An Italian friend living in N.Y.C. writes:
We are done with Sex and the City here, but in Italy they’re still airing last year’s episodes and dubbing the final series. Many Italians are crazy about it, and ask me how the real thing is in New York. After one year of living in the city (and witnessing one episode being shot right where I work, at the Rizzoli bookstore on 57th Street), I can reply: Liza, Manhattan, in her mid-30’s. Tall, beautiful, sexy: an irresistible smash. Let’s be scientific: My friend Andrea Califano, professor of genomics at Columbia University, explains that Liza is the perfect phenotype, meaning a genotype (the universal “fashion victim”) who can be detected only in a specific environment (Upper East Side).
The night we met, I walked her home. She was heavily drunk, but found the lucidity to enter a deli and buy Altoids (giant American mints for your breath). In the phenotype language, that means “Kiss me.” Downstairs from her apartment, she muttered something about Eros Ramazzotti and Laura Pausini. I jumped right in: “Let me translate them for you.”
“You come and you go”, she ordered imperiously, pretending to get back in control. I was soon to learn that “pretending” and “control” are two main features of the Upper East Sider. Other key words are “stress” and “relax.”
“Let’s put on some relaxation music …. ” She stopped me when our lips touched. She kissed like a princess. She wore luscious leopard pants. But in bed, she turned out as warm as a Mont Blanc glacier. Nevertheless, I fell for her.
Frigidity is considered a minor problem by New Yorkers: They rely on 12-steps programs or yoga to overcome it. Once I went to bed with an exquisite divorcée. I tried hard to please her. “Don’t worry, I never come the first time,” she finally told me.
I couldn’t wait for the second time. Same scene, until she smiled: “I seldom come.”
This phenotype utilizes her vagina mainly to have monologues with. The 10021 zip code (richest on earth) is the empire of finger and clitoris: “The quickest way to a woman’s heart is through her clit,” wrote comedian Wanda Sykes on Esquire a few months ago. “When we say ‘Harder! Harder!’ that means ‘Take it out and touch my clit.'”
No wonder “vibrant” has become the most used positive adjective here.
Liza and me have been together for a few weeks. She was very affectionate: Every two to three hours, she called me or sent me e-mails and cell messages. She showered me with attentions and gifts: heart-shaped chocolates, little funny letters, candies against cough. We shared lunch breaks, she would come to pick me up at work, we slept together. She drank a lot. “I’ll dry you up,” I joked her. She didn’t appreciate. And I didn’t enjoy paying the fantastic wine bills in restaurants.
She wore Prada shoes, Bulgari watches, Helen Yarmak furs. She used to carry her $2,000 Dolce and Gabbana bag hanging on her arm protruded in front of her, strutting majestically as if she held some imaginary cup in her hand. She would rarely venture west of Sixth Avenue and south of 50th Street: “I don’t like downtown; it’s dirty.” She couldn’t walk with her impressive high heels on, so plenty of taxis were essential. She was constantly in debt: rescheduling, consolidating, refinancing it.
She didn’t mention children, although her child-bearing time was running out. It’s incredible how New York women believe they can easily be mothers at 40. Little by little, she took more time for herself: girlies’ nights, gym, jogging, shopping, hairdresser, errands, bikini wax, facials, sunbathing on the rooftop …. Nails, most of all.
“I am stressed, I have to relax, I need my space,” she would tell me while canceling dates.
“Have you ever thought of incorporating me in your relaxation time, or making love is just one more tiresome activity for you?” I mildly protested.
She dumped me by e-mail. Suddenly, she didn’t want to see me nor even say a word on the phone. The day before, she was talking about us meeting her parents and making plans for a trip to Italy: schedules, planes to book, places to visit. The day after, she couldn’t stand me. “It is best to go our separate ways,” she wrote, “I feel suffocated. I tried to make things work but it was not there for me, I got caught up in the moment …. Who would not want to go to Italy? You are too much, I am overwhelmed.”
The cheapest Italian beach playboy would flush his used women down the toilet with more grace. Or perhaps we Eurotrash are too sentimental. I don’t mind being ditched, it was just the speed from sweet to sour which surprised me. I blamed this oligophrenia on the booze. I asked her the real reason for the turnaround.
“To be quite honest with you, I am in love with another man,” she replied. Ah, the usual Upper East Side sport: double dating, overbooking …. Poor him:Where was he during that month? There are many Lizas on those blocks. Not all necessarily gold diggers, nor man-eaters. Just “fear of commitment,” I am told. Or “decline of desire.” No sex in the city.
Karen Hughes emerged like a right-wing rock star from a burst of flash bulbs.
“My book was written long before Mr. Clarke came out with his book,” she said, “and my book is different . It’s not a typical Washington-gossip book. My book is about big things.”
Ms. Hughes, counselor to President George W. Bush, brought her book tour to the Barnes and Noble Union Square store on March 31, a week after former anti-terrorism coordinator Richard Clarke testified before the 9/11 commission. But while the President was being raked over the coals in D.C., Ms. Hughes was given a decidedly amicable reception in the center of Democrat-heavy New York City.
Dressed in a lavender jacket and pearls, and speaking in the smooth Texas twang that TV viewers across the land got to know during the 2000 election controversy, Ms. Hughes announced that she would rise above the “gossip” flying around the Capitol by talking about her 2002 decision to move back to Texas to spend time with her family-one of the themes of her mommy memoir, Ten Minutes from Normal . Then she plunged into a stump speech for the President’s re-election campaign.
“I’m gonna say a word about the weapons , because I get a lot of questions about those,” she said. “If we were wrong about the weapons, we need to know. And by the way, ‘we’ is a lot wider than the Bush administration: It includes members of the former Clinton administration, it includes the U.N. Security Council. If 15 years of accumulated American intelligence was that wrong, we need to know. And that’s why President Bush has appointed a commission to look into the issue. He doesn’t want the issue to be politicized in an election year. I think we’ve all seen how issues can be politicized.
“I do believe it’s very important that the President be re-elected,” she continued. “And I am worried. Senator Kerry, I heard him the other day-he said that he was uncomfortable using the word ‘war.'”
The audience was as enthralled as a group of schoolchildren at one of Laura Bush’s library readings.
“I love President Bush,” Ms. Hughes said at one point, sounding a bit star-struck.
“I remember one time he had mispronounced one of his words,” she said. “It was not the time he said ‘subliminimal’ or ‘strategery.’ This time, it was ‘misunderestimate.’ He said it three times, so I kinda had to point it out to him. The same morning, he had called the terrorists ‘folks.’ And it fell to me to say, ‘You know, Mr. President … uh, these are trained killers, I’m not sure you really want to be calling them folks .'”
In response to a question about the dirty campaign tactics used in the 2000 South Carolina primary, Ms. Hughes paused.
“It’s really interesting to hear all this stuff about the ‘attack machine.’ I challenge anyone to come up with a personal statement that Mr. Bush has made about his opponent, while Senator Kerry has said the Republicans are crooked and a bunch of liars,” she said. “You know, I resent that. I’m not crooked! I don’t appreciate that.”
“Ninety-eight percent of Republicans are crooked!” shouted a woman with round, owlish glasses who was sitting in the third row.
“What?” said Ms. Hughes, squinting into the audience.
“Ninety-eight percent of Republicans are crooked!” the woman yelled.
“Stupid woman!” hissed an older lady.
“Well, I just have to disagree with you,” said Ms. Hughes, unruffled. “I know a lot of Republicans, and a lot of them are very good people. And I think that I am certainly an ethical person-as is the President of the United States.”
Later, people lined up to have their books autographed. Ms. Hughes smiled across a deep wooden table and wrote “Karen Hughes” in prim purple script.
“I just can’t believe there are so many Republicans in New York City,” said Barry Mennen, who was waiting in line and looked startlingly like Larry David.
Even the security guard hired by the bookstore, a poker-faced bald man, was shocked by the relatively calm reception that Ms. Hughes received. He’d expected trouble, he said.
As the line dissipated, one man remained on the balcony overlooking the escalator, which was filled with people scurrying toward the exit.
“What a bunch of yuppies!” he yelled. “Go back to Westchester!”