself in New York, in my own apartment, free to associate with whomever I so choose. I also know that none of my doormen are my father. But, I still feel awkward. I don’t want my doormen to see me parade in and out of the building with an army of one-night stands, like some dance-hall floozy. Of course, all of my doormen are discreet, and I know that my secrets will be safe with them, but it is more than that.

I like them. And I want them to like me.

And, for some strange reason, I really don’t want to disappoint them. I don’t want to do anything in front of them that I wouldn’t do in front of my parents. Perhaps that’s taking it too far. But, I do intend to use my fear of disappointing my doormen as a way to help myself, maybe to save myself some grief. My doormen, in effect, will serve as tacit screeners for my potential bedmates–I will only bring home someone who might meet their approval. Someone who won’t look at the camera in my elevator and then molest me for the thrill of it. Someone who won’t sneak out on me at five in the morning on a Saturday. Someone who might come back and see me again sometime. This means: no creeps, no slimeballs, no one-night-stands. By following this simple rule I hope to make my doormen proud and keep myself happy.

Of course, if one night the mood should strike me, there’s always his place.*

*Walk-ups preferred.

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