Look, I studied at the school of smartypants. I know the difference between male (biological attribute) and masculine (social attribute). I read feminist theory, became acquainted with Laura Mulvey, friends with Susan Sontag, and intimate with bell hooks. I picked apart Paradise Lost, “Four Quartets” and Shakespeare’s female characters. I can speak, read and interpret French, Italian, German, and medieval English. In the last course of my last university term, I wrote my final paper on Gnostic elements in Aeon Flux (the original animated series). I have a brain, and I love to stimulate it with…stuff.
But every now and then, I just want to turn the ol’ noggin off. That’s when the outer Betty Friedan summons the inner Barbie, and I just indulge in a bunch of girly things for one blessed girly night.
It all begins with shopping. There’s no structure here, just a budget. Once I go over it by about $100, it’s time to get myself some girly reading material, namely Vogue (which I buy every month, regardless of whether or not I’ve made time for the girly show), and probably a nice, posh-looking food mag. Then it’s off to the video store to rent a couple of infallible girly movies. Sex and the City and Absolutely Fabulous used to be great companions, until I got the DVDs (I had to, you see). Next, it’s a booze run (either cans of Wurzburger beer or a fruity rosé), followed by take-out (I can’t resist Chinese broccoli soaked in oyster sauce, with a side of General Tao).
Then I get home, and the bliss begins. I crack open the alcohol, put the first movie on, spread the shopping bags all over the floor, wolf down the Chinese, and in between movies, hop in the bathtub for a richly deserved bubble bath. By movie 2, I’ve giving myself a facial and moisturizing every limb. At the end of the night, I pull out some no-strings-attached chick lit and wooze myself into a beautifully mindless slumber.
Don’t judge me! Smart girls need a little dumb time too. It’s a shame that “stupid” adds up to “girly,” but I take comfort in knowing that “dick flicks” include car chases, explosions and guns. Nothing terribly profound here.
So here are a few recommendations I’d like to make for your next girly night. And feel free to make suggestions of your own. I always welcome new additions to my little ritual.
Valley of the Dolls – This delicious novel is not unlike eating cotton candy: you’re getting bloodsugar nausea, but you won’t stop until there’s none left. The movie is full-on camp and stars the late Sharon Tate, so you’ll probably be a little curious. But I implore you to read the novel first. It’s infinitely better, with a touch more sex (full disclosure: this is what chicks really dig in a trash novel).
4 Blondes – Candace Bushnell is a surprisingly bad writer, but she somehow manages to tell a story. This book not-so-cleverly separates each chapter into a shade of blonde hair dye (e.g. platinum), and follows the girl who presumably flaunts it. Each character lives a life we couldn’t possibly imagine, and moves in New York’s finest circles. But sadly, each isn’t entirely fulfilled and pursues her heart’s content, for a fleeting New York minute. I don’t know how, but it’s engrossing.
Chantilly Lace – This bonafide chick flick features the improvisations of Ally Sheedy, Martha Plimpton, JoBeth Williams, Talia Shire, Lindsay Crouse, Jill Eikenberry and that Supergirl lady. They play 7 women vacationing in a gigantic cabin in the woods for the sole purpose of having one long, uninterrupted gabfest. Popcorn please!
All About My Mother – I’d hardly call any Pedro Almodovar film mindless, but he can entertain you without asking too much effort on your part. What I love most about this particular movie are the fabulous, wonderful women who express, so fervently, what it really feels like for a girl. From being gutted by tragedy to picking yourself up and moving forward like a train. For the same reasons, I also recommend Volver.
Like Water for Chocolate – Based on the Mexican novel by Laura Esquivel, this tasty movie tells the magical tale of Tita, a girl who’s forbidden to marry her boyfriend Pedro, and decides to show him her love through her cooking. It’s a simple escapade to turn-of-the-century Mexico with loads of exotic food scenes. Combine grub and romance and you’ve got a winning girly formula. Read the book while you’re at it. It’s available in something like 30 languages.
Moonstruck – I’ll admit, I prefer viewing this gem in the fall or winter. Maybe because it’s best accompanied by a bit of red wine, cheese and crackers, which I prefer during our nippy seasons. Anyhow, you probably won’t see a better performance by Cher or Nicholas Cage. Every character has a memorable line in this classy comedy, set against Puccini’s La Bohème. The Cher makeover scene is also yummy.
Pédale douce – This funky French flick about an unregenerate hag and her homo entourage uses humour to counterbalance a laundry list of gay issues (homophobia, living in the closet, STDs). Okay, so the latter is a bit condescending (not to mention dated), but the comedy is really, really funny. I especially love the woman who thinks her husband is gay and goes to great lengths to, first, discover his alternative lifestyle by going to raves, and second, embrace his homosexuality by throwing him a flamboyant “coming out” birthday party, where she gives him a lovely set of earrings to bring out his gorgeous green eyes. If you haven’t met her, get acquainted with Michèle Larocque, who makes her way into most of France’s funniest comedies.
J’ai faim!!! – Another hilarious French comedy. This one’s about a woman who tries to win her lover back by losing weight, because she thinks he left her for his new, super-skinny coworker. She’s egged on by her bestie (Michèle Larocque again!), who’s on a ridiculous diet that only lets you eat one food item per week, but as much of it as you want (starting with all-you-can-eat cucumber). Yes, many lessons are learned in the end. But this movie’s really about the journey and the girlfriends you take with you.
Parting note: apologies to any male readers.