Cynthia Heimel (born 1947 in Philadelphia) is a feminist humorist writer from Oakland, California. She is a columnist and the author of satirical books primarily aimed at a female readership and known for their unusual titles, as well as a playwright and television writer.
Heimel wrote for the alternative magazine Distant Drummer for two years in Philadelphia in the late 1960s. She briefly worked as a secretary and an actress. She joined SoHo Weekly News as an advertising assistant, then began publishing articles with a piece on an anarchist conference in New York. She became art director, then left in 1980 to work at New York magazine and then New York Daily News.
She left her job to write her first book, Sex Tips for Girls. Published in 1983, it was a semi-satirical take on Cosmopolitan (and other "women's" magazines) and their "how to please your man" approach to feminism. Though she gives actual sex tips, Heimel's main focus was sexual self-confidence for women and the idea that women actually enjoy sex. In 2008, New York Magazine noted that "Much of the gospel about dating and sex is still achingly current". By 2002, it had never been out of print. Heimel later regretted the reception of her after writing the book, "as if I was an expert on sex".
The New York Times said of her that "Like Dorothy Parker, Ms. Heimel is an urban romantic with a scathing X-ray vision that penetrates her most deeply cherished fantasies." Douglas Adams said she was "like P.G. Wodehouse if he wrote about sex".
Heimel stated in Advanced Sex Tips for Girls that she was not accepted by the feminist movement; that being too sexy to be an academic feminist and too angry for "women's" magazines, she sometimes had difficulty finding outlets that would publish her work; and that for this reason, she accepted an offer to work for Playboy and was the writer of its "Women" column for decades from 1983. Her column was ended around 2000 when the editors of Playboy expressed concern that Heimel's feminist attitudes would put off male readers.
On writing Advanced Sex Tips nearly 20 years later, Heimel said that "The first one is kind of a how-to manual and the second one is kind of a why manual." Kirkus Reviews said of Advanced Sex Tips that "the beleaguered humorist’s sex life is not all that much better: she seems to prefer her pack of dogs". Publishers Weekly contrasted the two books: "Twenty years ago, Heimel's Sex Tips for Girls was a hot item for women with bad attitude; her down-and-dirty, irreverent take on male-female relations was a welcome relief, after eons of machismo and years of second-wave feminist struggle. Her sequel, however, is a mixed bag".
Heimel has also written columns for Village Voice (the "Problem Lady" column from 1980), The Independent, Bust, and Vogue; her columns have been collected in several books. Kirkus summed them up in a review of If You Leave Me, Can I Come Too?: "in addition to the saucy insights on the so-called war between the sexes, the wry disbelief of the potential for living anywhere except Manhattan, and the cynical acceptance of the inevitability of aging that marked her previous compilations (Get You Tongue Out Of My Mouth, I'm Kissing You Good-Bye!, 1993, etc.), Heimel now feels confident enough to offer her kinder, gentler side as well."
Heimel was raised in Overbrook Park, Philadelphia; her mother was a secretary and her father was a pharmacist. She left home at 17 and lived in Center City, where she had to beg before she found work at the Distant Drummer. She met and married radio announcer and painter Steve Heimel, and they had a son, Brodie, in 1970, but they separated after 18 months when her husband found work in Houston and she moved to England. After they separated, she lived with Brodie in communes and worked as a secretary and with "lefty social organizations" in London for three years and then New York. She now lives in Oakland, California and previously lived in New York and Los Angeles. She is a dog owner.
Cheryl Lavin wrote of her in a 1995 interview that "Loyal readers assume the "I" in Heimel's columns is Heimel ... They're partly right, partly wrong."
- Heimel, Cynthia (June 1983). Sex Tips For Girls. Touchstone. ISBN 9780671477257.
- Heimel, Cynthia (October 1986). But Enough About You: Avoiding Fabulousness. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9780671552640.
- Heimel, Cynthia (May 4, 1991). If You Can't Live without Me, Why Aren't You Dead Yet?!. Atlantic Monthly Press. ISBN 0871134446.
- Heimel, Cynthia (June 1, 1993). Get Your Tongue out of My Mouth, I'm Kissing You Good-Bye!. Atlantic Monthly Press. ISBN 0871135388.
- Heimel, Cynthia (June 16, 1995). If You Leave Me, Can I Come Too?. Atlantic Monthly Press. ISBN 0871136031.
- Heimel, Cynthia (June 1996). When the Phone Doesn't Ring, It'll Be Me!. Atlantic Monthly Press. ISBN 9780871136343.
- Heimel, Cynthia (February 13, 2002). Advanced Sex Tips for Girls: This Time It's Personal. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0684849224.
- A Girl's Guide to Chaos (1986), directed by Wynn Handman, staged in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.
- Bourrie, Sallie Ruth (July 28, 1991). "Life in the Trenches: This Wacky World According To Cynthia Heimel". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved March 26, 2015.
- Weiner, Jennifer (July 2, 1995). "A Funny Feminist Out Of Overbrook Park Cynthia Heimel Is A Wry Writer, A Dog Lover, A Smoker And A Dropout Housewife. She Scorns "Wimpy" Women". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved March 26, 2015.
- Klausner, Julie (June 2, 2008). "‘Sex and the City,’ Now and Then". New York Magazine. Retrieved March 25, 2015.
- McCarthy, Susan (May 8, 2002). "Don’t call me a sexpert". Salon. Retrieved March 26, 2015.
- Holden, Stephen (December 14, 1986). "Stage: Cynthia Heimel Comedy, 'Guide to Chaos'". New York Times. Retrieved March 25, 2015.
- "Advanced Sex Tips for Girls". Kirkus Reviews. December 1, 2001. Retrieved March 25, 2015.
- "Advanced Sex Tips for Girls: This Time It's Personal". Publishers Weekly. February 13, 2001. Retrieved March 26, 2015.
- Lavin, Cheryl (August 20, 1995). "Cynthia Heimel Has Lots To Say Even After 20 Years Of Writing". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved March 25, 2015.
- "If You Can't Live Without Me, Why Aren't You Dead Yet?". Kirkus Reviews. April 1, 1991. Retrieved March 25, 2015.
- "Get Your Tongue Out Of My Mouth, I'm Kissing You Good-Bye!". Kirkus Reviews. April 1, 1993. Retrieved March 25, 2015.
- "If You Leave Me, Can I Come Too?". Kirkus Reviews. April 15, 1995. Retrieved March 25, 2015.
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