September 11, 2003
Life After ‘Sex’
DEJA VEWISH: When you meet yet another great Jewish woman who is so similar in either looks or personality that for all intents and purposes, she could be you (or so you wish).
Like Cindy Chupack, I'm "Between Boyfriends." I'm also a single Jewish woman in my 30s in Los Angeles who knows a lot -- and has written a lot -- about relationships, although I can't seem to form that everlasting one.
But unlike Chupack, I'm not a writer or executive producer for HBO's "Sex and the City," and I haven't just come out with a terrific new book titled "The Between Boyfriends Book: A Collection of Cautiously Hopeful Essays" (St. Martin's Press) based on my columns for Glamour magazine, headed by phrases I've coined such as "LONE RANGERED: To have had a relationship end in a mysterious and annoying way -- with no goodbye, no answers, just the vague feeling that you have no idea who that man was."
(Also, no one has ever called me "cautious" and few find me "hopeful," and so maybe I'm not a sweet redhead from Tulsa, Okla., but on the other hand, we both look more like each other than like Sarah Jessica Parker.)
THE EVIL "NOT I": When your life is going so swimmingly well that you try not to have too many expectations lest the ayin hora cause you to lose it all.
"I never expected this little book to be on the best-seller list," Chupack said about the book's recent ranking at 27 on the New York Times Bestseller List following her appearance on the "Today" show. "That was kind of exciting, even if that was it for it!" (As of press time, it was down to 35.) "My dream was that it would just get to the right people and they would give it to friends and it would take off that way," she said.
Chupack expresses the same quiet wonder towards her successful TV career. After working on "Coach" and two seasons of "Everybody Loves Raymond," she moved to the burgeoning "Sex and the City," which was only in its second season (this, despite her father's admonition not to leave a successful show for an unknown). "Sex" is up for 13 Emmy nominations on Sept. 21 -- including one for "I Love a Charade," an episode Chupack co-wrote, and one for Best Comedy Series. "Just to be nominated -- and I know that everyone says that -- it is huge to me, because I really feel like a kid from Oklahoma; it's really extraordinary."
FREE TO BE JEW AND ME: When you come from a small town with very few Jews and think Judaism is something you should keep quiet -- and then find yourself living bicoastally and working in comedy writing, where nearly everyone's Jewish and you learn it's something you don't have to hide anymore.
Chupack grew up Reform in a city with some 2,000 Jews and two synagogues -- one Reform and one Conservative. After attending college at Northwestern University, she moved to New York and then to Los Angeles to pursue TV writing.
"Once I started comedy writing, it was odd to be around so many Jews. I was more self-conscious about talking or bringing it up," Chupack said. "I don't know if I realized that to what extent until I got away from Oklahoma. I remember my teacher asking me to explain Chanukah to the class, and just wanting to fit in and not really stand out, so it's odd to be working in Hollywood where being Jewish is almost the norm." (There are "four and a half out of seven " Jewish writerson the show, Chupack said.)
HOK ME A FAYGELEH: When your parents don't bug you about getting married because the first time you did -- to the greatest guy, a Jewish doctor from a fabulous family -- he turned out to be gay.
It's almost a decade since Chupak's divorce (see Chapter 10: "IMPOSTER COMPLEX: What a relationship columnist might feel when she is not currently in a relationship, has not been able to maintain a relationship, does not have any prospects for a new relationship, nor does she even have a funny term for this predicament."), and these days Chupack only dates Jewish men.
"I would prefer to marry someone who's Jewish," she said, because most Jews have a "built-in sense of humor, just because we've had to develop one; it's one of our survival instincts or something." She finds humor really sexy, and likes Jewish family values, "but we haven't cornered the market on that," she said.
Does she get parental pressure? "My parents wholeheartedly approved and loved the guy I married, so they're real hands-off now," she laughed.
How do they feel about their daughter working on such a risque show? Chupack said that they're in on the joke, "but they've started to understand that some other people might be shocked, so they don't blanketly tell everyone to watch."
More disturbing, Chupack said, is that the show has opened up a dialogue she never wanted to have with her parents. "One time after the 'Tuckus Lingus' episode, which I wrote, my father said, 'I hope you don't actually go through everything you write about,' and I told him 'No!' I don't even want to discuss that kind of stuff [with him]."
J-DATEALOUSY: The envious feeling in others when they discover that you have a better experience on an internet dating Web site (even though it might be due to a better attitude).
Toward the end of the book (Chapter 34: "RETRODATING: Reconnecting with one of the first boys you ever kissed in order to get back in touch with your own dating innocence and joy."), Chupack was dating Guy, her boyfriend from when she went on a teen tour to Israel. But alas, Chupack is "Between Boyfriends" again, and back on JDate.
"I [once] got very briefly on Nerve.com and somebody wanted to wrestle, and it scared me," she said. "So I got off and went back on JDate, because I've never been scared on JDate. I might have been uninspired..." she joked, but says that the men on the site seem ready to have a real relationship. "So it's kind of a relief."
JDating was actually going to be an episode on "Sex" last season -- but it got cut. "When Harry and Charlotte broke up, we thought she would go on JDate and get about 2,000 hits, and [executive producer] Michael Patrick King had a really funny draft of a script that had her on JDate and just feeling overwhelmed ... but we ended up doing the scene with the three yentas instead."
TALKING TACHLIS: The process of eventually getting through all the things you have to talk about to get to what you really want to talk about.
Speaking of Harry and Charlotte, Chupack said they are currently writing the last season, which will air in January, and they are trying to figure out how much they will keep alive the Jewish issue for Charlotte.
"I think it will probably have some sort of presence, because when Charlotte does something, she goes all the way. It wasn't a means to an end for her; she really fell in love with the religion, and we wanted to make it seem genuine, because that's what happens so often when people convert. I've known so many people who convert, and they're often more devoted than the rest of us who grew up with it and might take Judaism for granted," Chupack said.
As to the important question of what's going to happen to Carrie and soon-to-be beau Mikhail Baryshnikov, Chupack is keeping mum.
"We know basically what we think should happen at the end, but that's what we're doing right now, checking it against what we feel like is happening onscreen."
And as to the biggest heartbreaker of them all -- Mr. Big -- Chupack said he'll be back.
"You'll see him a little bit, probably. You can't just dispose of Big," she said. "We have been on long enough to test the theory, 'Can people change?'" she said. "With Big, we're testing, what can you believe about him, what's he capable of, and would that ever change?"
FRAU FA'BITTERSWEET: That lump in the throat you experience when something great is about to end, even though something better might be in store for you.
"I'm feeling very bittersweet about [the show ending]," Chupack said, because "I'm very aware that I may never have a job I love this much and work with people that I love this much and be so proud of what we're doing....But yet I feel proud of our decision to end it while it's still on such a high note."
While HBO has offered Chupack her own show, and she has a few romantic comedy scripts up her sleeve, she isn't thinking about that just yet. She's just enjoying her last season writing for "Sex and the City."
"It just feels like one of those crazy moments in time where all the planets align and we're doing exactly what we're supposed to be doing."
Cindy Chupack will be reading "Between Boyfriends" on Tuesday, Sept. 16, at 7 p.m. at Dutton's, 11975 San Vincente Blvd., and Wednesday, Sept. 17, 7:30 p.m. at Barnes & Noble in The Grove.
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