Near the beginning of her Sex Tips for Girls, author Cynthia Heimel complains that so-called "women's magazines" like Glamour and Cosmopolitan are actually all about men. How to please men; how to take care of men. Even how to keep men around. But we don't see how Heimel's stream of novels with their Lichtenstein-style Pop Art covers and cutesy titles such as If You Can't Live Without Me, Why Aren't You Dead Yet? and When Your Phone Doesn't Ring, It Will Be Me are much different. Each revolves around woman's need for man and how she deals with (or denies) that reality in her daily life backed by her like-minded gal pals.
These days Heimel, once called the "funniest war correspondent on the war between the sexes," is known more for being obsessed with "sex and the city" back when Carrie and her friends were still virgins (OK, maybe not Samantha). Here's the proof: Heimel was a sex columnist (check) for an alternative newsweekly (check) in Manhattan (check). But Heimel's heyday was the early to mid-1980s. So, trade Carrie's Versace for, well, a different kind of, uh, Versace.
But Heimel's done something Carrie hasn't. She's a playwright, having turned Sex Tips for Girls into the raunchy stage comedy A Girl's Guide to Chaos, which Contemporary Theatre of Dallas presents beginning Friday. Marisa Diotalevi plays Cynthia, with Sue Loncar, Stephanie Young and Lisa Hassler playing the sidekicks; Ian Leson plays Jake, the tortured everyman. The stage version keeps the adult language and subject matter of the book intact and even replicates some of the stories of bad dates and even worse mornings-after.
Heimel's 1983 version of Sex Tips for Girls and its updated edition, Advanced Sex Tips for Girls: This Time It's Personal, offer lists not in the style of a guidebook for intercourse, but about sex as in gender. It could easily be called "How to Be a Bad Girl," dishing out advice about shunning boredom, aspiring for deviance, having adventures and only indulging in alcohol and drugs when it is absolutely necessary. But it's also about seeing oneself as a mystery novel with riddles to be solved such as who is under the fake tan, whitened teeth and teased hair.
Like her contemporary counterpart, Heimel dishes out her advice (and dishes about her love life) through theories along with the parables that support them. And the result is almost always the same: viva la vulva. Friendship remains constant as men drop in and out faster than pink knit polo shirts came into and went out of style. Because the only thing nearly as trustworthy as girlfriends is a classic black Versace dress.