I couldn’t help but wonder…
did Carrie teach me anything other than designer names?
In honor of Sex and the City’s 20th anniversary- and my 6th year anniversary with NYC- I’m reflecting on how the show has influenced my life. Whether you watched the show or not, there are show references on billboards, tour busses, and SATC quotes/”remember that episode when…” popping up in conversations with both friends at brunch and strangers at bars. This city is teeming with trust fund kids in Balenciaga shoes and Supreme hoodies and I promise you, I am not one of them.I moved here as a broke, unfashionable, acne-ridden, 20-year-old grad-student. Yet, somehow, these four white, well-off, middle aged women managed to play a significant role in shaping my understanding of New York City and what it means to be an adult in this concrete jungle.
At it’s surface, SATC is just a show about friends in New York, but when I dug deeper into what the themes, fashion, and relationships meant to me, I was surprised to find so many connections. The lessons I learned are not all life-changing, but these are the lessons that stick with me when I leave my apartment every day, eager to see what the city has in store for me.
1. Successful women work hard
Carrie wrote while sitting in her Upper East Side apartment (that’s really in the West Village, FYI) gazing out onto a quiet, tree-lined street. I’m writing while sitting at an Ikea table my roommate found on the corner and looking onto a dirty, noisy 1st Ave. intersection in East Harlem. Maybe I’ll never be able to afford my own place in NYC and maybe I’ll never be able to walk into Gucci and buy something off the rack, but I take comfort in thinking about how hard our four heroines worked to get where they are- even if I’m just making it up (which is okay, because they’re not real).
There are so many criticisms about how unrealistic SATC is. How deceiving it is for young girls who move to New York with the hopes and dreams of wearing designer clothes and live in a studio apartment. Boohoo. 1) Expecting to live the lives of any fictional character will lead to major disappointment and 2) we never see how hard these characters would have had to work to be where we find them at the beginning of the series. I understand that working diligently in offices around the city isn’t really HBO’s idea of an iconic show, so we have to make up the backstory and I truly think these women worked their asses off.
2. You will be considered a “regular” somewhere
My first three years in NYC were spent never eating at the same restaurant twice. I was obsessed with trying everything the city had to offer and felt that repetition was a waste of time. Maybe this was just me, but I took pride in not settling into a routine. To me, that meant I was experiencing more and not taking a second for granted. But that got tiring and taking the train somewhere new just to get a burrito was annoying.
My attitude changed when I moved to East Harlem. Something about settling into my third apartment here in the city and having a secure job made me chill out. I started going to the coffee shop up the street on a regular basis. If I wanted Chinese, I’d go to the shop downstairs. If I wanted burritos four days in a row, I’d get burritos, damn it! And they’d be from El Aguila every time. The women in SATC brunched at the same place for years. And why not? Even though NYC is overflowing with the world’s best eateries, your company is what matters most. There’s a special kind of beauty in finding consistency in an ever-changing city. When you’re one of 8.5 million people, walking into a place and being greeted by name will never get old.
3. Celebrate your friends
We all remember the “bus ad viewing party” scene where Carrie’s freaks out over a graffiti peen. Friends standing at a bus stop with a bottle of bubbly waiting to celebrate the accomplishments of one of their own. This is what friendship in New York is like. You can do anything and be anyone in this city and the best part of it all is finding people to bring along for the ride.
4. You can do/wear anything in New York
I used to wonder why Carrie would wear a giant flower on her dress or why Samantha would pair certain colors together or why Miranda would wear one of her many weird-ass outfits but it made sense after I moved here: you can literally wear anything in New York City and nobody will care. If anything, someone will ask you where you got your bag. At this point in my tenure as a New Yorker, I only realize things are a little odd when friends or family visit and spend their entire trip people watching and commenting on what other people are doing/wearing.
Because we all are welcomed to do and wear whatever we want, I do and wear whatever I want. I experiment with fashion (not to SATC extremes, but I’ll layer denim on denim every once in a while which is a big deal for me) and get excited to try new things. And guess what? Nobody cares!
5. DO NOT wear stilettos if you can’t afford a taxi
You. Are. Not. Carrie/Charlotte/Samantha (does Miranda wear stilettos?). I’ll never forget the first/last time I wore a pair of sky high pumps out on the town. I don’t remember where we were going, but it’s safe to assume it was an embarrassingly tacky bar or lounge frequented by fratty assholes. And I actually planned to catch the train. THE TRAIN! Once I left my building I knew it was a bad idea and I was sure that if Carrie could do it, I could too. But no. I had to dip into my savings (I was broke, remember) to get a cab both to and from the bar. I’m just not a stiletto kinda gal and I’m perfectly content with that. If I ever try again, I’ll be prepared with band-aides and an expectation that my step count will be 1/1,000 of the norm.
6. You have to travel far. Get over it.
When everyone showed up at Carrie’s apartment to watch real-life porn across the street, they had to travel from all over Manhattan to get there. I used to hate catching the train/bus and would flat out refuse to leave my apartment once I got home from work. But that was simply no fun. Part of living in New York is traveling to your destination, we just have to suck it up and know that being with your girls is ALWAYS worth the trip.
7. Something scary will happen to you.
I once laughed when Carrie was robbed of her strappy Manolos walking down the street. It seemed so unrealistic- who would rob someone in broad daylight in downtown Manhattan? But when you get robbed, or see someone get stabbed, or almost get hit by a car (or do get hit by a car), you won’t be laughing any more. This city is crazy. You can’t prepare for freak accidents or criminal activity so just keep your wits about you, do the best you can, and go on with your life.
8. It’s okay to look for love in New York City. And it’s okay to fall on your face because you’ll always have your girls.
Despite what some people say, everyone in New York is looking for love. Accept it. Embrace it. Go places that make you happy and connect with others who feel the same way. It doesn’t matter if you’re Team Charlotte or Team Samantha- everyone is looking to feel connected to someone. Without that, this city can be a very lonely place. Which is also why you need your friends to have your back.
Regardless of its many faults, Sex and the City has left a lasting impression New Yorkers and New Yorkers-at-heart. I still turn on early episodes when friends show up unexpectedly or as background noise as I get ready for a night out. I never really expected my life to pan out like Carrie’s or Miranda’s or Charlotte’s or Samantha’s, but I appreciate the bold path they paved for women 20 years ago.