No feminist apologist, 'Sex Tips' author reigns as guru to the sisterhood
Don't let the title fool you: Cynthia Heimel's latest work, 'Advanced Sex Tips for Girls: This Time It's Personal,' is not a tool for improving your love life.
Rather, it's a bawdy, hilarious account of one woman's arrival at self-acceptance and her realization that Ñ while it was very nice to have a man in her life Ñ the relationship didn't define her.
A follow-up to her 1983 book, 'Sex Tips for Girls,' this collection of essays traces what she calls 'the cycle of getting married, falling apart and getting it back together again.'
Just back from an appointment with her shrink, a droll Heimel spoke to the Tribune from her San Francisco home.
Trib: It's been said that the original 'Sex Tips' opened the door for books like 'Sex in the City' and 'Bridget Jones's Diary.'
Heimel: I don't know of any books before 'Sex Tips' that were like it, and now there are hundreds. I think that says a lot about its influence.
Trib: 'Advanced Sex Tips' is a misleading title. You're actually more interested in helping women find independence than learning to please men.
Heimel: Women always think they're doing something wrong if they're not involved in a relationship, when in fact they're not doing anything wrong: They're just not involved.
Trib: You don't believe in love at first sight. Why not?
Heimel: When people fall in love with you right away, it's a bad sign. Oftentimes it's a sign of future abuse. In the movies, we call it romance. In real life, call 911.
Trib: The book covers your whirlwind Ñ and disastrous Ñ second marriage. Why do you think divorce is so rampant?
Heimel: So much is expected of us in marriage. It gets top-heavy. I think there's too much reliance on one person to fulfill all of our needs. There's also still a lot of pressure on people to get married. Even my 30-year-old unmarried friends are saying, 'I don't have a boyfriend Ñ do I kill myself now?'
Trib: Your work has a strong feminist theme. How has feminism changed since you wrote your first book?
Heimel: I think that people take it for granted now, which is one of the reasons I wanted to write the book. People in their late 20s and early 30s don't know how it was for women before feminism, so I really wanted to talk about it. I didn't like it (the feminist movement) at first. It was too shocking. I was brought up to feel inferior to men.
Trib: In the chapter titled 'Dater Beware,' you talk about the types of men to avoid, like guys whose personal checks have pastel kitties playing with yarn. Would you give us a few of your favorites?
Heimel: Here are a few of the most obvious problem dates, although there are always new and deadly mutations, so watch it: Avoid him if he sports visible hair plugs, or wears an actual hairpiece, which is only OK if he's an actor. Also, avoid him if he's an actor.
Trib: In 'Advanced Sex Tips,' you reach the conclusion that you are fine without a man in your life Ñ although you seem pretty happy with the one you have now. As the final point in the book, you say: 'A man is not the Holy Grail. And you never know what's going to happen next, do you?'
Heimel: That's why my next book is about my dogs.