Sex and the City: Dated, or does it still have something to teach us about dating? 29 lessons from SATC

Sex and the City (SATC) turned 20 last month. Yes, I’m late to celebrate the party because,  life (and the city). But I wanted to acknowledge the milestone with a blog post, as it’s been one of my favourite TV shows over the years and I feel compelled to share some pearls of wisdom from those SATC ladies… 20 years and 2 months later.

A Google search on “lessons from Sex and the City” delivers a whole host of content, both negative and positive over what was, in the late 90s, a ground-breaking show.

Has SATC aged badly?

An anonymous writer for USA Today, in a piece titled 20 years later, ‘Sex and the City’ has aged badly (June 5), says that the show’s sensibility has become “irksome” in view of today’s cultural zeitgeist, and that some episodes now seem homophobic or racist.

“I ate up their romantic and sexual exploits and I listened to Carrie’s’ voiceover with reverence. But two decades after it premiered, I’m not so sure I believe everything the ladies who brunch had to say”.

A 40-something male friend of mine, Raj, agrees it has aged, but thinks the show deserves credit for capturing many of the types of experiences people – especially women – still face on the dating scene. “It’s not as ‘real’ as say, Girls, but there was no way a show like that would’ve been shown at the time (late 90s/early 00s)” he says.

I agree that it’s dated in some ways, but I find repeat viewing still serves up the laughs and some truths about dating 20 years later. And people must still watch it because it was on free-to-air TV last night – for three hours!

SATC was heralded as a controversial new show when it launched,  because it portrayed women going for what they want just because they want it, and not having that pursuit be part of the marriage agenda. It portrayed women “having sex like a man”, and talking about – shock – actual sex acts.

Far too outrageous

Before I even saw an episode, I remember thinking that it sounded like it was just not for me and would be far too outrageous. I felt challenged by the concept of it. But then I watched it and loved it. It wasn’t really so much about sex at all, but about friendship, questioning accepted social mores and daring to be true to yourself.

It also served up eye candy every week in the form of the cutting-edge outfits by Patricia Field, aesthetically-pleasing apartments and New York locations.  Another friend, Giselle, still loves the show for all of the above and takes from it the idea that, “You don’t need a man to have a good life, but the right man can bring you lots of happiness.”   

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No eye candy here. Absolutely nothing to see.

Who was I at the turn of the millennium?

When Sex and the City was in its hey day, I was in my late 20s and working in publishing. A couple of  years into the show’s run, I felt hemmed in by one particular boyfriend. I was just not that into him. But at least I didn’t dump him by Post-it note. I broke the news in person, in a shop doorway in Newtown one Friday night. Or maybe it was at Town Hall Station. Whatever Sydney situation it was , it was Breaking up and the City.

I wanted to be free and single,”…like the Sex and the City girls” I told people. I’d delayed “break-up talks” because I didn’t want to ruin the Olympics (Sydney 2000), although in hindsight it would’ve been preferable to be single for that – look at what the future Princess Mary achieved at Sydney’s Slip Inn.

By now I was working at Weight Watchers magazine with a whole lot of women (we put SJP on the cover of one issue). Whenever we attended events circa 2000 – 01, we needed to take a big spray of Rhinocort to cope with all the oversized flower brooches on the dresses and lapels of the PR and publishing crew. My peers, along with the SATC girls, were out in bars, drinking cocktails, going to launches, lunches, as well as shopping, brunching and chatting.

But back to my boyfriend… although I knew I wanted marriage and a family one day, I realised I didn’t want it with him. I wanted to be single for a while, party at Darling Harbour with athletes and princes (yeah… in my dreams) and not be beholden to anyone. I would find someone else to marry later.  But until that time,  I would curl up in bed on Monday nights for my double episode of SATC, eating buttered toast and honey (my secret single behaviour).

As for that boyfriend, let’s call him Tim (not his real name). I hope you’re not reading this, Tim. It’s highly unlikely, But if you are, I’m sorry, I couldn’t, don’t hate me. Anyway, I’m sure I saw you pull up next to my car at traffic lights 10 years later, and you looked really happy. So I’m sure it was for the best.

 

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Oh hello again. Could this be the right man to bring you lots of happiness?

And what was my friend Giselle doing circa 2000? She was waxing celebrity legs by day in one of London’s finest beauty salons, and corrupting her octogenarian Hungarian land lady with episodes of Sex and the City by night. “They’re all sluts!” land lady would exclaim. Slut-shaming aside, as I’ve mentioned, the show was about so much more than sex.

Carrie’s pithy narration and the characters’ one-liners, while clever and funny, sometimes did perpetuate stereotypes, and I concede could seem homophobic and racist at times when viewed through a 2018 gaze. Carrie’s voiceover told us things like, “The gay-straight man was a new strain of heterosexual male spawned in Manhattan as the result of overexposure to fashion, exotic cuisine, musical theatre and antique furniture.”

My friend Raj says he doesn’t recall it as being racist or homophobic but notes, “I’m obviously a fairly privileged middle-age man, because even now, I don’t see it. Modern Family plays up to gay stereotypes as much as Sex and the City ever did, and both do it with affection.”

Not affectionately enough for some. In an attempt to correct the labels, stereotypes and political incorrectness, the people behind the Instagram account @everyoutfitonsatc created the hashtag #WokeCharlotte. It’s a meme that refocusses the cultural lense to one that’s a bit more socially progressive.

SATC pic

Didn’t Charlotte pull a great array of judgemental and appalled faces on the show? (Often about something Samantha was doing) Which is why it’s so easy to make a meme out of her correcting any political incorrectness.

My mate Raj concedes: “I guess there are some episodes that could be not PC, like the gay-straight man (and the converse) and Samantha’s line to (her actor boyfriend) Smith about “First the gays, then the girls, then the industry…”

“I suppose a lot of Charlotte’s views were very traditional. But she was meant to represent a prude, even then, and much of the show was about her opening her mind.”

Consuming any historical text through current eyes highlights the differences in thinking between now and then. But SATC does stand the test of time in its central tenet  – to remind us that women should be able to live their lives however they like, without judgement, and that they have the right not only to choose, but to shoes! But more on that later.

Sex and the City was ultimately intended to portray the lives of women living the single life and not being in the waiting room for marriage. Although Charlotte was always wanting to get married. But that was her choice. As she repeated in one episode, desperate for a critical Miranda to approve of her, “I choose my choice!”, when Miranda accused her of succumbing to traditional female roles by deciding to quit her job and not work, so she could focus on becoming pregnant.

Miranda, eventually comes around, as they all do in different situations, and while they would often make different choices from one another, after some discussion, debate (and a teensy bit of judgement in some cases) they were always there in the end, supporting each other’s choices.

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Another female choice was illustrated in the episode “A woman’s right to shoes”, where Carrie made the point that for years she and her single friends had subsidised the lives of married friends by buying them expensive wedding and baby shower gifts. Yet, now she was being judged by a married woman for spending money on expensive shoes. Carrie points out that she has a right to choose, and she chooses her shoes ($485 Manolo Blahniks in this case). The anonymous writer for USA Today who asserts the show has aged badly, concedes that this is one episode that does stand the test of time.

“I liked A woman’s right to Shoes at the time, but if anything, I find that episode has aged” Raj offers.  “It has a message, but it’s pushed to the point where I now find it manipulative.” Manipulative maybe, or perhaps the writers were making a point about something they’d heard their single friends complain about.

Criticisms aside, many, including me, still view the show with fondness. Years later, my friends and I still enjoy it as it raises questions and issues that we all remember and in some cases still relate to. And it’s funny. I love that I can still watch this show with my friends (even if it’s just over text) and we can still find humour and relatability in in.

“I still love Sex and the City, I think it’s still relevant today… I relate to Charlotte being such a romantic and love how Samantha acts like a man. I wish I could think like her!” says Giselle. And she loves the show for it’s focus on the female friendships.

My friend Nadia’s takeaway from Sex and the City is that “Women and men will always be the same, even though times have changed. We all want to love someone and to be loved.” She loves that it talked so openly about sex, as well as the depictions of some of the crazy situations they got into. “Especially Samantha! Samantha is a legend! I love how she goes for her man and is proud of her sexuality.”

My sister, Senorita Margarita, who was in her early twenties when the show was about to air, recalls she had just arrived in New York at the time… “I remember when I first got to New York from JFK airport and was catching the bus into town in June 1998, I saw a massive billboard with SJP on it in that nude-coloured cami dress with the words “Sex and the City on HBO” on it. It made a big impression as I had no idea what it was and obviously didn’t know how it would impact on and reflect culture and our societal ethos.”

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29 lessons in life and dating from the women of Sex and the City 

1. Despite what Donald Trump tweeted above, it’s OK to eat chocolate cake from the bin (Miranda). I’ve done it once or twice and even thought of Miranda while doing it.

2. If you don’t want to be dumped by a Post-it, then don’t leave them lying around. Invest in some stylish stationery and leave that lying around instead.

3. The gem that helped women just hand their worry over to the universe… If he doesn’t text you back, or call after a date and a week has gone by… he’s not sick, he probably hasn’t lost all his phone contacts… he’s probably just not that into you (which is a relief because now you can move on).

4. To avoid the risk of being fashion road-kill, just don’t walk the catwalk

5. If you must choose to walk the catwalk and risk being fashion roadkill, make sure you’re wearing spangled Dolce and Gabbana undies.

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6. Remember, even Heidi Klum feels the need to ask “Do I look OK?” before walking the catwalk.

7. Don’t party at 2am on a Tuesday if you don’t want to look like sh*t at your magazine cover photo shoot the next day. Especially if it’s an article on how being single is so hot right now.

8. Don’t use the F-word in Vera Wang.

9. But do swear on Chanel.

10. Just don’t get drunk at Vogue.

 

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11. Men in their 30s who live with their parents, smoke weed and run a comic book store, are only for Summer.

12. If your boyfriend delivers you a pizza-sized chocolate chip cookie with the words “I love you” on it, just eat it really quickly in one go so it doesn’t exist and you don’t have to deal with it. Emotional eating at its finest, thank you Miranda.

13. That as long as you can breathe, and kneel, you should be able to do whatever mutually consenting act you like without being judged by someone who happens to walk in on you.

14. Online shopping will never completely replace bricks and mortar retail, as shopping IS many people’s cardio.

15. If you’re forced to take your $485 Manolos off at a party and leave them in the host’s designated shoe area, chances are they won’t be there when it’s time to go home.

16. Furthermore, if you’re a freelance writer who spends $40,000 on shoes, you won’t have enough for a deposit on your rented apartment you want to buy and you will literally be the old woman who lived in a shoe (or shoes).

Shooting from the lip… in their own words

17. “Men in their forties are like the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle: tricky, complicated, and you’re never really sure you got the right answer.” (Carrie)

18. “Ball parks are great places to chat with your girlfriends, flirt with sportsmen and smoke and drink at two in the afternoon without judgment.” (Carrie)

19. “I’ve been dating since I was fifteen! I’m exhausted! Where is he?” (Charlotte)

20. “If he seems too good to be true – he probably is.” (Samantha)
21. “You could listen to and analyse an answering machine message for years and never know.”(Miranda)
22. “If you have an affair with your married ex-boyfriend, you will be able to reflect on it like a  Charles Dickens novel, as being both the best of times, and the worst of times.” (Carrie)
23. “Women sit around, obsessing about what went wrong, while men just say ‘alrighty’ and move on.” (Charlotte)
24. “If it’s tedious and the sex is dwindling, it must be called a relationship.” (Samantha)
25. It doesn’t matter if you don’t believe in email, and you prefer calling and hanging up… as Samantha tells Carrie, “Honey, you gotta get online, if only for the porn.” (Samantha gives Carrie a lesson in the new online communication)
26. “Relationships and partial lobotomies are two seemingly different ideas that might just be perfect together – like chocolate and peanut butter.” (Carrie)
27. Sometimes, a uniball bartender and a lawyer with lazy ovary can create a baby. “It’s like the Special Olympics of conception.” (Miranda)
28. “People who sit alone at Starbucks writing on their laptops are not necessarily pretentious posers. They may be people who have recently moved in with someone.” (Carrie)

29. “Nipples are HUGE right now!”(Samantha, wearing fake nipples)

 

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What did you learn from SATC?  Do you still watch it? Tell me, I’d love to know!

Crockery, cake and Cartier: a very royal wedding weekend

 

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Well “the wedding” of last weekend is over, but the honeymoon certainly isn’t. Many I’ve spoken to still admit to being in a post-wedding glow, and admittedly, I’m having trouble letting go of the occasion this week.

I didn’t think I would get as enthusiastic as I did about the marriage of the sixth in line to the throne, but I do love a wedding, particularly a big royal one, and the match between Prince Harry and the former Ms Meghan Markle seems to be a particularly exciting one, what with royalty meeting Hollywood.

Harry is emblazoned in the collective consciousness (of those of us of a certain age), whose hearts broke watching him as 12-year-old-boy walking with head bowed, behind his mother’s coffin 21 years ago. I felt happy and grateful to see him walking today, again with his brother William, but now a man in uniform with a much different gait, on his way to marry the woman he loves.

I was excited when my sister, Senorita Margarita said she was coming to visit on “wedding weekend” and that she shared my enthusiasm to attend the wedding on telly. We texted in the days leading up to the big event; we swapped links to wedding recipes, party planning tips, and royal-watching blog posts.

We planned our own little wedding-watching party.  Spider Boy’s dad came over to hang out with him, because 10-year-old boys generally don’t appreciate weddings. Am I gender stereotyping? All right then, my 10-year-old (who is a boy) was just not into it.

Now on with the show…

Let’s first compare cake, outfits and décor at Windsor and in Canberra, in A tale of two celebrations!

1. Food

Windsor

Harry and Meghan’s cake: The news that the cake would break with the traditional fruit cake was exciting. People.com reports that the couple asked Claire Ptak of London-based bakery Violet Cakes to bake a cake that “incorporates the bright flavour of Spring.”

“The cake consists of deconstructed tiers of lemon sponge cake drizzled with elderflower syrup and topped with an Amalfi lemon curd. The entire cake is coated with a Swiss meringue buttercream also infused with elderflower, and is adorned with a mix of 150 fresh flowers, including peonies and roses. The texture is really lovely and the flavour is quintessentially Spring and British,” the baker said in a video released by Kensington Palace.

To me that description makes the cake sound like a work of art, and a gastronomic version of a walk through a lemon grove on a beautiful Spring day.

 

 

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A section of “the cake”

 

My living room in Canberra

Senorita Margarita’s and my cake: Well, it wasn’t a cake. More of a pav. Or a mess, or, as my friend Nadia texted, “pavlova scrunched up.” We planned a wedding version of Eton Mess we dubbed “Elderflower Mess (without the Elderflower)”

The Senorita did place a call to The Essential Ingredient in Canberra’s Kingston, but at $21.95 for 375ml for a syrup I’ve never tried and don’t know I’d like and may never use again, turns out that on my salary,  not so essential!

Champagne: I don’t know about Meghan and Harry’s but ours was German sparkling wine. “Let’s drink it in your Kate and William tea cups!” said my creative sister enthusiastically.

“No!” I exclaimed. I was uncomfortable with that idea. “Champagne goes in champagne glasses, tea cups are for tea” I asserted.

“I understand” said the Señorita sagely. “There’s a line. And I just crossed it.”

2. The Outfits

Windsor

Meghan Markle: I actually took a breath when I saw the divine Ms M step out of the car. The dress was designed by Clare Waight Keller and according to the @kensingtonroyal Instagram account, the design “epitomises a timeless minimal elegance referencing the codes of the iconic House of Givenchy.” To me it evoked the classic sophistication of  Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn. Ms Markle ascended the steps of St George’s Chapel like an angel, her tiny duo of dark-suited page boys, twin Cupids to her Venus.

 

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Prince Harry: Hunky Officer and a Gentleman– type outfit

Assorted royals and celebrities: Colourful, structured pieces and statement headwear

My living room in Canberra

The Senorita: “I got out of my pyjamas!” Yes readers, it’s true, the Senorita swapped her jammies for a sophisticated black jean and black wool shawl ensemble, accessorised with a diamante tiara. It was Saturday night after all.

Alex:  “I didn’t get into my pyjamas!” Again, I made a Saturday night sacrifice and stayed in my street clothes for the occasion. A blue jean and navy jumper ensemble in case you’re wondering. Pyjamas would have to wait until Karl Stefanovic had turned off his mic (although wish I’d watched Channel 7 and that nice Melissa Doyle now). Oh and a paper tiara the Senorita made for me from the pages of Woman’s Day! Again, Saturday night!

Spider Boy: “What wedding? Batman pyjamas!”

 

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My viewing companion was a bit two-faced really…

 

 

3. The Decor

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Real Union Jack flags lining the streets, masses of white flowers and foliage, Harry and Meghan T-shirts

My place

A white candle shaped like a floral bouquet, bunting from Woman’s Day and New Idea, souvenir royal tea towel ($2 with New Idea), Harry and Meghan paper masks (thanks Woman’s Day), and royal crockery used for the first time, especially for the occasion.

 

 

The event itself

The Senorita and I had a hoot watching, from commenting on the arriving guests and their outfits, to the beautiful, uplifting ceremony itself.

We commented on Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie. You may remember Bea with her  2011 “pretzel meets bow” number (AKA Medusa snakes hat) at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Well, I think the pendulum has swung straight to The Handmaids Tale in 2018. I thought Eugenie’s hat was evoking the spirit a 1960s air hostess. Yes, I said air hostess. Although the Senorita was down with her “Jackie Kennedy” vibe.

Our top 21 favourite moments of the wedding (in no particular order)

1. Harry and his brother William walking the long walk side by side to St George’s Chapel. I thought about how many walks those brothers have taken together.  I got a bit teary thinking about the boys and how they were at their mother Princess Diana’s funeral and now today – what a wonderful day.

2. The weekend weather in Windsor

3. Harry’s wedding beard

4. The first glimpse of Meghan and her mum Doria Ragland in the car

5. The look of contented composure on William’s face; the tilt of the head reminding us so much of Diana’s feminine energy as he sat beside Harry in church, a well of reassurance for his younger brother. The Senorita, who is very intuitive, observed “I think Diana’s energy was coming through William.” I agree with her. I have since read that a lip-reader reported that William said to Harry “You know what Mum used to say…” as they sat waiting for the ceremony to begin. Diana was there.

6.The first full view of the dress as Meghan stepped out of the car. Meghan’s dress was so simple, so elegant, so classic, a hint of décolletage but the right amount of coverage. I couldn’t fault it. The 1930s bandeau tiara that had belonged to Queen Mary, lent just the right amount of pizzaz, elevating her look from simply elegant to stunning.

7. The two page boys holding Meghan’s train as she glided up the stairs

8. The look on one delighted page boy’s face as Meghan entered the church (“That’ll come back to haunt him at his 21st” predicted the Senorita). Apparently his facial expression was in response to hearing a trumpet for the first time.

9. Meghan walking herself down the aisle (the first part), the first royal bride to do so. Meghan asked Prince Charles to greet her halfway, and then rather than him “giving her away”, she “stepped forward” to greet Harry.

10. When Harry mouthed “you look amazing” to his bride.

11. When Harry, a bit awkwardly, lifted Meghan’s veil during the ceremony.

12. The fact that there WAS a hair out of place – Meghan’s hair and makeup looked  natural and beautiful.

13. The emphatic way Harry said “I will”.

14. The emotions on Meghan’s mum’s face

15. When Harry stroked Meghan’s fingers with his thumb while listening to the sermon.

16. Meghan’s smile as she listened to Reverend Bishop Michael Curry.

17. The various facial expressions of assorted royals as they listened to Reverend Curry.

18. The rendition of Stand By Me, by The Kingdom Choir. And how about that beautiful steel grey hair and fabulous dusky rose outfit of choir leader Karen Gibson!

19. Doria, Charles and Camilla walking together behind the newlyweds as they left the church.

20. Meghan and Harry appearing in the flower-covered doorway, standing at the top of the steps, and then that kiss.

21. That for-real fairy-tale carriage ride through the streets of Windsor!

We all know life is not a fairy tale. But this beautiful royal wedding looked pretty darn close to one, if only for the day. The Senorita and I are so happy for them both (especially Harry).

After the wedding…

After wedding coverage had stopped on ALL stations (don’t worry, I checked) the movie License to Wed began on Channel 9 and to my horror, my sister uttered the words I just did not expect or want to hear… “I’m all weddinged out.”

“Wash your mouth out!” I gasped, aghast.

The Senorita had been on a steady diet of pre-wedding documentaries for a couple of weeks, but I wanted more. I wanted a partner in crime to get my wedding fix with. I felt like I was having a sugar crash when the telecast was over.

On Sunday morning we watched the news, read the paper and we spoke separately to Mum and Dad for a debrief.

“What channel did you watch it on, Dad?”

“ABC of course, why, what channel did you watch it on?”

“Channel Nine”

“Oh!” he sounded perplexed. “But you would’ve had… advertisements!”

The Senorita and I talked about how happy we were that we could watch the wedding together and how wonderful it had been. “So wonderful, in fact… I’m buying the crockery!” the Senorita announced.

“I know! me too, and you know what, I’m going to USE the crockery!” I shouted.

That afternoon we carried on the spirit of beauty, history, tradition and royalty by visiting the Cartier exhibition at the National Gallery.

A highlight for me was the “Royal Room”, where the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding tiara, lent to her by the Queen, is on display.

 

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The “Royal Room” – where the magic happens.

 

 

In the exhibition we found our people. We overheard clusters of middle-aged women talking about “the wedding” (and jewellery of course), and we jumped right into the conversations. We were in our spirit place.

In the news report we’d watched earlier, we saw two middle-aged sisters from Adelaide who camped out overnight in chairs on the carriage-ride route. When asked if all the time, money and effort getting from Adelaide to Windsor had been worth it for a 30 second glimpse of the happy couple.

“Yes!” they said emphatically. When the sunshine hit her tiara and made it sparkle, it was amazing!”

Would you do it again? asked the reporter. “Yes!” they enthused.

“Why?”

“Because it was fun!”

And I know if my sister and I had been in a position to go to Windsor, we would’ve got caught up in the spirit of it all and enjoyed ourselves just as much as those two sisters did, as we did in my living room. Because it was fun. It’s fun to see people whose stories we’ve seen and heard over the years, experience such a happy and beautiful event. In reality we’re removed and distant, but thanks to perspective and the media, I feel like we’ve watched Harry grow up.

Did you watch the wedding? And would you ever drink champagne from a Kate and William commemorative tea cup? Maybe I should relax my crockery and stemware standards, mix things up a bit? I never could embrace that “drink in a jar” fad.

Cocktails and dreams: back to the 80s at 88mph

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As an 80s teen and someone who saw Back to the Future three times when it was first released, AT THE CINEMA, I knew Canberra’s new 80s-themed bar, 88mph, had my  name all over it. I couldn’t wait to go Back in time! (thank you Huey Lewis and the News).

This new venture by owners Ant Arena, Lorenzo Focarile and Dean Brown, the team behind Canberra bars Highball Express, Black Market and Molly,  had its opening night earlier in November.

With my visiting Sydneysider sister (Señorita Margarita) in town for a Day of the Dead festival, a perfect opportunity presented itself afterwards to jump into my DeLorean (aka my Toyota Corolla hatchback), flux up the flux capacitor and go be with my people, the 80s McFly barflys.

After a quick stop at Kokomo, we drove the few blocks to Hobart Place. It was unseasonably cold, we were bare-legged, high-heeled and Señorita Margarita was in full Dia de la noche sugar skull face paint. She looked amazing and I admire how she always embraces the theme of any event, but to the uninitiated, she was a hybrid of Marcel Marceau, Skeletor and Frida Kahlo.

Well get out of my dreams and into my car! I couldn’t believe we got a free car park literally right outside the front of the building (the aptly named Neon House) where 88mph is located.

“See Marg?” I said, ready to launch into another iteration of my “Canberra has things” monologue (#canberrahasthings).

“You couldn’t do this in Sydney! Can you imagine parking right outside anywhere you wanted to go in the city in Sydney on a Saturday night? Can you??”

“No Al, but it IS only 8pm.” she observed.

We were greeted by the warmly familiar, yet exciting, neon glow of the 88mph signage, all dreamy purple and pink reflecting off the wet-look black subway-tiled entrance. Down the steps we went, into another world, back in time.

I knew I would love it even before I got in there, but once I was in the bar, I knew my love was real (because as Cheryl Lynn says, it’s got to be real). The owners refer to 88mp as a bar, but it is so much more than that. There is a dance floor that lights up. Not huge, but big enough for fun with your peeps, and other peeps. There are video games, pinball, menus presented in VHS cases, hot pink cassette tapes and black VHS tapes representing an equaliser as wall art, pizza, and oh hail, lord-of-the-night-that-doesn’t take-itself-seriously – three karaoke rooms!

There were colourful cocktails on tap for $14 for a standard cocktail glass, an extensive list of wines, and beers on tap. Feeling hungry and hoping for something to nibble, I looked at the menu and realised it was pizza ($14) or nothing.

I ordered the “Chicken Pizza” and the cute, young, young bartender with not a whisker of hair on his baby-face, seemed amused. “You want the Chicken Pizza,” he said, like it was funny. He explained there is no “Chicken Pizza”, the “Chicken Pizza” is a nick-name for the “Vegetarian Pizza”. Then I realised I hadn’t actually read the fine-print description of the “Chicken Pizza” because I thought the name was pretty self-explanatory. And I’d been too vain to wear my olde lady middle-aged reading glasses. Oh how we laughed!

I studied this young whipper-snapper as he poured a cocktail, as Heaven 17’s Temptation (1983) was playing, and mused that he wouldn’t even have existed in the 80s.  This was reminding me too much of Back to the Future 2, and I was a crumpled, middle-aged Lea Thompson, aka Lorraine Baines McFly, Marty McFly’s mother. But fortunately the lights were low, being a bar and all, so when I told my bar tender, “You know, I was going out to bars in the actual 80s”,  he replied, “Surely not?!” Dude knows how to score a tip.

Meanwhile back in my own era, I chatted to a friendly middle-aged group and we reminisced about the decade in which we came of age. Then my buzzer went off telling me my food was ready.

A dedicated pizza guy was whipping up made-to-order pizzas. It was served to me hot and fresh on a gingham-patterned plate. My sister and I walked around with said plate trying to find somewhere to sit; both of the two long booths we approached were taken up with guests from two separate parties.

A handsome bearded man suddenly appeared in my path, apologising for the lack of tables, and I realised he must be one of the owners. There’d been a hitch, he explained, but tables and chairs would be arriving Monday he said. It was easy to forgive, after all this was only the bar’s second night.

Senorita Margarita and I perched on bar stools and rested the pizza plate on the top of one of the booths. I inhaled half the pizza immediately.  It was hot, fresh and delicious. I decided I wanted to take the rest home and the guy at the pizza oven was very helpful; apologising for the lack of pizza boxes as he put it in a plastic takeaway food container for me – more handbag friendly than a pizza box, and all to the strains of Alison Moyet’s Don’t Go (1982).

Now The Jackson’s Can you Feel it?  (1980) was playing and it was time to hit the dance floor. Super Freak (1981) was next and Señorita Margarita busted her best moves in her sugar skull face paint. She sure is super freaky.

At about 8.45pm the place really started filling up. And not a moment too soon, because when you’re my age, you turn into a pumpkin at 9.30pm. In a joyful flashback to my 1989 Queensland girls’ holiday at the Contiki Island Resort, the B52s Love Shack brought the crowd to the dance floor – in fact I would go as far as saying, the whole shack shimmied!

Then suddenly I was back in Oxford Street Sydney’s pre-Kardashian Klub Kakadu with Yaz’s The only way is up (1988). We had a quick peek at the three Karaoke rooms and promised to book one on another night.

Then it was a journey back to Year 7 with Michael Jackson’s Thriller (1982). A twenty- something guy in a yellow bow tie started doing the Thriller dance – and the whole shack was still shimmying as everyone on the dance floor brought their best zombie/wolf arms.

Then suddenly a man was dancing in front of me. He told me it was his buck’s night. I told him I was going to places like this in the actual 80s.

“Me too, ay” he told me. “I’m old, this is my second buck’s night. I’m 37!” Huh. Spring chicken pizza in my book.

Because Girls just wanna have fun, Señorita Margarita danced with him in her huge pink tutu. Buck’s night guy may have been Hungry like the wolf, but it was Margarita who went into full Thriller mode as she zombied-it up.

It was an early one for us, we left at 9.15pm and not a moment too soon, as my scalp had started itching with a post-pizza hives breakout mid-way through my Walk This Way air-guitar solo. I could feel the hot and itchy beginnings of a full-body hive attack under my body-suit. Feeling like Michael J.Fox on the verge of a Teen Wolf-style werewolf transition, I knew I had to get out of there fast before my itchy secret was discovered.

It’s not 88mph’s fault – It took a heavy gluten day for me to finally accept I have a gluten sensitivity that must be respected if I don’t want to be red, itchy, scratchy and spotty and, let’s face it, the rest of the seven dwarves (sneezy, grumpy, and sleepy). But that’s probably a story for another blog post.

If it wasn’t for the hives, I could’ve hit that high like George Michael in Wake me up before you go go. That and the fact that mum-duties beckoned, as I’d promised Spider Boy’s dad I would be home at a reasonable time.

But, I promise 88mph,  like the 80s themselves, “I’ll be back.”  I’m so happy I can feel like it’s the 80s again whenever I want. It’s a full-immersive experience. It’s amazing how music and decor can bring the feeling.

The verdict: 88mph was a fun night out with positive vibes from the crowd. On the night we went, there was a good mix of ages, ranging from twenty-somethings to people my age and possibly even older. But everyone was smiling and having as much fun as a Wham! video. Sydney-dweller Margarita observed, “I love how in Canberra you get all kinds of different people in the one club.”

As owner Ant Arena told goodfood.com.au earlier this month, “We want this to be Canberra’s most fun night out – that’s the idea. You come here, the cocktails are gonna be great, the environment’s really cool, and the music – you can’t listen to the 80s and not smile,” he said. I’ll drink to that. Now, baby-faced bar keep, pass me a Blue Lagoon.

 

Literal: Basement, 8/10 Hobart Pl, Canberra, ACT

Virtual: www.88mph.bar

Pop quiz: What 80s movie does this blog post’s title come from? (Hint: there is a link to the song Kokomo)

Are there any fun 80s bars or clubs where you live?