‘Sex and the City,’ Now and Then

You've come a long way … or have you? Photo: Courtesy of Simon & Schuster , New Line Cinema

Long before Candace Bushnell’s first Sex and the City book hit the stores, Cynthia Heimel wrote about the ambiguities that plagued Manhattan women looking for love in her Playboy "Women" column and a groundbreaking 1983 book, Sex Tips for Girls. “Who are we?” she asked in the first chapter. “Should we take vitamins? Wear dresses? Shave our legs? Eat natural foods? Become diamond smugglers?” Now, Heimel says, times are different. “Women have a better sense of themselves. They’re still crazy and desperate, but they know who they are. And they don’t think they’re nothing without a man.”

Sex Tips for Girls doesn’t seem like a book written 25 years ago, save Heimel’s references to Quaaludes and answering services. Much of the gospel about dating and sex is still achingly current, from the chapter titled “How to Be Good in Bed” (“Some girls spit sperm out, but this is not considered sporting.”) to her wry conclusions about the three-women-to-one-man point spread in Manhattan (“This makes every New York Man, even a pear-shaped, churlish bore, think he’s everybody.”)

So what did Heimel think of the latest paean to single life in Manhattan: Sex and the City, the movie? We asked her to see it, then report back. Her response:

“For God’s sake, how dare you make me watch that.”

“These were not the characters from the show,” she said, and this was not the New York she recognized. “I didn’t think it was even filmed in New York!”

“There was no grit,” she said. “Instead of celebrating the craziness, Miranda [looking for real estate in Chinatown] says, ‘Follow the white person!’ It betrayed everything that the TV show was about. It sold out single women.”

Heimel bemoaned the fact that there was very little sex or dating in the film. Even with two characters (um, spoiler alert) on the outs with their significant others for a good six months, nary a contender crosses the heroines’ paths, even as a lark (couldn’t Carrie have taken time out from bonding with J-Hud to go on one Match.com coffee date?). The girls instead bide their time modeling belted frocks, gobbling guacamole, and pining over soul mates lost to miscommunication.

“Sex had nothing to do with the movie,” says Heimel. “When Miranda is having sex with Steve and she says ‘Get it over with’? That’s not what the show was about.” It may, however, have been the thought on audience members’ minds, say, two hours and fifteen minutes into the film. “It went on forever! And it was cynical, this bloated movie where they all get married at the end.”

Most offensive of all to Heimel was Carrie’s reaction to her profile in Vogue. After she’s jilted at the altar, Carrie finds the issue with her photo inside and can’t even bear to read its humiliating caption aloud for all of Duane Reade to hear: Carrie Bradshaw is single and living in New York City.

Heimel was aghast. “As if that were the worst thing!” —Julie Klausner