- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 24, 2004

Without a doubt, every large city or rural town in America has its own realistic adaptations of the characters and storylines we’ve seen on HBO’s smash hit series “Sex and the City.” The women may vary in age, may speak with different accents — even in different languages, be more or less promiscuous, but they all share one thing in common: Single women discovering how to live life on their own until Mr. Right comes along and “happily ever after” begins.

Unlike our mothers’ generation, the period between college graduation and Holy Matrimony has been drastically elongated. Until the 1980s, thanks — or no thanks — to the feminist revolution, it was common for women to marry soon after high school or college. Today, that is practically unheard of. In fact, to the chagrin of many women ready to start the chapter on marriage and motherhood, the time span could last between 5 and 10 years.

So, what’s a single girl to do with all that time on her hands? Invest in her education? Travel the world and experience different cultures? Climb the corporate ladder? Date interesting men? Absolutely. And as a result of this extended singleness phase, I have noticed there is an abundance of late 20s to mid-30s single, attractive, highly educated, highly cultured women doing those very things in this town.

So, of course, here in Washington, we too have our “Sex and the City” cliques. Visit any Panera Bakery, La Madeleine Cafe or P.F. Chang’s Restaurant, and you’re guaranteed to find us drinking lattes, eating gourmet salads, or sipping red wine (or the “SATC”-inspired, cosmopolitan martinis), chatting for hours.

I must admit — I belong to one of these informal societies. What began as a four girlfriends getting together for coffee on Saturday mornings has evolved over the years into somewhat of a tradition for me and three of my closest single friends. All college graduates in our early 30s, we’re an interesting mix.

Elizabeth is an attractive blonde, a Long Island, N.Y., native who spends her days shaping America’s future as an elementary school teacher. Lisa, the slightly eccentric, beautiful brunette, from Paris, France, travels the world as a flight attendant. Jennifer, is an elementary school administrator who maintains a year-round, to-die-for tan as a result of her Puerto Rican roots. And then there’s me, the nearly native Washingtonian, who spent the first 12 years of her life practically living out of boxes between Chicago, Ill., and Kuwait City as an Army brat. The producer of a daily, politically conservative radio program, I write as a way to release my creative juices.

This past Saturday we met at our favorite spot, Panera, partly because of their cozy seating and partly for their fabulous hazelnut coffee and tasty bagel combos. Five hours later, there we still sat — by this time, enjoying salads for a late lunch and deciding what to do with the rest of our day.

“What could you possibly have to talk about for five hours?” my mother later asked. I smirked, “Good question.”

Like single women everywhere, we talk about our jobs, the people we meet, the men we date, clothes or shoes we found at great bargains, our redecorating projects, disasters or successes in the kitchen, and the dynamics of family ties in this odd period of our lives.

We jot down notes, birthdays, and appointments in our PDAs. We add new numbers to our cell phones. We discuss movies, the perils of Internet dating, and the books we’re reading. We obsess about our weight, though none of us needs to. And of course, we talk about sex. But mostly, we talk about the search for love, and fantasize how green the grass is on the other side — whether it’s true or not.

And whenever we do, it always makes me wonder why we as women so often want what we do not have. Single women romanticize about being married, while married women long for the freedom that single women take for granted.

My advice for single women in Washington in this new year: D.C. is a great place to be single. There are nearly 1,350 restaurants in the area to discover, 470 museums or galleries to explore, 165 bookstores to fall in love with. Make a point to get your girlfriends together often, chat over coffee, and invest in those relationships. If done right, you’ll have them for a lifetime, no matter where life takes you and what chapter of life you find yourself.

ANGELA J. PHELPS

Washington, D.C.

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