During college, Sunday nights were sacred.
Dozens of co-eds would cram into the one room on campus that legally broadcasted premium channels and indulge in an episode of "Sex and the City," a truly transformative half-hour of television. Trailing wistfully out of the room, these young ladies sported faraway gazes that masked fantasies spun from swanky meals, stunning clothes and sassy dialogue.
At least, that's what I imagined lingered behind those dreamy facades, because, um, that's what I was thinking about.
"I think that the thing we have to remember about "Sex and the City" is that it is a fairy tale of New York. That's probably why it captured everyone's imaginations," says Joyce Corrigan, senior editor at large at Marie Claire. "There seemed to be endless resources for million-dollar wardrobes, and nobody seemed to work."
So when I moved to New York as a doe-eyed young professional, I naively expected my life's sexiness quotient to climb. But somehow, my eclectic wardrobe was regrettably far from Manolo-and-Birkin chic, my romantic life turned somewhat tepid and, compounding those setbacks, my income failed to finance nights at Bungalow 8 or brunches at Balthazar on any regular basis.
With the "Sex and the City" movie on the horizon and years of big-city living ahead of me, I needed to find some answers. How could I--a somewhat awkward but well-intentioned and outgoing young woman--be sexy without breaking the bank, let alone losing my identity?
I did what any reporter would do. I asked some experts.
Spend just minutes a day washing your face, putting on jewelry or applying makeup, says Lisa Clinkscale Porter, the author of "Every Woman's Guide To Looking And Feeling Sexy From Head To Toe." Those small steps can pay off because they bolster an attitude of self-assurance that lasts throughout the day. (Note to self: Remember to brush hair in the mornings.)
Marie Claire's Corrigan recommends forgoing tight, flashy clothing for softly draped pieces in demure colors; alternating sky-high heels and ballet flats at the office; and mixing a few more expensive articles with items culled from places like H&M, outlet malls and vintage boutiques. (Note to self: Learn to walk in [cheap] heels.)
Give away boxy suits and file standoffish square nails into rounded ones, says image consultant Sandy Dumont, adding that it always helps to flash a bright smile and keep a constant twinkle in your eye. (Note to self: Figure out how, exactly, to make eyes twinkle.)
Did you know women should dance every day to loosen their inhibitions? "Breathe into the places where you're a little shy; move your hips that way," says life coach Allana Pratt, who specializes in helping moms feel sexy. "Are you going to start the day like a rat running in a maze or are you going to start the day like a queen or a goddess?" (Note to self: Try to avoid talking openly about my more timid body parts. Not unlike most women, I'm just a little self-conscious.)
In short, according to my informally convened panel of experts, today's sexy woman oozes confidence but successfully tempers it with a warm, inviting and down-to-earth smile.
Drat. Poise, unfortunately, is not an easily acquired asset.
But in her appropriately titled book "How To Be Sexy," Carmen Electra writes that people who try to be perfect are too phony to be truly attractive. Within reason, flaws like crooning off-key in karaoke can be endearing and, moreover, pretty darn sexy.
"Most people will relate to you if you're human, and human is not perfect," Electra writes. "You're a klutz? I think that's cute. You're the world's worst cook? So what? That's what take-out is for." (Note to self: Whew.)
Even Sarah Jessica Parker herself recognizes that, for a woman and a professional, blazing one's own path is more important than a six-figure salary. In an interview with Forbes.com's Camilla Webster, Parker says she was honored to put her name on a line of inexpensive clothing at the department store Steve and Barry's.
"None of my decisions have been mercenary," says Parker. "I hope that I've shown that to my child, and being able to support myself and being independent has always been very important to me."
Me too, SJP, me too. That's why I'll flock to the "Sex and the City" movie premiere with my like-minded girlfriends, revel in the daydreams and then walk home, ballet flats pounding on pavement, with a little extra spring in my step because this city, and any city, is rife with potential.