I am sat in a dining booth in a pop-up pie shop on Poland Street and, across a table that’s been polished within an inch of its life, Jennifer Coolidge is demonstrating how to do “sex eyes”.
In spite of its name, “sex eyes” is actually a full body performance. First she adjusts her posture to be bolt upright. Then she leans forward and stretches out her arms, spreading both hands out across the table before leaning into her right side so the final pose looks something like ‘pushing yourself up off the floor after falling out of a taxi, but make it hot’. Through heavy mascara and thick drapes of blonde hair, she shoots me a look that can only be described as "smouldering”. “We all think sexiness is in the eyes,” she purrs at me in her iconic, husky voice. “Don’t you always feel like it’s the eyes?”
Jennifer Coolidge has graced London in celebration of the 20th anniversary of American Pie – hence the pop-up shop, where she will spend the rest of the afternoon taking selfies with fans, of which there are already hundreds queuing in the rain outside, and spoon feeding them mini-versions of the infamous pie itself (they are baked with a pre-installed dick hole). That’s not entirely why I’m here, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
Released in 1999, American Pie instantly defined the next decade of teen sex comedies. Following a group of high school graduates on a mission to get laid at the mercy of various assertive women, it’s the Sistine Chapel of jizz jokes, Brazzers’ answer to Citizen Kane. It may be puerile and occasionally problematic but, between the tube socks and pussy flutes, there are flashes of genuine feeling. Though it’s Jim (Jason Biggs, noted pie fucker) who takes centre stage as the awkward underdog, it’s the rest of the cast that often prove most iconic: Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), whose “one time at band camp” is seared into the brains of millennials forever; Stifler (Seann William Scott), whose loveable idiocy was a prelude to the Jackass era of masculinity; and, chief among them, Jennifer Coolidge as the enigma we call “Stifler’s Mom”.
With the energy of Jessica Rabbit as a suburban housewife and a face that enabled a thousand shamelessly horny singles, Stifler’s Mom is a sentient porn search, the final boss of teenage male fantasy. Her mystery is allowed to build up over the course of the film – spoken of, but never seen – so she takes on an almost mythical quality. We eventually meet her towards the end, at the same time as Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) – a 19-year-old who drinks scotch, calls his friends “gentlemen” and has been obsessed with her throughout. He walks into the basement at a house party and there, smoking a thin with a cardigan draped over her shoulders, is Stifler’s Mom. She greets him with a condescending “Are you lost?” and, true to cliche, they bang on a pool table.
The fanfare over hyper-feminine and sexually forward women tends to come exclusively from women and gay men, but Stifler’s Mom has captured the hearts of all. The line of fans waiting to see her is a menagerie of girls, gays, and straight guys who grew up with the film; drag queens, and the occasional tourist attracted by all the commotion. An older woman sleeping with a teenage boy might not go over so well in 2019 as it did in 1999, but Jennifer puts the eternal veneration of Stifler’s Mom down to the appeal of American Pie. “The actors made themselves so vulnerable and real,” she says. “You really rooted for those boys, and they talk so much about this woman that I think [the audience] was really glad that you finally get to meet her, and that it all went down.”
The dynamic between Stifler’s Mom and Finch isn’t the only plot point that wouldn’t fly now – the entire franchise would have to be re-written in order to live up to the standards of modern sexual politics. The way sexuality is presented on screen has changed, the we talk about sex in real life has changed, the dating landscape has changed. Mostly for the better, but the latter point… maybe not so much. Exhibit A: my own relationship history, a series of unfortunate events mostly involving unfulfilling one night stands and inadvertently shagging half my friendship group. That’s why I’m really here. Could this icon who oozes more sexuality than Pamela Anderson and Prince combined help me? Faced with the abject state of affairs that is my DMs, what would Jennifer Coolidge do?
I considered this while sitting opposite her. Towering above me in six inch heels and a latex mac, probably smelling like caramel and £300 shampoo if the pies weren’t masking everything – Jennifer is the sort of woman who, when she walks into a room, everyone notices. Then there is me – the sort of woman who, when she walks into a room, gets accidentally elbowed in the face by someone tall. Surely there are some tips she could give me on how to at least pass as a sexy, confident bitch? However, when I began my enquiry, things took an unexpected turn.
“I think guys need to get off the pot,” Jennifer says, visibly annoyed. “Why don’t men your age ask girls out anymore? Why are men such wusses? It’s so nice when a man asks you out. I know it’s the new wave and the future, but I’m very uncomfortable going up to a guy. I don’t want to do it. Can’t a guy just get it together and come over? Is it really that hard if I say no?” She then explains how she met her current partner because he picked her up on a plane.
I absorbed all of this, each syllable hitting me like a 40-minute TED Talk. It has been a long-standing belief of mine that all of my relationships have failed because, when it comes to men at least, I’m quite traditional. Like Jennifer, I want to be approached. I want to be chased. I want to be the person who keeps their bellies full and their balls drained in exchange for compliments and advice regarding the best broadband package*. Call me old fashioned, but what I do not want is to be the person who has to explain about salting pasta water and never gets eaten out, as well as being their pro bono therapist and primary carer.
The problem, Jennifer reckons, is that men are weird, which seems like a fair assessment. “When you really want to go on a date with someone you can’t act that interested. If they ask if you want to go out you can’t say “YEEAAAHHH!!!! YEAH I DO!!!!,” she demonstrates, widening her eyes and nodding enthusiastically. “But if they approach you and you say ‘no’ or ‘I don’t know’, they don’t go any further. I think we have to be a little bit hard to get, but it’s such a fine line [because we have to be] truthful, but we also can’t be that honest with how much we like them – and then when they’re not nice we have to dump them immediately. I give any girl credit who can snag a man nowadays.”
My main tactic for “snagging men” thus far has been to play the “mysterious” card – i.e. identify someone I fancy on Instagram and ignore them completely; make a point of actively avoiding places they hang out while posting cryptic memes and hope that’s somehow intriguing. This tactic is largely unsuccessful, because when you don’t speak to people they reasonably assume that you don’t like them. So how do you attract a Weird Millennial Man without being too forward, but also not so distant that they respond to any mention of your name with a squint and a “who’s that again?”
“I think the sexiest you can be is when you’re doing something you really love, and you do it better than other people,” my new life coach Jennifer tells me. “I really do believe that a woman is at her sexiest when she’s living to her fullest potential. It can be hard to get that moment out into the public, like if you’re a jockey, it’s like “how am I gonna get this guy to see me on that horse today?” But that’s the only way I’ve ever been able to seduce a guy.”
The other problem, I’ve found, is that when I do manage to seduce a guy we usually end up breaking up because my sex drive is way higher than theirs. My working theory is that straight men simply don’t like sex, or at least having lots of it is has ceased to be the primary benchmark by which masculinity is judged – which is good news for society at large but terrible news for me.
“I can really give you some good advice here,” Jennifer says, because of course she can. “I feel like the minute you ever complain to a man about not having sex enough, you’ve absolutely cursed yourself. For some reason, if you say that to a man, his treatment of that would be that you’ll get even less. Very few men are healthy enough to go ‘Oh really! We’re not doing that enough! I didn’t even think of that, let me work on that.’ No. Guys are like ‘WHAT', and then they act like you’re some sex hungry person. So I think the key is to not comment on it, but be less available. That’s the only way you can rope a man in. When you disappear, men notice – and that’s the only thing I know. Just disappear. Be around less.”
So basically what I’m hearing throughout all of this is: I am perfect and cannot be improved, except by perhaps putting in even less effort, and all of my misfortunes can be blamed on men?
“Yes,” Jennifer tells me, which is fantastic news. Just as I suspected all along, I am in fact a “beautiful girl” who “doesn’t need any sexy lessons”, but for the benefit of the rest of you losers I continued to ask for insights into her sexual agenda anyway, which I will list below –
On Stifler’s Mom: “I like that she’s a very confident woman who was smart and maybe, deep down, vulnerable and a little bit protective, but really went for what she wanted. She’s very assertive, and I like a woman who allows herself to do that.”
On the ability to saunter across a room: “I feel like I’m much sexier in a swimming pool. I don’t think my walk is brilliant, it’s not my forte, but if I could just swim over to somebody that would be good.”
On how to sit sexily: “On talk shows they always tell you to sit like this.” Here, she kicks her legs out of the booth. “Instead of crossing the legs, they tell you to stick yourself out at the side and put one foot behind the other.”
And, finally, I couldn’t meet Jennifer fucking Coolidge to talk about sex without asking her to teach me how to do the bend and snap – a move that, according to scriptwriters for Legally Bonde who birthed it, has an “83 percent return on a dinner invitation”. I didn’t even finish the question before Jennifer was up on her feet, ready to go. She grabs a container and drops it on the floor, cocking her leg and bending down to reveal a face full of cleavage before snapping back up, filling my eyes with tears and my heart with joy.
Feeling validated, inspired and ready to change absolutely nothing about myself, Jennifer has one last piece of advice before I go.
“The British boys, the European boys, are more brave about being seduced by an older woman,” she says, as a guy who has been stood outside since 8am makes another attempt to peer over the promotional billboard covering the window to get a glimpse. “When I meet fans from American Pie here, I feel like sometimes they want me to do that to them. They actually really do want to be seduced. Whereas I feel like American boys like younger girls because it’s safer. That’s just my own dumb theory, but I think I might be right.”
Quite frankly, I cannot wait for motherhood.
* Full disclosure: I did actually locate this guy recently but it took like 29 years, which: what the fuck.
Jennifer Coolidge celebrates the 20th anniversary of American Pie with NOW TV. New customers can get a NOW TV Sky Cinema Pass for £4.99 until August 4.
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.