Saturday, October 18, 2008

If one more British woman asks me if NYC is just like it looks in SATC…

I'm going to scream.

It's not that it is or isn't, it's that it was for some people and now isn't for anyone.

Sex and the City came out around 2000, 2001ish: the nascent days of the latest reincarnation of the (doomed) Gilded Age. New York was moving at the speed of light, gobbling up capital and pumping cash into a machine that spawned every imaginable service and boutique. Did you want to get some obscure kind of cat and then give it a relaxation pedicure once a week? Sure, that service existed - and if it didn't, you can bet it would shortly. For a small minority of people in New York, the Sex and the City lifestyle, though completely absurd and extremely ridiculous, was their reality for most of the early Naughts.

And, to be honest, the rest of us wanted it. And we did manage to mirror it on a much lower scale: we didn't spend $15 on a single cocktail every time we went out, or wear Manolos, or have financiers picking us up at our walk-ups in cars with their own drivers. Instead, we got dressed up in our very best H&M and treated ourselves to one extremely cher cocktail at a very chic-chic nightspot, and then went downtown to some dive bar and drank $2 PBRs until we stumbled to a subway or splurged on shared cabs to make our ways to our shared railroad apartments in Brooklyn.

It's not just that I was in my early 20s and just starting out; it wasn't that I didn't want to date suave, emotionally unavailable financiers; Sex and the City represented an idealized portrait of such a small minority of women in New York for such a finite period of time, that it can only be fantasy. I always mocked the Midwestern ladies who came to New York with their stilletos for girls weekends, trying to emulate Carrie, Miranda, Samantha, and Charlotte; they thought those characters were the epitome of New York women, and the New York way of life.

And therein lies the crux of the problem: no four archetypes can accurately portray all women in one city, and one television show can accurately portray life in a city as dynamic as New York for all time. It boggles my mind that women are still asking me today if New York is like New York in SATC, when the world is so vastly different from that moment of time in all ways - period. New York has always been its own creature, and its residents live a precarious existence on the brink of either succumbing to the beast or taming it no matter the cultural zeitgeist of the moment. Sex and the City depicted four mid-30s women in that struggle during a period of extreme wealth and prosperity; make that show again tomorrow and the storyline will look completely different, influenced by a completely different set of circumstances.

As annoying as it is to be asked about SATC every other day, I'm strangely okay with it. Somewhere along the way I realized that every woman who asks me is really just hoping the answer is yes - yes, there is a place where the economy is okay, women can live their own lives and do what they love and can afford a really nice apartment with a really great wardrobe and men aren't douchebags and if they are they at least take you to nice restaurants. Outside of SATC, that seems like a tall order and pretty impossible. Once in the comfort of that pink-boxed complete series boxset, however, the future can feel quite rosy, no matter what perfect storm - economic, cultural, political - is raging outside.

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