The Carrie Bradshaw Problem

For anyone who’s watched Sex and the City with a remotely critical mind, that title is about as descriptive as “The Blade of Grass” or “The Insufferable Maroon 5 Song.” Which Carrie Bradshaw Problem?

That a part-time sex writer is unlikely to be sporting (and discarding) new pairs of $700 shoes every week and live in a gorgeous apartment with the flimsy explanation that it’s rent-controlled? The credulity required to believe that someone whose voice over (a read-aloud of her column, we are to understand) includes the same clichés week after week is an illustrious enough writer to be asked to write for Vogue? (I “couldn’t help but wonder” this. Every week.) The suspension of disbelief required to swallow four adult friends can come together so effortlessly when my experience as an adult has been that due to previous engagements, more than two people at a time are never available to convene around a brunch table and talk about the bad sex they had the night before?

No none of those.

Let me preface the rest of this by saying I loved Sex and the City and thought it had some valuable and watchable aspects even if I found some of it ridiculous. It explored questions that many single woman are bound to ask at one time or another: Can women have meaningless, consequence-free sex with the same cavalier attitude as a man? Can we be friends with exes? The question of career versus family will probably plague women for as long as they have wombs and ambition. Can Bigs ever stop being apathetic assholes? (The show says yes, but I say HELL to the NO).

I liked the interesting wardrobe choices as expressions of each character and that they mercilessly saddled Miranda with terrible hair for three seasons.

I think the show’s staying power for my friends and me is in its deft cataloging of the men we are all likely to encounter. Most recently I texted my friend to let her know I had gone out with a Bon Jovi and she knew right away that I wasn’t referring to a date who was oooh-wah livin’ on a prayer. Bon Jovi appeared on SATC as a guy whom Carrie meets in therapy. After a promising date and romantic interlude she asks why he’s in therapy and he rolls over and says, “I lose interest in women after sex.” Oops! Been out with him!

But one of the things that I never quite got past was Carrie’s freely discussing her (and her friends’) sex lives in a public column. I kind of got it, but I kind of didn’t.

Bigs aren’t super interested in what’s going on in their woman’s professional life. That’s a pretty quintessential part of Bigdom: He makes All The Money and whatever his girl does is how she earnestly and adorably spends her time until he comes along to be The Big. Bigs aren’t men with whom you discuss the tension you have with glassy-haired bitch Anna Wintour when you’ve been inexplicably invited to write for Vogue. Even if you do have some doubt about whether your writing is good enough for Vogue, you don’t discuss it with your Big. Big is more a sultan to be amused: Fanned with oversized feathers and made to chuckle with little vignettes about your Ding Dongs getting stuck in the vending machine in the break room at Vogue and how this relates to your relationship. (Clearly, I have not set foot within a half-continent of Vogue HQ, or had an openly communicative relationship.)

So maybe it was believable to think that Big didn’t read Carrie’s column, especially in a pre-social-media world. But earlier this month a man wrote to Dear Amy about how a girl he thought he might connect with romantically began making passive-aggressive comments about him for all of their mutual friends to read. Naturally, he found this unattractive and annoying; and if there had been any whisper of a chance of a romance, the woman’s behavior drove a stake into its heart. And “I couldn’t help but remember” Carrie, blabbing on and on about all of the bad behavior of every man she and her friends went out with. Basically she enjoyed varying amounts of dating success despite the fact she made a career of airing dirty laundry. The dirtiest!

Men as french fries! Men as socks!

I think it’s safe to say, nobody wants to read about themselves in an unflattering light. Oh sure, I’ve gone out with some real pieces of work. But I’m not a saint. I’ve acted badly. I’ve made armchair diagnoses of sociopathy within two hours of knowing someone, to their face. (Naughty, and not in a sexy way.) I’ve agreed to give my friendship as a consolation prize and then not returned phone calls. I’ve gotten drunk enough that my first-date ladylikeness has been compromised in some pretty major ways.

And franchement, I don’t want to read about it. EVER. I don’t want to go out with men who stew about bad dates, no matter what way they were bad and how many there have been. I think the reasons romances don’t work out should be between individuals, and not available to all in a burn-list described as a sex column. (Unless someone is knowingly on the loose with an STD. I’m okay with a registry for that kind of mischief.) It’s especially tempting in the age of social media to passively recruit support with vague but-not-vague-enough posts. Or to cry for a second chance. To post your life’s most poignant love song with the hope that it cuts straight to the heart of the person who broke yours.

But I find the sentiment of the Dear Amy letter-writer to be the likeliest, not to mention most appropriate, outcome: Annoyance.


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