For some reason, in the last week or so I've had a series of lunches and dinners with friends who are male, single, over 35 and never-married. Men like this were traditionally labelled playboys, a term implying they possessed a rakish charm and a wariness of settling.
New York is full of them, since this is the town where men come to get rich and consider dating an unserious pastime. Young, nubile women outnumber men here by far, so casual sex is absurdly easy to come by.
In 1980, US census figures showed six per cent of men over 40 never married; now 16 per cent are in that position. So does this merely reinforce the notion that there is no need for men to rush into matrimony?
Au contraire. According to the new issue of men's magazine Details, such men should be aware that women increasingly don't buy the "I've just never found the right woman" line from any man over 35.
In fact, women have a new term for these men: they are not playboys, they are "male spinsters" -- a moniker that implies at best that these men have "issues" and at worst that they are sociopaths.
Since reading this, I've listened to my single male friends with new interest. I've noticed that before you've even ordered the appetiser they always bring up their love lives -- and when they do, their conversation is comic and pitiable.
From one: "Sex with no strings attached is just great; we both know we're just having fun."
(I thought: how little you know about women.) Or, as another put it: "Once I've had sex with one woman, it's a bit like unwrapping a present -- there isn't any point doing it again." I told him there's a name for that: sex addiction.
One fears for these men, just as society has traditionally feared for the single woman. They cannot see how lonely they will be. The term "male spinster" is entirely appropriate.
But in time to ease my anxiety, a British friend came through town. He's 30, absurdly handsome and just dumped a celebrity he was dating.
"I realised everything was on her terms. I couldn't see a future like that. I want to get married," he said. Finally. A worthwhile man. "You've got five years," I told him, "before you need to worry about becoming a spinster."
This article was originally published by the London Evening Standard