My entire adult life I saw myself as a Carrie: a relationship focused writer with unconventional style that had been jaded by the behavior of men. From the nameplate necklace to developing my blog into a book and having a group of incredible and diverse friends, the parallels were nearly complete. Then a friend recently invited me over for a Sex and the City marathon. After just a few episodes, everything I thought I knew about the show, and whether I actually wanted to be like Carrie, shifted.
The show originally aired in 1998, as I was heading into the 8th grade. Even though I couldn’t related to the characters by age, race, or privilege, I connect to the stories about the seemingly endless quest to finding forever love. While I had seen every episode, as well as the films, at least half a dozen times over the years, I had yet to watch them in consecutive order as an adult.
In the dim room of a top floor flat in Berlin I watched the entire first season in one night. I watched as Carrie met Mr. Big, looked on as Samantha had sex with whoever she desired, rolled my eyes at Charlotte’s obsession with finding a husband, and pitied Miranda as she tried to keep up. As each storyline developed, I realized that the entire show was a complete contradiction: there were four strong and successful women who measured the quality of their lives through their relationships with men. Instead of being praised for their sexual freedom and financial independence women, they were labeled as “behaving like a man” if they ever decided to focus on anything other than their feelings.
Each episode was filled with completely unrealistic situations in which each woman would walk into some ordinary situation and walk out with an extraordinary date. All of them, at one point or another, would obsess over how they should behave in order to keep him interested, obsess about every little thing he did trying to find hidden clues, and eventually blow every issue out of proportion to the point of self-destruction. My unwavering admiration for each of these characters began to wither away as I saw how obsessive they could be.
Charlotte was annoyingly predictable. Every man she met, despite them only going on one date, it never failed that she would meet with her friends and gush that he was the one. Not because she knew him well enough to love him but solely based on her delusion of finding the perfect husband. Miranda never seemed to fit in and was always made out to be an undesirable character. For the most part, Samantha stayed true to form: no muss, no fuss sex. For Carrie, her character could be classified as one word: overdramatic.
When it came to relationships, her incessant need to know where things were going and for the man she was dating to confess his love for her always seemed unauthentic since she rarely spent time deciding if she actually wanted to be with him. Every little thing the man did carried the highest significance. He didn’t call for 2 days, the relationship was over. He wasn’t ready to introduce her to his mother, he’d never love her. Things were quite bad for her main counterpart, Mr. Big.
I had previously spent my entire time watching the show despising Mr. Big. That was until I realized he was simply trying to be true to himself and take things at his own pace. Because he made some decisions that put himself first, Carrie deducted that she wasn’t a priority in his life. Despite Carrie’s overdramatic habit of convincing herself that he didn’t love her because he didn’t do things her way, everything wrong in their relationship was his fault. While he did carry some of the blame for his careless behavior, I realized the real reason I rooted against him was because I didn’t know any better.
As adults with our own careers, goals, and desires, being in a relationship shouldn’t mean that we have to compromise on those things. While it is important to make decisions with our partners in mind if we see a future with them, the significance of their impact on our decision making should develop over time. If you find someone that you want to be with, and they feel the same, they will be there for you while you continue to achieve the goals you set for yourself before you met them.
Seeing the show in a new light made me think, since I was so misguided about Carrie’s outlook being parallel to my own, was my perception of my previous relationships misguided as well? Maybe it wasn’t always the best habit, in the case I did ever want to get back with one of my exes, but I’ve always been open with my friends about the men I date. I will give them a detailed account of the man’s undesirable behavior and seek their advice about how to proceed.
No matter the dramatic antics towards men displayed on Sex and the City, the women always had each other’s back. Despite only knowing half of the story, they sat ready to annihilate and exile the man perceived to have done their friend wrong. I agreed on using friends as a sounding board to make sure we as women weren’t blowing things out of proportion. But with a second, third, and even fourth opinion, are my friends just backing me up because those men actually treated me poorly or simply because they were always on my side?
Despite the dissolution of personally identifying with main character, one central theme from the show still rang true – the severe level of hopelessness women experience after dating throngs of assholes. Back then men were disappearing after dates, lying to women in order to sleep with them, or treating them poorly because of their own insecurities and unfortunately that hasn’t changed. While dating twenty years later hasn’t seemed to get any easier, watching Sex and the City, while still entertaining, gave me a lesson on the way I want to build relationships in the future. And it isn’t the Carrie Bradshaw way.