An ex-boyfriend of mine used to watch reruns of Sex and the City with me. I did not actually force him to watch the show, oh, no — I am not that sadistic, nor did he enjoy masochism all that much. Instead, he would sit there, mouth usually agape with that bizarre look of ???!??!!? on his face as he valiantly tried to decipher the female psyche through the inner workings of Candice Bushnell’s mind. (He never succeeded, which speaks to the fact that men will never get women, no matter what planet we’re each from, and Oscar Wilde knew his sh-t when he said that “women are meant to be loved, not to be understood.”) He’d confuse the four female characters, and would always ask me why Carrie was suddenly dating Mr. Big if Charlotte had slept with him, too, and wasn’t that against the whole “chicks before dicks” rule?
He had a valid point. No, not about how you should never eat your friends leftovers — both literally and metaphorically, it’s solid advice for the real world — but that the four women, in balancing out one another’s personality traits, became almost one person. It also paints the show in a different light, and helps to give one possible explanation as to why such different people could keep those weekly brunch dates after six years of raging hormones and varying degrees of having been dickmatized. What if they were each facets of one woman’s — maybe Bushnell, the author, maybe not — brain, and Michael Patrick King, the genius behind bringing the essays to HBO, was playing a cruel trick by commenting on our collective feminine narcissism? What if he spiked the punch bowl with our own gin, and we were still drinking it?
Yes, most girls have claimed that they would so be a “Charlotte” or a “Samantha” at one point in their lives. Yes, we have since regretted boiling ourselves down to such stereotypes, especially after the cinematic let down that was Sex and the City 2. Yes, Betty Friedan is probably rolling around in her grave at the lows to which female society has reached, and yes, I have all but renounced my hope of becoming a writer in New York City with a closet full of Louboutins, but what if we really do each have a little Carrie (and Charlotte and Miranda, and of course, Samantha) in all of us?
The Charlotte part of our brains is reserved for the archetypal notions of femininity that have managed to stick around even after Working Girl and everything else that suggested that women might actually be useful for something outside of looking pretty, raising children, and having dinner on the table by 6:30. “And as far as I’m concerned, as long as men look at me that way, I’m earning my keep,'” said Betty Draper, the textbook victim of the classic archetype of 50s feminine wiles, complete avec an extra serving of Crazy. She is the cautionary tale come a few years too late, and maybe if Charlotte had seen Mad Men, she wouldn’t be so keen on marriage and motherhood and the whole nine. But she was, and so she spent an exhausting amount of time trying to find the right husband, and even more time trying to become impregnated by him. She wanted — and almost got — the Cinderella story ending, and that almost happened when Doctor Trey Macdougal Who Lived On Park Avenue And Had a Connecticut-Based Mother named Bunny save her from a horrific traffic accident. Instead, she ended up with her divorce lawyer, a self-professed schmuck named Harry Goldenblatt, and two children. They all lived happily ever after.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to spend the rest of your life with somebody, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong in wanting the whole experience of parenthood, and to a certain degree, if you really and truly want to make your career as a trophy wife, let alone a housewife, be my guest. But to have your life completely dictated by these things as the be-all, end-all not because you want it, but because society says so would simply be crippling a person’s potential. Yet Charlotte is still a part of the feminine psyche because our society hasn’t really come all that far in 60 or so years. A lot of people still expect to get married and have kids, career or no career, and if you don’t want these things first and foremost, there’s something “wrong” with you. Thanks, Society.
Miranda represents reality for most women, or something close to it. She’s a redhead, which most people profile against in the creepy, soulless ginger kid joke kind of way — much like they profile against women, to some degree. A successful lawyer, she has to deal with a stressful job, a child she didn’t plan on having, and the burden of being in love with a man who is physically emasculated, possibly to represent how he feels emasculated by being with a total ball-buster (literally, in this instance, though she didn’t actually, you know, give him cancer). No, Miranda was not always the prettiest one, and yes, she was a redhead, and yes, she had to have braces on the show and yes, she dealt with the baby weight battle, but that’s life, isn’t it? That’s what happens. Not everyone can marry a doctor or a lawyer or the Absolut Hunk, nor can they live a freewheeling life as a sex columnist for a newspaper, and really, that’s okay. Besides, Steve (that’s her one-testicled baby daddy, by the way) owned a bar and that has its own perks, too.
Samantha is the libido of a feminine mind, and unapologetically so. Because seriously? Slut-shaming needs to stop. It’s not cute, or cool, and who you do or do not have in your bed is between you and your sheets, literally. The fact of the matter is, sex happens. It relieves stress, and maybe people question how safe it is to have multiple partners, but again, whose business is that? Besides, the woman knew what she wanted and what worked for her. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong in being so self-assured, especially because at the end of the day, the only person Samantha really needed was her vibrator. Self-sufficiency, hurrah!
Carrie represents our inner monologues, the wheedling little voice we try so desperately to keep quiet. You know how you text your friends about 10 times to proofread an email to your crush before you send it? Carrie is the reject email, which everyone says “no, that sounds way too crazy,” and yet she voices every last insane thought that our overanalyzing minds might think up. Remember the episode when Berger dumped her on a post-it (okay, admittedly a really crappy move) and she just word-vomits all over his friends about how shafted she feels? Yeah, girlfriends usually edit all of that out before men see the final project of a thought. The fact of the matter is, Carrie never got the memo that they never cast her for the lead role in the Melodrama of Myself! And the fact of the matter is, a hell of a lot of us girls often love to cast ourselves as the stars of their own melodramas, because it makes us feel as if maybe it’s the screenplay writer (read: God, Fate, Morgan Freeman, the drunken little rummy bears you made for the Fourth of July, or whoever you think is dictating your life) who hates us, and not our own choices and mistakes that have painted us into whatever corner du jour we’re facing.
Holly Golightly protested that she wouldn’t let anyone put her in a cage, without realizing that she was the one who caged herself at every turn. And Carrie? She could pun her way out of a paper bag, as well as justify her way around her every last action, no matter how depraved. Most people — women and men — are good at this, it helps us sleep better at night. And justify her actions she did. Aiden, the wholesome carpenter who wanted to love her, marry her, and whisk her up to his upstate cabin (aptly located in Suffern, New York) was too good for her. Jack Berger was just living proof that men can simply be women in disguise. And Aleksander Petrovsky was a bit of a waste of a story arc (why, Mikhail, why?!) but Mr. Big really should have been the one to tell Carrie exactly where to go, because, frankly, my dear, in the famous words of Rhett Butler (who also was unfairly subjected to a woman suffering from way too much Inner Monologue Syndrome, or IMS for short), nobody gave a f-ck.
My ex-boyfriend listened to Carrie’s monologues the way the men in her life did. He sat there, listened intently, and tried to unravel the crazy, just as he tried to unravel my own crazy. (I did say he was my ex, right?) The thing is, these men who wanna be Carrie’s lover without getting with her friends, zig-a-zig-ah style — these men are the ones who bought into her grandiose ideas about love most of all, when it’s questionable that she really did not know what love was, she just did as she was told. Yet maybe we’re not
supposed to give up those ideals, and fairytale notions about love, since they give us something to aim for; it’s just a matter of finding a good balance, if it even exists. Does it? Who knows? But at the end of the day, yes, the four women still came back to the coffee shop together, and we can exist without the four facets of our own psyches tearing themselves to bits, if we can only admit that they’re there.