Sex and the pity
Deirdre Reynolds goes in search of her own Mr Big. (*The pity is she couldn’t even find a Mr Medium in Dublin)
Following their big-screen debut two years ago, fictitious fashionista Carrie Bradshaw and her glamorous girlfriends swanned back into cinemas yesterday in Sex and the City 2. And despite the recession, twentysomething singletons are dusting down their designer heels to party like it's 2006.
With its heady cocktail of sex, style and sisterhood, the hit programme following four high-powered women who treated men as playthings freeze-framed the hedonism of the Noughties.
Like lots of the show's younger devotees, I wasn't old enough for SATC when it first tottered on to TV screens 12 years ago -- instead I had my first experience with one of the endless re-runs that have aired since.
So while the erstwhile man-eating Manhattanites -- now in their 40s and 50s -- have settled down, those of us who first tuned in as teenagers are still on the hunt for our very own Mr Big.
As a rookie career woman finding her way in the Celtic Tiger era of decadence, SATC struck a chord by showing that you can have your Magnolia Bakery cupcake and eat it too. Advocating a woman's right to Choos, it turned €500 designer heels into a wardrobe staple for working girls and enlivened our lexicon with the words 'Manolos', 'Cosmos' and 'Brazilians'.
For all its girl-power philosophy, though, mostly it just made us lust after the ultimate accessory -- a man.
Before sex columnist Carrie slipped into her Vivienne Westwood wedding dress in the first film, the television juggernaut was all about flings. From the Big Apple to the Big Smoke, women adopted the 'love 'em and leave 'em' attitude in the pubs and clubs of Dublin.
Liberated by the sexploits of insatiable Samantha, we too threw off the shackles of our convent education and said 'yes, yes, yes!' to no-strings sex. But from sex-mad to smug-married, single fans of the series may find they now have very little in common with the formerly free-loving fab four.
Combine that with one mood-killing recession and, as Carrie herself might muse, is there any sex left to be had in this town?
Accosting my trusty wing-women for the night, I hit the capital's carnal coalface to find out. Our first stop is cool yet casual after-work watering hole Dakota on South William Street. In the past, the trendy haunt was the perfect place to prowl for suits who'd loosened their ties a little (a friend landed a handsome accountant here some years ago, so we're cautiously optimistic).
Jackpot! Sashaying past the entrance through a tunnel of smart-casual men, we assure ourselves that this is going to be like shooting fish in a barrel... until it dawns on us that there's a vintage fashion market taking place at the back of the pub. It means just one thing: women, and lots of them.
Sure enough, we were so blinded by the smorgasbord of blokes bunched up at the bar that we failed to notice the rest of the joint is jammers with ladies.
In 2008, Ireland was the only country in the EU which was perfectly gender balanced, with 100 women per 100 men in the population. For the fairer sex, however, our scoring chances decrease by the day, since more boys are born than girls but women live longer.
Down but not out, my glossy posse warms up with one of Carrie's favourite pastimes: counting the number of men you'd have 'hypothetical sex' with. But between us, we can only muster up a measly seven men in the entire establishment for a make-believe roll in the hay -- and that includes staff.
Bulging with eligible bachelors such as Big (reportedly based on New York publishing kingpin Ron Galotti), Aidan, Steve, Harry and Smith, SATC led ladies to expect the market here to be just as packed with prime slabs of beefcake. In one episode, Carrie and her three cohorts literally had their pick from a boatful of ripped sailors.
Now every girl knows that you have to kiss a few frogs to find your prince, but no one warned us quite how amphibian the Dublin dating scene has become since the downturn.
From boom to bust, it seems Ireland's Mr Big has been downsized to Mr Medium. The suave, scotch-swilling professional we regularly encountered in clubs two years ago has been replaced by a yellow-pack version downing €3 pints in jeans and a T-shirt.
While SATC's man-magnets scarcely had time to sit down before someone winged a €15 cocktail their way, our broke bachelors have become tighter than the proverbial nun's knickers and appear to have abandoned the clichéd-but-classic chat-up line of 'Can I buy you a drink?'
Pre-crash, a girl could at least rely on some opportunistic chap to attempt to get her drunk before closing time. Tonight, however, we're struggling to get anyone to fork out for so much as a glass of tap water.
In the programme, Carrie and co notched up encounters with a procession of filthy rich lawyers, doctors, ophthalmologists, architects, artists and property magnates. It set women up for failure by convincing us we'd find our very own chauffeur-driven Prince Charming propping up the bar at Krystle. So says relationship expert David Kavanagh.
"Sex and the City gave women the idea that, if they looked hard enough, they'd find a guy who ticked all the boxes like Mr Big -- wealthy, funny, charming and mysterious.
"Irish women became very snobby in the type of man they were looking for. Lots of women were disappointed that they could go into Brown Thomas and buy a designer handbag for €5,000 but they couldn't find a man who was just as fabulous," he adds.
Having been surrounded by cash-flashing Celtic Tiger cubs for most of our dating lives, maybe we have become too picky. Like high-flying Miranda who married barman Steve, love doctor David reckons real-life singletons need to lower the bar. But it's not just clothes that maketh the man now.
"In the current environment, a civil servant or tradesman with a steady, pensionable job will suddenly seem a lot more attractive to women than a potless property developer," adds David.
Irish men frequently bemoan the infantries of females found huddled together in pubs across the country, who spontaneously shoot down suitors brave enough to breach their territory. On our night out, we found the opposite -- we were stonewalled on all sides. In fact, it wasn't until we resorted to divide-and-conquer tactics (my friend smirted her way through the smoking area while I fluttered my falsies furiously at the bar) that we saw any action.
Sex and the City put women in control of their sex lives, but it may have actually done us a disservice. At the bar, a guy gives me his phone number rather than taking mine, claiming he doesn't want to put me "under any pressure". It's either incredibly considerate or downright lazy. After all, why bother putting your pride at stake when there are plenty of independent women willing to do all the chasing?
Meanwhile, it's not just ladies who've been left with a hangover of impossible standards from the bygone age of excess. I overhear another 'gent' at the bar grumbling about the lack of 10-out-of-10 totty in the place. When I ask him what he thinks of me, he mounts a charm offensive mumbling, "Average".
And when someone finally compliments me, he's definitely a little more Stanford Blatch than Mr Big.
Sartorially speaking, SATC has also caused singletons here to score an own goal, too. Emulating perennially chic Carrie's iconic wardrobe of see-through dresses, vertiginous shoes and corsages the size of your head, girls are staggeringly over-dressed (or under-dressed, to be precise) for a Thursday night on the town.
Tottering down Harcourt Street, you can't swing an oversized handbag for inflatable chests, hair extensions, heels and skirts that give male imaginations the night off. The competition is Darwinian: on the capital's dating circuit, it's literally survival of the fittest.
Not long after Sex and the City ended, Durex named and shamed Ireland one of the most promiscuous nations on the planet, with an average of 11 notches on our collective bedpost versus the global average of nine. The explanation was simple: More money equals more partying equals more pulling.
In 2010, it's a different story. Indeed, hotspot Krystle isn't just quiet, it's not open until 10.30pm. A little further on in Dtwo nightclub, we're among the handful of clientele there, and anything in trousers seems content to nurse its NAMA headache over cheap pints at the bar.
"I can't believe I got my boobs out for this," complains one of my wing women of her pulling outfit's plunging neckline, and I can't blame her. With Mr Big dead and buried, there is one consolation for single twentysomething girls: Miranda's 'goody drawer' proved you don't need a man anyhow.
Forget Krystle, I'm off to Coppers to score a guard from Westmeath.
Deirdre's hair by Leo Ribeiro, Foundation,
18 Upper Stephens St (01) 478 1222.
Deirdre's make up by Lyndsey
Cavanagh (087) 2771124,
All clothes by Debenhams, Henry St.
With thanks to Ice Bar at
The Four Season's, Ballsbridge