I’m not sure how it is elsewhere—maybe it’s just as bad—but here in New York, the Sex and the City media blitz has been overwhelming. As a twentysomething, straight white woman who works in publishing, I feel as though I am virtually required by law to see the movie this weekend and that by failing to do so, I’m making some big grand statement—one that I actually don’t want to make.
I have friends—good friends—who adored Sex and the City, but I never got into it. I’ve seen a few episodes and absorbed most of the major plot turns by cultural osmosis, but I never felt a kinship with the show, never felt prepared to declare myself a Charlotte or a Miranda or a Samantha or a Carrie (god forbid—I saw enough of the show to know that I really don’t like Carrie).
The ramped-up materialism of Sex makes me cringe (Fergie’s contribution to the soundtrack, “Labels or Love,” might as well be a parody of outrageous, brand-whore consumerism), but getting too finger-pointy about that seems hypocritical. Like everyone who lives here, I lust over penthouse floor plans. I covet my neighbor’s roof garden. I blew a good portion of an unexpected bonus on a gorgeous new handbag (clothes I don’t get too excited about, but handbags are a weakness). So I’m reluctant to cast stones at the Sex consumer frenzy.
That said, I don’t really identify with it (shopping exhausts me), nor do I identify with the Sex and the City fantasy of Manhattan as a glittering, elite world of reinvention. I don’t necessarily have a problem with that fantasy, but it’s not mine. Yet like so many Carrie-wannabes, I, too, moved to New York in the past few years, so I’ve been thinking, Why did I want to move here, if it wasn’t the desire to become a tutu-wearing, cosmo-swilling, pun-loving girl-about-town?
I treasure the cultural opportunities here, obviously, but beyond that, what do I love about the city itself? I love being able to rely on mass transportation, for one thing, never having to bicker about whose turn it is to be the designated driver, being able to read or people-watch or shut my eyes for a moment during my daily commute. I love the way limited space teaches me efficiency, to value quality over quantity, to truly appreciate the fact that bigger doesn’t always mean better. I love being surrounded by such a diverse population, being reminded everyday as I walk to work or visit the bodega that not everyone sees the world the way I do, that my personal perspective is incomplete.
But most of all, as an ardent introvert, I love being surrounded by humanity, being one of millions and enjoying all that bustling populace has to offer to the world, and yet being alone, being myself, a tiny private island in a vast, wonderful ocean. In short, I love the anonymity of the city. And that, more than anything, is what makes Sex and the City so foreign to me. I didn’t come here to reinvent myself. I don’t aspire to the flamboyant, fashionable, name-on-the-It-list New York of Carrie and her cohorts. I’m happiest living and thriving on the edges, in the shadows, on my own terms.
But maybe what’s so great about New York is that those two fantasies can coexist. The presence of all those aspiring Carries doesn’t keep me from my quiet pursuits, and my mousiness makes the nearby peacocks look all the more vibrant. Manhattan might be a small island, but it’s big enough for all of us.