[Ed. note: this articles was originally published on March 25th, 1996]
There are things worse than being 35, single and female in New York. Like: being 25, single and female in New York.
It’s a rite of passage few women would want to repeat. It’s about sleeping with the wrong men, wearing the wrong clothes, having the wrong roommate, saying the wrong thing, being ignored, getting fired, not being taken seriously and generally being treated like shit.
How do 35-year-old single New York women get to be, well, 35-year-old single New York women? Read on.
Carrie ran into Cici, a 25-year-old assistant to a flower designer, at the Louis Vuitton party. Carrie was trying to say hello to five people at once when Cici materialized out of the semidarkness. “Hiii,” she said, and when Carrie glanced over at her she said, “Hiii,” again. Then she just stared.
Carrie had to turn away from a book editor she was talking to. “What, Cici?” she asked. “What is it?”
“How are you?”
“Fine. Fabulous.” Carrie said. The book editor was about to talk to someone else. “Cici, I…”
“I haven’t seen you for so long,” Cici said. “You know I’m your biggest fan. Other people say you’re a bitch, but I say, she’s one of my best friends, she’s not like that.”
Cici just stood there, staring. “How are you?” Carrie asked.
“Oh, great,” Cici said. “Every night, I get dressed up and go out and no one pays attention to me and I go home and cry myself to sleep.”
“Oh, Cici,” Carrie said. “It’s just a phase.” And she skittered away.
Cici and her best friend, Carolyne, are two 25-year-olds who, like most women who are now 35, came to New York to have careers.
Carolyne came from Texas. She’s a nightlife writer for a downtown publication. One of those girls with a beautiful face who is just a bit overweight, but not concerned about it—at least not to the point where she’d ever let you think she was.
Cici is the opposite—blonde, bone-thin, with one of those oddly elegant faces that most people don’t notice because she isn’t convinced she’s beautiful. She works for Yorgi, the reclusive flower designer. She came to New York from Philadelphia. “Back then, I was like a little Mary Tyler Moore,” she said. “I actually had white gloves stashed in my purse. For the first six months, I didn’t even go out. I was too scared about keeping my job.”
And now? “We’re not nice girls. Nice is not a word you would apply to us,” Cici said.
“We mortify people,” Carolyne said.
“Carolyne is known for her temper tantrums,” Cici said.
“And Cici doesn’t talk to people. She just gives dirty looks.”
Carolyne and Cici are best friends through the usual conduit of female bonding in New York: over some jerky guy.
Before she met Cici, Carolyne met Sam, 42, an investment banker. Carolyne kept running into Sam every time she went out. Sam had a Swiss girlfriend who was trying to get into broadcasting. One night, Sam and Carolyne saw each other at Spy and they were drunk and they started making out and went back to Sam’s place and had sex. Then his girlfriend got deported.
Nevertheless, Sam’s and Carolyne’s “relationship” continued along the same lines. Every time Carolyne and Sam ran into each other, they would have sex. One night, she saw him at System and she gave him a hand job in the corner. Then they went outside and had sex behind a dumpster. Afterward, Sam zipped up his pants, kissed her on the cheek and said, “Well, I’ll see you later.” Carolyne started throwing trash at him. “I’m not through with you, Samuel,” she said.
A few weeks later, Cici was at Casa La Femme, when she saw two guys she knew. A third guy was with them. He was dark and he was wearing a white button-down shirt and khakis; Cici could tell that he had a great body. He seemed shy, and Cici began flirting with him. She’d gotten her hair cut, and she kept brushing her bangs out of her eyes and looking up at him. They were all going to some girl’s birthday party at a loft in SoHo; they asked Cici to go with them. They walked. Cici kept giggling and bumping into the guy, and he put his arm around her. “How old are you?” he asked.
“Perfect age,” he said.
“For what?” Cici asked.
“Me,” he said.
“How old are you?” Cici asked.
“Thirty-six,” he said. Lying.
The party was crowded. Vodka in plastic glasses. Cici had just turned away from the bar when she saw an apparition barreling toward her. A large girl with long dark hair, wearing red lipstick and a long “dress,” which appeared to be made of flowered chiffon scarves. Arabian nights.
The guy turned. “Carolyne!” he said. “Love your dress.”
“Thanks, Sam,” Carolyne said.
“Is that the new designer who was going to give you dresses for free if you wrote about him?” He smirked.
“Would you shut up?” Carolyne said. She turned to Cici. “Who are you and what are you doing at my birthday party?”
“Sam invited me,” Cici said.
“So you just accept invitations from other girls’ boyfriends, huh?”
“Carolyne. I am not your boyfriend,” Sam said.
“Oh yeah. You’ve just fucked me about 20 times.”
“Carolyne. I have a girlfriend,” Sam said.
“She got deported.”
“She’s back,” Sam said.
“You have a girlfriend?” Cici asked.
“You mortify me,” Carolyne said to Sam. “Get out and take your cheap little slut with you.”
“You have a girlfriend?” Cici asked again. She kept repeating it, all the way down the stairs until they were out on the street.
Sure enough, Cici and Carolyne became friends.
‘I Hate Miami’
One day Cici called Carrie. “You’ve got to come to Miami with us.”
“I hate Miami. I will never step foot in Miami,” Carrie said.
“You are just so funny,” Cici said.
In Miami, Cici and Carolyne stayed with some rich friends of Carolyne’s from the University of Texas. On Friday night, they all went out and got drunk, and Cici made out with one of the Texas guys, Dexter. But she got annoyed at him the following night when he followed her around, putting his arm around her, trying to kiss her—like they were a couple or something. She sort of started ignoring him, so Dexter stormed out of the house. He came back a couple of hours later with a girl. “Hi, y’all,” he said, on his way upstairs with the girl. Later they came downstairs and Dexter made a great show of writing down the girl’s phone number.
Cici ran out of the house crying just as Carolyne was spinning up the driveway in a rental car. She was also crying. She’d run into Sam, who just happened to be in Miami as well, and he wanted her to have a ménage à trios “with some blonde stripper bimbo.” When Carolyne said, “fuck off,” he pushed her down on the sand at South Beach and said, “The only reason I ever went any place with you was because we always get our pictures taken.”
Two weeks later, Carolyne ended up in the Post’s Page Six gossip column. She went to a party at Tunnel, and when the doorman wouldn’t let her in, she started screaming at him; then she punched him and he wrestled her to the ground. The next morning, she called up Page Six. When the item came out, she bought 20 copies of the paper.
Then Cici got kicked out of the apartment she was sharing with a lawyer from Philadelphia, the older sister of a college friend. The woman said, “Cici, I’m really worried about you. You’re not a nice person anymore.” Cici yelled at her that she was just jealous. Then she moved to Carolyne’s couch.
Around the same time, an unfortunate item came out about Carrie in one of the gossip columns. She was trying to ignore it when Cici called up all excited.
“Ohmigod, you’re famous,” she said. “You’re in the papers. Have you read it?” Then she began reading it. Carrie started screaming at her. “Let me explain something. If you want to survive in this town, never, ever call anybody and read something terrible about them from the papers. You pretend you never saw it, O.K.? And if they ask you if you did, you lie and say, ‘No, I don’t read trash,’ even though you do. Get it? Cici, who’s side are you on here?” Cici started crying and Carrie hung up the phone and felt guilty afterward.
“I’m going to introduce you to a guy and I know you’re going to fall in love with him, but don’t,” Carolyne said to Cici. So she did.
Ben was 40, a sometime restaurateur who’d already been married twice and had been in and out of rehab a dozen times. Everyone in New York knew about him, and if his name came up, people would roll their eyes. After all his drinking and coke-snorting, he still possessed a residue of what he was before—charming, amusing, handsome—and Cici fell in love with the residue. They spent two weekends together, even though they never had sex. Then they went to a party; he disappeared, and Cici found him leaning over a 16-year-old model who had just come into town. “You’re disgusting,” she screamed.
“Oh come on,” he said. “You’ve got to let me live out my fantasies.” He grinned, and you could see that his teeth needed to be rebonded.
Meanwhile, Carolyne sort of moved in with Sam. She kept her apartment, but spent every night at his and always left something—shoes, perfume, earrings, dry-cleaned blouses, six or seven different kinds of face cream—behind. This went one for three months. The night before Valentine’s Day, Sam exploded. “I want you out,” he said. He was breathing heavily.
“I don’t get it,” Carolyne said.
“There is nothing to get,” Sam said. “I just want you, your stuff, out of here, now.” Sam cranked open a window and began throwing her things out.
Carolyne smacked him hard across the back of his head.
He turned around. “You hit me,” he said.
“Sam…” she said.
“I can’t believe…you hit me.” He began backing across the floor. “Don’t come near me,” he said. He reached down and picked up his cat.
“Sam,” Carolyne said, walking toward him.
“Stay back,” he said. He grabbed the cat under its armpits so its legs were sticking straight out at Carolyne; he held it up like a weapon. “I said, get back.”
“Sam. Sam.” Carolyne shook her head. “This is so pitiful.”
Carolyne took a few steps toward the bed. “I didn’t mean…”
“You hit me,” Sam said. “Don’t ever hit me. Don’t hit Sam no more.”
The cat struggled out of Sam’s arms. “Here, kitty, kitty,” Carolyne said. “Want some milk?” She heard the TV click on.
‘He Was So Mortified’
Carrie was always promising Cici and Carolyne that she’d have dinner with them, so one day, she finally did. On a Sunday night. Her only free night. Carolyne and Cici were sitting back on the banquette, their legs crossed, stirring their drinks and looking very smart. Carolyne was talking on a cellular phone. “I have to go out every night for my job,” Cici said, sounding bored. “I’m just so tired all the time.”
Carolyne flipped her cellular phone closed and looked at Carrie. “We’ve got to go to this party tonight. Downtown. You should come,” she said in a tone that suggested Carrie definitely should not.
“Well, how is everything,” Carrie said. “You know, like Sam and…”
Cici lit a cigarette and looked off in another direction. “Sam went around telling everyone that he and Carolyne had never slept together, even though tons of people had seen them making out, so we mortified him.”
“We found out he started seeing this girl who has diseases. Seriously. Then we saw the two of them at this brunch place.”
“We were dressed to the nines. They were wearing sweat pants. We went up to them, and they asked us for a cigarette and we said, ‘A cigarette?’ Oh please. Get one from the waiter.’”
“We sat right next to them. Intentionally. They kept trying to talk to us, and Carolyne kept making calls on her cellular phone. Then I said, ‘Sam, how’s that girl I saw you with last week?’”
“He was so mortified. We sent him notes saying ‘Herpes Simplex 19.’”
“Is there a herpes simplex 19?” Carrie asked.
“No,” Cici said. “Don’t you get it?”
Carrie took a long time to light a cigarette. Then she said, “What is wrong with you?”
“Nothing,” Cici said. “The only thing I care about is my career. Like you.”
Then the two girls looked at their watches and each other.
“Do you mind,” Cici said. “We have to go to this party.”
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.