Everyone's parents' favorite maroon dining guide is now moving into the romantic arena, with the newly released The New York City Dating (and Dumping) Guide. As they might say, we're "skeptical."
Tim and Nina Zagat have been branching out from dining guides of late. But hotels and spas is one thing; applying their clinical, somewhat democratic, deeply unsatisfying, oddly detached disclaimer sneer quotes to Carrie Bradshaw territory seems like something better suited to an Onion parody. And yet, here it is: along with more expected terrain like "best nightlife spot for a first date," the off-puttingly cutesy booklet provides wisdom-of-crowds on everything from who should pay on the first date (60 percent of respondents said men) to whether to burn an ex's stuff (2 percent: yes) to — wait for it —“D.T.R.” (Defining the Relationship) talk.
Like all Zagat surveys, it's inherently skewed by the population that makes up the respondents, and in this case it's a particularly unbalanced group: says the Times, "though surveys were given to an equal number of men and women, 64 percent of respondents were female, 35 percent male. Of those responding, 94 percent of the women said they were exclusively interested in men and 86 percent of men said they were exclusively interested in women. The largest group of respondents were in their 30s (36 percent), followed by the 20s (25 percent), 40s (22 percent), 50s (13 percent) and 60s (4 percent)."
The odd thing about this whole conceit is that, even if you put implicit faith in the wisdom of the Zagat panel (unwise), it presumes a person is willing to date by committee: is simply knowing what other people prefer on a date valuable? Then too, even accurate advice isn't always what you want to hear: another recent survey reports that Chipotle is the number one place to meet men. I suppose for etiquette questions like check-paying a consensus is useful, but does the book really serve a function beyond tarted-up sociology paper? Were Zagat applying its somewhat fallible rating system to individual people on a website, the concept could fly ("Hygiene: 21") — but knowing the preferences of a group of 30-something women already self-selecting by taking time out to do such a study seems unlikely to radically alter the habits of anyone prone to buying such a book in the first place (read: the same women.) Quite frankly, we don't trust Zagat to help us buy a Gyro...but then, we take our Gyros seriously 'round these parts.