It was the summer of 1998. I was channel-surfing and came upon a show where women were speaking to the camera about dating, sex, men and the concept of having it all. I dropped the remote, leaned in, and found myself consumed by it all. I was 27 years old at the time, climbing the career ladder, and six years into a dead-end relationship– questioning every part of life. I was asking myself the same questions these women were directing to the camera, and that’s when I entered a 20-year long-committed relationship with the show: SEX AND THE CITY.
So, there I was, every Sunday night at 9pm. For six years running, I had a serious, consistent date (94 to be exact) with my four new soul sisters: Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha. I laughed with them, cried with them and drank way too many Cosmopolitans with them. After the first season ended, I had finally broken it off with my dead-end dude, left my job for a better one, purchased my first pair of Manolos, and was living and dating in NYC.
Sex and the City became the single girl’s Bible, demonstrating that women can be strong, independent, brilliant, sexy and still be—as Carrie said best— “looking for love, real love, ridiculous love, inconvenient, consuming, can’t-live-without-each other love.”
Some would say the connection I had (and in some respects still do) to each of these four characters was unusual, mainly because they were just that: characters. But every Monday morning when I returned to work, I noticed other women talking about these characters in the same, committed way. Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha weren’t just characters, they were real. They were US. These women were front and center of their own stories, tackling issues specific to the female experience. They were winging this thing called life and having fun along the way. They represented extremes, and a lot of women identified as one or more of them. But I truly identified with all four, all in very different ways. While I had some of their qualities, I also aspired to others.
I feel I honored and believed in Charlotte’s emphasis on emotional love as opposed to lust. I always admired her optimism while on her quest to finding love.
Miranda’s driven, workaholism and brutal honesty is how I identified with her most of the time. I respected her never-ending attempt to balance career, singlehood and being a working mom.
I never indulged in the sex-siren ‘Samantha’-side, but I admired her for her unapologetic confidence in self. She truly embodied love of self (and sex). What I did identify with was how she lived life on her terms and didn’t let anyone else dictate her experience.
And then there was Carrie. I mean, who didn’t love Carrie, even if it was just for her wardrobe? She had that hopeful curiosity every woman inhabits on her way to finding true love. She questioned everything, and her answers were often spot on even if very simple. I navigated single life much like Carrie did. The difference? I would have chosen Aiden over Big in a NY minute.
Aside from connecting with the characters, I learned a lot from the show itself. SATC helped me make sense of my singleness, my sisterhood, and myself. I decided a few months ago to watch each season again– before writing this blog– because I wanted to be certain that my 46-year-old self was in agreement with my 26-year-old-self. And I’ll admit, as I watched the show this time around, I did pick it apart more and I had my fair share of ‘this is bullshit’ moments, but the learnings remained. The commitment and relationship I had with these four characters were as familiar then as it was to me all those years ago. And, with the show’s 20th anniversary upon us, I reflected on what those life-long learnings entailed and uncovered six truths.
TRUTH #1: Settling is for dust particles
Throughout the six seasons, we saw each of these four women settle at one point or another— even Samantha. This not only made them more human in my eyes but made the storylines feel more real. I think if you’re a single woman in your mid-30’s (like their characters were at the time), you have settled for ‘less than’ at one point or another. Why? Because, well, we feel at times that settling is better than being alone, and you begin to convince yourself that all the great ones are taken, so you settle for pretty-good, or okay, or really not okay.
Miranda settled for Skipper, Charlotte for Trey, Samantha for Richard, and Carrie for anyone who wasn’t Big. Until one day, they each stopped and took inventory of who they were and what they wanted. And just like that, they un-settled.
TRUTH #2: The most important relationship is the one you have with yourself
Knowledge bomb, dropped. You really have to be all good with yourself in order to find the right person. You can’t rely on someone else to fix you or complete you. Each one of these women grew into herself and flourished with each passing season. They all learned to love themselves so much that anyone they dated knew exactly how it should be done, and those that couldn’t love them at that level didn’t make the cut.
TRUTH #3: We’re all flawed but fabulous
I truly believe every woman identifies with one or more of these characters because she shares the same flaws. Their imperfections were what made these four so real, so raw, so human, so relatable. Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda, and Samantha didn’t shame themselves for their faults. Instead, they oftentimes talked about these flaws ad nauseam and either fixed them or accepted them. That’s the beauty of growing into yourself: what you once viewed as shortcomings are the same things that make you flawsome.
TRUTH #4: Let’s Talk About Sex
When I first started watching this show, my jaw remained opened because I’d never heard women speaking about sex so comfortably. Some of what came out of these characters’ mouths – mostly Samantha’s – would make me blush, mainly because my friends and I were never that confident about talking about sex in public. At least, not without whispering— as if sex were something to be ashamed of. These four women spoke loudly and proudly about their sexcapades as singletons. I began to feel empowered by their comfort with the subject matter. I mean, why shouldn’t single women speak about their sexual encounters with their best friends at a volume that doesn’t have you leaning in? Why can’t women have sexual desires like those of their male counterparts? Now I feel like Carrie with all the questions (ha!). But what these four women did was normalize sex and ‘the act of’ for women everywhere. They took the shame out of casual sex.
TRUTH #5: Breakups are messy
Over the six seasons of Sex and The City, I had two ‘sob-fests in the fetal position on the bathroom floor’ breakups. And, with each one, the SATC girls were not only there with me, but they went through a few of their own. This show did breakups really, really well. We all felt it coming, and then we went into the hurt and healing with each one of them: Charlotte with Trey, Samantha with Richard, Miranda with Steve, Carrie with Big, and Carrie with Aiden. Oh, and let’s not forget the worst of all breakups: the dreaded post-it-note that Burger left for Carrie.
What an asshole!
But with each heartbreak, these women healed and rose again like a phoenix, Brand New and Born Again. But they didn’t get through it alone. They had one another, and they held each other up, wiping tears, answering 3am phone calls and making sure none of them ever felt alone. And before you knew it, they were ready to risk their tender hearts again for love. Because it was worth it. Because they were worth it.
TRUTH #6: Ovaries before Brovaries
The truest love displayed in this series is not between a male and female, it’s the undying love shared between these four female characters. It’s what I admire most about SATC: this tight, unbreakable sisterhood. I distinctly remember that line from Big when he said to Charlotte, Samantha, and Miranda about Carrie, “you girls are the loves of her life; a guy is lucky to come in fourth.” And that’s just it. Their friendships always came first, to the very end, and that’s something every woman should understand the importance of. SATC showcases in episode after episode that your friends are your soulmates, and, as Charlotte said, “men could just be these great, nice guys to have fun with!”
I am not sure there’s another show that has changed the way women approach fashion, friends, men, dating, sex and New York City since SATC. A show that made designers a household name. A show that demonstrated women supporting and standing up for other women. A show that exposed the good, bad and ugliness of dating. A show that dismissed the stigma of being single. A show that made you fall in love with each character and truly invest in her quest for love. A show that, no matter how old a woman is (single or not), she will always remember her Sunday night dates with her four girlfriends, drinking cosmos in New York City.