Michael Sussman, 34, is featured on page 99 of the recently published "The Little Black Book, Washington, D.C., Edition: A Guide to the 100 Most Eligible Men" (St. Martin's Press).
An attorney in private practice who received his law degree from American University, Sussman is characterized in the volume thus:
"Listening to Michael talk, you know he's convinced that Washington is a great town with unlimited potential. . . . One of his favorite things about Washington is the abundance of theaters and museums. . . . Sports are one of Michael's hobbies. He runs daily in Rock Creek Park or on the C and O Canal. . . . Michael is a fan of nearby Shenandoah Valley. He knows when the hunting and fishing are good and the remote swimming holes clear; he can tell you about authentic country-inn dining, Saturday-night auctions, and Sunday-afternoon picnicking. . . . He appreciates women who are independent, self-confident, happy with themselves, and have a purpose in their lives." Leonard Shapiro, deputy sports editor of The Washington Post, celebrates his first wedding anniversary Monday, Valentine's Day.
Q: How did you qualify to be one of the 100 most eligible men in Washington?
A: I was at home one Saturday and I got a phone call. Someone mentioned that my name had been given to her, and that she was doing a thing called the eligible bachelors book of Washington." Would I be interested?
Right off the bat I thought she was a hooker. I mean, she said she was at the Marriott Hotel, could I come over and see her and I thought it was very strange. So I asked her who had given her my name and we talked a little bit. Basically, she was pretty candid and she sounded like a nice person and I thought, well, maybe I'll talk to her.
I don't know how she found all these people. She might have been walking down K Street and tapped people on the shoulders. I just simply got referred.
Q: So you had an interview?
A: It was like you were going to a college admissions officer. We go up to the room and there's two women in there.
Q: The authors, Beth Dutton and Victoria de Mayo?
A: Yes, and they're very, very gracious people and while Vicky was interviewing me, Beth was interviewing another -- eligible bachelor, I guess -- a prospective person. It was just simply meeting you and asking about your lifestyle. All the questions that you get when you run into someone at someone else's house. What you do and what your lifestyle is.
Q: I wanted to talk a little about some of these letters you got, because of the book. I just want to read.
A: Those are unsolicited letters.
Q: These are unsolicited letters. All right. Here's just an excerpt.
"I'm a public relations type. . . . I promote and I'm good at it. I love the theater and ballet. I dance. I play the piano and I take voice lessons although I can't sing. . . . I'm not a female jock but I, too, was on my high school basketball team. I ended up being captain of the cheerleaders. Remember, I promote well. I'm athletic looking, thin, 115 pounds, 5-6 with long legs. My best physical asset in case you're a leg man. . . . I will say that men describe me as open, funny, sexy, good listener, complex, sensitive, shy yet bold. Professionally I'm described as someone who makes things happen and who can produce under any circumstances. I'm sure you're wondering about looks. Well I'm not Miss America but I am attractive. I have a terrific bod for my age and beautiful blue-green eyes. If you want a picture I'll be glad to send one. For some reason I felt silly about enclosing one. Don't ask me why. I suppose I didn't want this letter to seem like a Spiegel catalogue. What do you think? I live very near you so I'm not geographically undesirable. . . ."
And the phone number is the last thing, signed, she shall remain nameless.
A: I notice you're getting a little excited about this.
Q: I'm getting very excited. I don't get these letters. What's your reaction to these kinds of things?
A: Well, flattered. Right out. I'm not the kind of person that gets these letters without being in a book such as this. If this was the 100 best-looking men in Washington, I don't think I'd be in it. Maybe the next 100. No. It's, I'm flattered. Also that's a very interesting letter. The person is someone who has got a sense of humor and probably does have a lot of nice qualities that I would like to find out about.
Q: You have heard from some women, I assume?
A: A lot of people call you up and say, "Hey, I saw you in the book, you've really lowered your standards" or something like that. Some funny remark. Or people who think it's more serious than that will say, "Oh, I saw you in the book" and you know, be impressed. I don't know why he'd be impressed, but we're very conscious of media here in this town. It's a form of advertising media.
I have received a number of letters or cards from women who said, I saw your picture and we have compatible interests. I got one the other day from a woman from Baltimore. Said the picture caught my eye and I'd like to lure you to Baltimore and have lunch at the Baltimore Museum and at the end, she signed her name and there's four boxes. Yes, no, maybe, and the fourth one is "get lost," which I thought is creative. That's probably someone who I would call up because it sounds like she's interesting. But again, I don't think that I volunteered to allow the piece to appear in the book to meet women. I thought it would be interesting and if I do meet one or two quality people that become a relationship it would be fun. And, if not, well, I bought six months of peace from my mother.
A couple of women I used to go out with and I maybe haven't seen for a while have called me up to congratulate me or indicate surprise. That's happened. One of my friends is also in the book and he's gotten a couple of phone calls from some women he used to date years ago. They've called him up and maybe rethought their assessments based upon the book. Which I think is real wrong. But, nonetheless, have thought "Well maybe this guy is a little nicer than I thought." A lot of people really can't make up their own mind. If someone else tells them, "Hey, this guy is one of the 100 most eligible bachelors and interesting people in Washington," well, maybe they'll listen to someone else's opinion. Same with restaurants. I mean, you don't think the restaurant you're going to is great. The Washington Post reviews it and says it's one of the 10 best. How do you feel? Make up your own mind.
Q: Do your parents talk to you, "Michael, when are you going to get married? Settle down and have children?"
A: This book will buy me at least six months of reprieve from my mother asking me "What's happening?" A euphemism. She says "What have you been doing?" which means "Are you seeing anybody and can we expect some announcement?" So I have to thank the authors. While all the other ladies are showing pictures of grandchildren at the tennis courts, she'll just whip the book out.
Q: Is there a perception among a lot of people that guys who don't get married are gay?
A: No. But, of course, my circle of friends, even if that were to be, it would still be accepted.
Q: A lot of people see an eligible bachelor and they say, well, he's always out to dinner, he's always going out. He's running around. He's got dates with gorgeous women. What is the lifestyle of a typical Washington bachelor?
A: It's none of those things. First of all we all have careers and that usually comes first. After that, in Washington it's like an extended family because people are generally from other places and they evolve friendships. There are a lot of people who like to go out and have what might be described as an active social life. But for the most part, my life is spent at home, at work, or visiting with friends. I only go out one or two nights a week -- at the most -- in a dating way.
Q: What are the channels where people who are not married go? Is there any pattern or are you on your own?
A: The "social Safeway" -- the one on Wisconsin Avenue -- is a great place to meet. If you enjoy salads you meet can them at the spinach bin.
It's very simple. If you like to play tennis you might join a tennis club or go to a park and you will meet someone who likes to play tennis. That's enough of a basis for a relationship. A lot of people meet people at work. If you like fishing, you find people that like to fish.
Q: What's the bar scene like in Washington?
A: Occasionally you might meet someone at a bar, but it's such a contrived play that most people don't really feel very comfortable.
Q: Are there meat markets in Washington?
A: Yes, there are. There definitely are bars where you just -- they're definitely meat markets. A couple in Georgetown. 19th and M. But what you find is Xerox salesmen who are in from out of town, or computer salesmen.
Q: Tell me what your pattern is. Give me a typical week.
A: A lot depends on the time of the year, the seasons. I'm a practicing attorney and I try to spend eight to 10 hour day working. After work, if the weather's nice I might go for a run, jog on the canal. I might go to one of the local parks and play basketball, might meet a friend to play tennis. It's a very unstructured, structured existence. I see close friends, probably for dinner, two nights a week. You get a lot of calls at 6:00, 7:00 -- "Do you want to go to a movie?" "Do you want to have dinner?" "Do you want to come over and watch a ballgame?" Just close friends, both male and female. One night a week I might go to the theater. I might go three nights and I might not go for a month. It's that kind of life. Once every two weeks I have a poker game. More friends. Conduct a little bit of business, a little bit of real estate, maybe a little law development. I have season tickets to the Bullets. I go to about 15 games a year. I might go to see the Oriole games two nights in the summer. It's really and also I'm an ANC commissioner for my local area. Advisory Neighborhood Commission. And it meets on every other Wednesday night. In the District.
Its just, you know, comes Monday, people say, "Hey, we've got a party at work, would you like to go?" "Uh, yeah," and you pencil it in. But there's no set schedule. Weekends I may not go out. I might just be really busy and have to get up early Sunday for something, so it's not a standing Saturday night date.
Q: What about pressure from women who want more than just to go out and have dinner or go to a movie or whatever?
A: What happens in the dating scene is that somewhere along the line, one party or the other determines how far the relationship will go. There comes a time when you're seeing someone where you say, well, it's either not going to happen or it's going to happen. And if it's not going to happen, I'm just not going to let it get to the point where we're seeing each other three, or four, or five nights a week. I mean, when you get to a certain age, you make these conscious decisions. You just don't slip into something. There's a reason why I'm 34 and not married. I haven't met the right person obviously, or when I met my person, it wasn't the right time or place for her.
I'm not a confirmed bachelor. Anything could happen. I know a federal district judge who got married at the age of 49 and has three children. A man who most people thought would not get married. You never say never. I'm enjoying my life. I don't think I'm missing anything, but there might come a time.
When I go to visit friends who are married with children, I don't go home saying I'm glad that's not me. I'm at the point now of saying that it's nice.
Q: Without getting too sexist or going into much detail, what is it that you look for in a woman that you want to go out with?
A: Well, it's essential to have similar interests. Physical type -- you can't get away from that -- for the most part we all have someone who we feel is in that acceptable range, someone you feel comfortable pwith, who you think is attractive. I mean, if Brooke Shields called me up, I wouldn't know what to do. We'd probably feel uncomfortable. So, someone you feel comfortable with as far as attractiveness and looks. And then after that it's compatibility/personality. If you find someone who's just not that active, who just doesn't want to go out or run or go to the park or is just a stay at home person and you're not a stay at home person, not an indoor person, then you're clearly not compatible. Even if you're physically compatible, a lot of other things in your lifestyles aren't compatible. You know, liking the same kind of restaurants or food or movies or theater or music, that all enters into it. Then if you find someone that's exactly like you, you probably won't like them. So, you find somebody who's got some interest you don't have -- if they like sculpture and you don't and they like the ballet, you might be interested. I happen to like basketball and I might take this person to a basketball game. They might think it's interesting, they might think it somewhat reminiscient of the ballet.
Q: Tell me, some of the women you date, can you generalize? Are they secretaries? Are they journalists? Do you meet them on the Hill?
A: You tend to meet people of your same age and educational background, by virtue of where you live and where you go and who your friends are and that's basically who you date. I would tend to date people like me, maybe mid-30s, late 20s. Women who have a career, who live in the metropolitan area.
There's a phrase you use when you meet someone from really far away from where you live. It's, "She's very nice, but she's G.U." That's "geographically undesireable." That means that if you live outside the Beltway and you meet someone who lives in the city, in the wintertime you may not see a lot of each other.
Q: What do they do for a living?
A: What do the women you date do for a living? To paraphrase Woody Allen, success means that you're striking out with a better class of women.
Q: You've been saving that line.