[Ed. note: this article was originally published on August 14th, 1995.]
On a recent afternoon, four women met at an Upper East Side restaurant to discuss what it was like to be an extremely beautiful young woman in New York City. About what it was like to be sought after, paid for, bothered, envied, misunderstood and just plain gorgeous—all before the age of 25.
“Camilla,” was the first to arrive. Five feet 10, pale white skin, big lips, round cheekbones, tiny nose—Camilla is 25 but says she “feels old.” She began modeling at 16. When I first met her months ago downtown, she was doing her duty as a “date” to a well-known television producer, which meant she was smiling and speaking back when someone asked her a question. Other than that, she was making very little effort, except to occasionally light her own cigarettes.
Women like Camilla don’t need to make much effort, especially with men. While many women would have killed to have a date with “Scotty,” the TV producer, Camilla told me she had been bored. “He’s not my type,” she said. Too old (early 40’s), not attractive enough, not rich enough. The fact that Scotty is indisputably one of the most eligible bachelors in New York meant nothing to her. She was the prize, not Scotty.
The other three women were late, so Camilla kept talking. “I’m not a bitch,” she said, looking around the restaurant, “but most of the girls in New York are just idiots. Airheads. They can’t even carry on a conversation. They don’t know which fork to use. They don’t know how to tip the maid at someone’s country house.”
There are a handful of women like Camilla in New York. They are all part of a sort of secret club, an urban sorority, with just a few requirements for membership: extreme beauty, youth (age range 17-25, or at least not admitting to being over 25), brains and the ability to sit in new restaurants for hours.
The brains part, however, appears to be relative. As one of Camilla’s friends, “Alexis,” said. “I’m literary. I read. I’ll sit down and read a whole magazine from cover to cover.”
Yes, these are the beautiful girls who throw off the whole man-woman curve thing in New York, because they get more than their fair share. Of attention, invitations, gifts and offers of clothes, money, private airplane rides and dinners on yachts in the South of France. These are the women who accompany the bachelors with the boldface names to the best parties and charity events. The women who get asked—instead of you. They have access. New York should be their oyster. But is it?
‘Let’s Talk About Scumbags’
The other women showed up. Besides Camilla, who said that she was “basically single but working on” a young scion of a Park Avenue family, the women included “Kitty,” 25, an aspiring actress who was currently living with a still-famous-but-basically-out-of-work 55-year-old actor,” “Shiloh,” 17, a model who had had a breakdown of some kind three months before and now rarely goes out; and “Teesie,” 22, a model who recently moved to New York and whose agency told her that she had to tell everyone she was 19.
The girls were all “friends,” having met each other several times when they were out in the evenings, and they had even dated “some of the same scumbags,” as Kitty put it.
“Let’s talk about scumbags,” I said.
“Does anybody know this guy S.P.?” asked Kitty. She had long tumbledown brown hair, green eyes, a little-girl voice. “He’s an old white-haired guy with a face like a pumpkin and he’s everywhere. Well. One time, I was at Bowery Bar and he came up to me and he said, ‘You’re too young to realize that you want to sleep with me and by the time you’re old enough to realize it, you’ll be too old for me to want to sleep with you.’”
“Men always try to buy you,” said Camilla. “Once, this guy said to me, ‘Please come to St. Barts with me for a weekend. We don’t have to sleep together, I promise. I just want to hold you. That’s all.’ When he got back, he said, ‘Why didn’t you come with me? I told you we wouldn’t sleep together.’ I said, ‘Don’t you realize that if I go away with a man, it means I want to sleep with him.’”
“Someone at my old agency tried to sell me to some rich guy once,” said Teesie. She had tiny features and a long swan neck. “This rich guy was friends with one of the bookers, and she promised him that he could ‘have’ me.”
Shiloh, perhaps feeling competitive, piped up: “I’ve had guys offer me plane tickets, I’ve had guys offer to fly me on their private jet.”
Kitty leaned forward and said, “I had one guy offer me a breast job and an apartment. He said, ‘I take care of my girls even after I break up with them.’ He was a tiny, bald, Australian guy.”
“Why is it that all the unattractive guys have all these ideas about what they’re going to do for you?” asked Teesie.
“Most men come across as very arrogant,” said Shiloh. She had skin the color of toasted almonds and long, straight black hair and huge black eyes. She was wearing a tank top and a long swirling skirt. “It’s just too much for me. I finally found one guy who wasn’t, but he’s in India right now.”
“There are two types of guys,” said Camilla. “They’re either slimeballs who are just out to get laid, or else they’re in love with you instantly. It’s pathetic.”
“What kind of guys fall in love instantly?” I wondered.
“Oh, you know,” said Camilla. “Scotty. ‘Capote Duncan.’ ‘Dash Peters.’” I nodded. “Capote Duncan” was the thirtysomething publishing type who was always out with beautiful young girls. “Dash Peters” was a well-known Hollywood agent who was frequently in New York, also a squire of P.Y.T.’s. Both had also dated and broken the hearts of women who were in their 30’s and usually pretty accomplished at something besides looking good.
“I dated Dash Peters, too,” Teesie said. She touched the back of her short, dark hair. “He kept trying to get me to spend the night with him at the Mark Hotel. He sent me baskets of flowers, all white ones. He was begging me to come over and take a sauna with him.”
“I met him in the South of France,” said Camilla. Sometimes Camilla spoke in a weird fake European accent, and she was using it now.
“Did he buy you anything?” Teesie asked, trying to be casual.
“Not really,” Camilla said. She motioned to the waiter. “Can you please bring me another frozen margarita?” she asked. “This one isn’t cold enough.” She looked back at Teesie. “Just some Chanel.”
“Clothing, or accessories?”
“Clothing,” Camilla said. “I already have too many Chanel bags.”
There was silence for a moment, and then Shiloh spoke up.
“I hardly ever go out anymore. I can’t take it. I’ve become very spiritual.” A thin piece of rawhide hung from her neck, twisted around a small crystal.
“Older guys are gross,” said Camilla. “I won’t go out with them anymore. A couple of years ago, I realized, why do need to go out with these ugly, rich old men, when I can go out with gorgeous rich young guys? Plus, these old guys don’t really understand you. No matter how much they think they do. They’re another generation.”
“I don’t think older guys are so bad,” Kitty said. “Of course, when Marcus first called me up and said he wanted to go out with me, I was like, ‘How old are you?’ He really had to woo me. The first time he came to pick me up, I walked out with dirty hair and no makeup. It was like, if you want me so much, get a look at the real me. And after that, the first time I spent the night with him, the next morning I woke up and he had a bouquet of my favorite flowers in every room. On the mirror, he wrote in shaving cream, ‘Hello, Kitty.’”
The women squealed. “That is so adorable,” Teesie said. “I love men.”
“Marcus loves it when I mess up,” said Kitty. “He loves it when I buy too many clothes and I can’t pay the bill. He loves to step in and take care of everything.”
“Men are needy and we’re the goddesses that give to them,” Kitty said triumphantly. She was well into her second margarita. “On the other hand, men are…bigger. Larger. They’re comfort.”
“They give you something that women can’t,” Shiloh said, nodding. “A man should provide for his girlfriend.”
“Marcus makes me feel really safe. He’s allowing me to have the childhood I never had,” said Kitty. “I don’t buy this whole feminist idea. Men have a need to be dominant—let them.”
“It’s other women who are really the problem,” said Camilla. “At the risk of sounding obnoxious, being beautiful is such a power, you can get whatever you want,” said Kitty. “And other women know that and don’t like you, especially older women. They think you’re invading their territory.”
“For a lot of women, when they reach 30, they start to realize their age,” said Camilla.
“But they get mean,” said Kitty. “They make comments. Women just assume that I’m an idiot. That I don’t know anything. That I’m stupid. That I’m with Marcus for his money. You get spiteful and wear an even shorter skirt and more makeup.”
“Nobody bothers to ask. They just assume,” said Teesie.
“That’s why most of my friends are men.” The three other women looked around the table and nodded.
What about sex? I asked.
“I tell every guy they have the biggest thing I’ve ever seen,” said Kitty. The women laughed nervously. Kitty slurped up the last bit of her margarita through a straw. “It’s survival,” she said.
Candace Bushnell began Sex and the City as a column in The New York Observer in 1994; it subsequently became a book and a series on HBO. She is also the author of Four Blondes, Trading Up and Lipstick Jungle, which is being filmed as a pilot for NBC starring Brooke Shields. Ms. Bushnell is also the host of Sex, Success and Sensibility, a live weekly talk show on Sirius Satellite Radio. She lives in Manhattan with her husband, New York City Ballet principal dancer Charles Askegard.
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