|Girl #1: Oh my god, did I tell you? Alex called me yesterday! And it wasn’t 6 am for once, it was 3 pm!
Girl #2: That’s great!
Girl #1: I know. He was like [low voice] “heeeeeeey” and I was like [high voice] “heeeeey!” and it was amazing. Well, not really. But it was so great.
–Starbucks, Washington Square (Overheard in New York)
I didn’t watch Sex and the City until after I was widowed. I think by then it was in syndication on regular cable channels, and so I didn’t even see it in all its HBO soft-porn glory. When I did watch the show, it was never on purpose. By that time I rarely watched television and any sofa-tater activity was a result of my inability to tune my mind to the off position and grab a little sleep.
For me the show wasn’t lulling. It took everything that was most awful about approaching middle-age, female and alone, and nearly all the worst aspects of women’s friendships and rolled it up in stereo-types, blatant contradictions, and really infuriating ideas about women that it would work me up more than it numbed me with glutton-like consumerism and cultural cliche.
Of all the characters, the only one I remotely liked was Charlotte. She was obviously the foil too which just pissed me off. Alone of the four women, she is the only one who is honest about what she wants out of lie and what will make her happy. Of course, she does every dumb thing in the universe to get herself there, but she never appeared to lie to herself or others about her true need to establish a loving relationship with another and have children. She wasn’t one of those women who profess contentment with the single life while there actions and preoccupations give one the impression they might be protesting too much.
If only the other three characters had been so sincere but because they are just characters, they were created to serve a larger purpose. They were representative of the choices women could make to direct their own lives. But wasn’t Charlotte a choice, you might wonder? Well, yes she was. She was the wrong choice.
Charlotte represented the past when women didn’t know themselves. We hadn’t learned to love ourselves or be alone in our own skin or whatever other brainless mantra you care to insert. The idea that you might think a job, even one you were good at and enjoyed, was just a job; or that you found the idea of motherhood one that stirred something deeper in you than grabbing the corner office made you freakish and in need of re-assimilation.
Her being the wrong choice it is interesting to me that according to the review I read in this last weekend’s Globe and Mail, Charlotte is the only one of the four Sex women who is happy, and her reward is Montezuma’s revenge and a panty full of crap because we are so not supposed to choose door number four. Marriage. Child. These are the choices of our mothers and grandmothers and they were not choices but expectations.
Still, Charlotte was the happy one.
I wonder why that was? Why at the end of the day the independent single career woman is not the happy state of being that the show strove to tell us it was?
By now you might be wondering why I am writing about a movie I have not seen that is based on a show that only made me angry on the few occasions I watched it.
Sex and the City (and it is “and” not “in” though I suppose it might have seemed like having sex in, on, near, under, around and on top of the city was the show’s basic premise) is worshipped by many of my sister folk. It gave us the memorable “he’s just not that into you” line that we could safely use to save our girlfriends from the players of the world. It allowed us to connect with single women role models who were career minded and okay with their non-coupled lives. It showed us what female friendships were really like in a way that Mary and Rhoda couldn’t.
Except, it really didn’t do any of those things. That great line? Written by a man and delivered in the context of the show by a man. And no one ever appeared to be really okay with a career and independence as a substitute for a relationship whether it was the not quite booty call that was Carrie and Big or the grudging acceptance of love from Steve to stick up her feminist ass Miranda or Samantha’s fearful avoidance of relationships by making it all about sex (and there is a dysfunctional character if ever there was one). And when did raunchy talk and obcsenities come to define what real women talk about? And why does it seem that no grown woman is allowed to grow beyond the inbred, narcisstic, and competitive shark-tank aspects of what passed for relationships in our high school and/or university days?
Shallowness in a city with insulting cardboard cut-outs standing in for real people. Even Charlotte. Not one of them represents what it is like to be a woman in our culture. We are not so simple or simple-minded.