This past semester, I had a very bad habit: Sex . . . And the City, on HBO Go.
I saw my first episode in late August before classes started. Coupled with a best friend and a bottle of wine, it was my introduction into a new world, where sex and cigarettes ruled, girls strutted through Manhattan like grown-ups, Carrie’s abs defied reason, and at the end of the day, all that mattered was the next morning’s recovery breakfast with your girls. I was immediately addicted.
The next three months of the semester rushed by without me: yes I was living on campus, but my heart was trapped in New York circa 2000, strutting around Manhattan in the newest Manolo Blahniks. You could say that my addiction, nay commitment, to the show was controlling my life. My roommates were worried– I had stopped going out, was staying up late, and would even pull out my computer at dinner to watch; was there anything I cared about besides that show?
The answer, I decided one day as I sat in the basement of Lamont pretending to watch lecture videos but actually watching Sex and the City, was no.
But like dedication always does (there’s a lesson here) mine soon paid off, and by Thanksgiving break I was done, with six years and six seasons behind me (all wonderful, except season five, which really was just not good). For a brief week I was spinning – Was it really all over? Where had those hours gone? What was I supposed to do with all my free time? And then finals hit, and aggressively so – having spent the entire semester neglecting my studies for Sex and the City, I quickly realized how ill prepared I was for the entire month of December. Classes, which had been background noise for me since September, suddenly seemed very important. Soon, my nights stretched longer than my days as I scrambled to put together papers and study guides, and essentially anything to prove that I learned something of value, other than how to properly wear leather pants and a crop top, that semester.
As I look back now in this post-finals wintersession lull, my anxiety over so many hours of wasted time has faded. Instead, I see that time as invaluable in what it taught me; maybe the lessons weren’t linked to anything remotely academic, but they were crucial nevertheless in both their timing – right in the middle of my sophomore slump – and their message: having a man in your life is only as important as you want it to be.
First and foremost, the show taught me that nothing – literally nothing – is concretely normal. I used to abide to a strict set of guidelines about what was and what wasn’t a “socially acceptable” way to go about my business. But in Sex and the City, normal is anything from shy Charlotte, who cringes at the word penis, to self-proclaimed Try-Sexual Samantha, who will try anything once. Super-successful Harvard (yay!) lawyer Miranda, who perpetually has what some would call a stick up her ass, ends up marrying the nice, dorky low-achieving guy who is totally comfortable with Miranda fulfilling the role of main breadwinner. And Miranda is totally comfortable in this role as well – she feels no need to be with a wealthy, equally high-achieving man, and instead just picks the guy she can’t stop loving. Carrie goes insane and back, from stalking Big’s ex-wife to wasting money she doesn’t have on ridiculous shoes to getting back with Big, but eventually in a way that works for her, which means eschewing the traditional be-all-end-all, marriage. Anything goes in sex and life and relationships, and none of it – or all of it – is normal.
Going off of that, the show also let me in on this huge secret that ultimately, it’s ok to delay living like a grown-up, for up until forever. The girls in the show spend their days prancing around New York like twenty-something’s well into their thirties. They splurge on designer clothes, drink too much, go out all the time to clubs and bars of all sorts, and work jobs that sometimes don’t pay enough. They serial date, long after serial dating is cool. They refuse to move out to New Jersey, have three kids, and get a day job. Blech. They act like college students freed of college for as long as they feel like it, making mistakes and dressing in midriff revealing clothes long after they should have started shopping at Talbots. Yay Carrie’s abs, and yay being a stupid young person for like, ever.
Speaking of Carrie’s abs, can we just pause for a second to give them proper homage? They are seriously amazing. Never once in six seasons do they fail to make me poke my belly fat and frown.
Surprisingly, seeing Carrie’s abs all the time taught me something as well, although begrudgingly so: it is always important to look good. Maybe (well ok, certainly) I will never have abs like Carrie’s, but it’s not about the six-pack. Rather, it’s about the idea of the six pack: that taking the steps to look amazing is something I owe myself, and something necessary to give off the confident vibe that Carrie does throughout the series, even when she’s at her lowest points (which usually involve crying over Big in her apartment and large amounts of Chinese takeout). Ultimately, the only way really strut like she does comes through having the guts to show off your best asset and look on-point all the time. Including (gasp) for class. This is a lesson that, as a serial-sweatpanter and total Neanderthal with eyeliner, I’ve been avoiding for years. Yet after six seasons of always seeing Carrie in heels, I’ve come to accept the fact that if I want to strut, I’ve got to put on jeans (or at least a nice sweater).
And finally, of course, there’s the ultimate lesson of Sex and the City: in the end, the most important people you have are your friends. The crew in the show is never perfect – there are always fights or disagreements, and throughout the seasons some people are closer than others, as is practically unavoidable in group friendship. But no matter what, while boys leave and people move on and hearts get broken and fixed, really good friends are the ones who are still there. You can call them for years and years, you can almost never see them, or you can meet up once a week for coffee and snacks, whatever – no matter what, they will be there, and spending five minutes with them will remind you why you love them and why you want to be their friend in the first place. They make everything else in life look silly, or insignificant, and laugh your sorest problems into old wounds. They’re like magic band-aids for life, and when at the end of every episode of Sex and the City you see Miranda, Charlotte, Samantha, and Carrie sitting together for greasy breakfast food, you can finally put your priorities in order.
So I guess looking back, I learned a lot from my three month Sex and the City binge. And this year, although I have no more episodes to watch (and I refuse to watch the movies by the way, that’s just ridiculous) I vow to remember all that I learned through the past semester. My New Year’s Resolution is to be more like Carrie, high heels and best friends and all. Maybe if I’m lucky, I’ll even end up with her abs by the time next New Year’s rolls around.