If on a Sunday night a ‘Sex and the City’
Foreword: This is a mashup text that blends Italo Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveler with Sex and the City. I wanted to highlight cultures of viewership and participatory norms — how we perform audience behavior — but more than that, I just like putting two things together that I enjoy and seeing what happens. Enjoy.
You are about to begin watching the new episode of Michael Patrick King’s Sex and the City. Sit down. Make yourself at home with three of your best girlfriends, all of varied yet complementary personalities. Pour yourself a Cosmopolitan. Enjoy yourself. You’ve been waiting all week for this, dear Viewer. You deserve this. You’ve earned this. This is your time to relax. This is your time. Turn off your cellphone and forget about Facebook, because it’s 2002 and that doesn’t exist yet. Tell your man that he can take care of himself tonight — because tonight is about the ladies. If your boyfriend or your neighbors attempt to interrupt with unnecessary distraction, inform them, “I’m about to begin watching the new episode of Michael Patrick King’s Sex and the City! I deserve this!” Or if you prefer, ignore them and pour yourself another delicious glass of vodka, Triple Sec and Cranberry with a splash of something extra. This is your time.
Find the position that most speaks to you as an empowered, upwardly mobile woman with ample disposable income: seated, stretched out, lying down, curled up or busy trying to have it all. Flat on your back, on your side or on a rant about your ex-boyfriend who broke up with you via text message. In a flying lotus, a downward facing dog, a westward-facing platypus or the pose of a child, which is what your ex was when he couldn’t break up with you like a man. Sitting in your recliner, of course, or on the floor, with your feet kicked up in the air. You could watch it standing up, while serving all of your friends the hummus you made specially for the occasion. Everyone loves hummus, naturally.
Of course, the ideal position for watching Sex and the City is every position, but it’s a choice every woman must make for herself. In the old days, women had to watch Sex and the City accompanied by a husband or male guardian. An icon would flash whenever a man must cover his wife’s impressionable eyes, lest the demon of third-wave feminism enter her and she demand a woman’s right to shoes. Women were accustomed to watching it while engaging in light housework or mother-daughter window washing. They took a break with women’s work when they tired of cooking 8:00 A.M. meals in pearls and heels, while vacuuming and brushing up on their conversational French and etiquette, lest Emily Post drop by for a chat.
No woman ever thought of resting for herself while watching television; and yet now, the idea of sitting cross-legged on the sofa, flanked by women of disparate hair color and Myers-Briggs type, or with a gathering of casual acquaintances, co-workers and homosexual male “besties,” seems attractive to you. With your feet in fuzzy bunny slippers, you should feel quite comfortable for watching; having your toes wrapped in ersatz rabbit is the first condition for enjoying a television program.
Well, what are you waiting for? Express yourself, let yourself go and put your feet on the table, on two tables with your legs stretched apart, on the couch, on the television, on your best friend, on your underpaid doorman, on the newborn baby you put down for a nap, on yourself. Don’t take your slippers off, they’re Manolo Blahnik and very expensive. If you want to, put your feet up; if not, put them in a delicate saltwater bath, courtesy of Bath and Body Works, Evian and your carbon footprint.
Adjust the light so it complements your pores and gingerly applied Botox. Do it now, because once you’re absorbed in viewing, you will hardly notice that you’ve stepped into bad lighting. Make sure your mascara hasn’t begun to run, a clotting of black paint on a pale canvas, but uniform as a pack of Macy’s workers; but be careful that the light is not too dim and does not take away from the vibrancy of the show’s early-2000s color palette, reminiscent of a Fort Lauderdale picnic before Labor Day. Try to foresee now everything that might make you interrupt your viewership. Virginia Slims within reach, if you smoke, and the ashtray. Anything else? Do you have to queef? All right, you know best.
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If you’ve been looking for a chance to say something then this very well could be it.
I wish to God I’d had a list like this when I was 23.
Answer phones better than anyone else has answered phones before. Relay messages so brilliant, they bring people to tears. Turn the coffee run into the choreography of Swan Lake. Become best friends with every intern and every underling and every taxi driver you encounter.
I remember taking the pen and notebook from that woman outside the courtroom, flipping to a clean page in the book, and writing, JESSICA IS SAD in big, bold, uncoordinated letters. “My sister is going to be a good writer someday! Look at how nice her lines are!”