CAROL DRUMSTAS was busy last week, sending e-mails and organizing a "Sex and the City" girlfriends night out.

Because once again, the big question isn't whether you're going to see the "Sex and the City" movie, but who you're going to see it with.

When I spotted Drumstas and her friends at an advanced screening of "SATC 2," they were four blondes sitting side-by-side in Nicole Miller dresses.

"I picked my most favorite girlfriends," explained Drumstas, who was sporting a Carrie Bradshaw-esque nameplate necklace. "It was, like, an instant response. 'I'm in. What are we wearing?' "

Brace yourselves because we're about to get "Carried" away again, this time by the sequel to the "Sex and the City" movie.

Ignore the critics and haters.

SATC 2 is going to be huge because just like the first film, it's way bigger than its campy plot and over-the-top fashion.

Sure, die-hard fans of the HBO TV show that spawned the movies are anxious to find out what the fab four have been up to for the last two years. But what's really going to drive SATC 2's box-office numbers is what is at the movie's core - female friendship.

With Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha and Miranda, you have four different characters who, despite international intrigue and guy trouble both real and imagined, somehow manage to stay friends through it all.

Most of us identify at least a little with one or more of those characters. When we see them, we see aspects of ourselves and of our friends.

The SATC movie phenomena represents another rare opportunity for a vast swath of American women, especially those 30 and older, an excuse to get dressed up and spend time in the company of their female friends. I know of some queen bees who plan to see the movie first with one set of girlfriends and then again with a second set.

Maintaining same-sex relationships can be important for mental health. Numerous studies have shown that people with large social networks are happier and live longer.

Good girlfriends teach us about ourselves and can serve as an early-warning system when we are about to wander off track. Like no other movie since "Waiting to Exhale," SATC puts the value of girlfriends on full blast. As you watch "the girls" maneuver within the confines of their tightly knit group, you can't help but think of your own gal pals . . . or lack thereof.

SATC reminds us about how much we need our female friends, even as the demands of career, marriage and caregiving pull us in different directions.

From watching "the girls" cavort around New York City, we learn about accessorizing and acceptance.

"They made us accept the Samanthas in our lives," agreed Carmena Ayo-Davies, who co-organized a sold-out "Sex and the City" party at The Bridge tonight.

"The whole movie is about friendship, not about being alone. It's all about celebrating your friendships and taking them for what they are," she said.

As anyone who's ever belonged to such a circle of friends can attest, it doesn't take much for interpersonal dynamics to get sticky. Girlfriend drama is no joke. But just like the first SATC, this latest installment offers valuable lessons on staging friend-interventions and on how it's not wise to always ditch your gal pals for the hot guy du jour.

We eat this stuff up. That's why it doesn't matter if the critics bash it.

We'll always watch the SATC movies, mimic the fashions and fantasize about trying to live the lifestyle.

When this film shows up on television or on DVD, we'll watch it again, too. As Sarah Walmsley, one of Drumstas' friends, told me at the screening, "We are all going to walk away talking about this for a while."

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