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Sex and Our City

Let me count the ways that women like me adore Carrie Bradshaw and her three fabulous friends.

(Illustration by Kim Rosen)
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By MARIANNE JACOBBI
June 1, 2008

It's late at night, my marriage has broken up, and I'm watching Sex and the City in bed. It's like a running loop, playing over and over, night after night. I should be reading a good novel, but I can't. I should be watching PBS. But that takes focus, too. I watch SATC because I have seen all the episodes, have whole scenes memorized, and find comfort in the familiar. I watch it even though I have nothing in common with the main characters. I'm 50-something and have never tried a Manolo on for size, much less owned a pair. I've never picked anyone up at a bar. And I don't believe in casual sex. Yet I'm glued to the TV like a Nintendo zombie. My phone rings. It's a widowed friend calling to check in, and I can hear SATC in the background at her house. I realize there must be thousands of women just like us all over the big city curing sadness with some SATC.

"They say nothing lasts forever." That's Carrie speaking - Carrie Bradshaw - in a voiceover for the movie, which opened this weekend. I know firsthand that nothing lasts forever. Marriages end, TV series end, and so do fantasies. But fantasies don't have to end if there are Hollywood sequels to keep you going. This fantasy keeps me and many women like me going. What's the appeal? Is it sex? Sure, that's part of the appeal. But there's more to it than that.

I spent a Friday night in Cambridge (not Manhattan) recently with four girlfriends talking about SATC over cosmos and salade nicoise. We had been fans of the show for a decade, since 1998 when it first aired. We began watching because our daughters urged us to see the great new show all of their friends were into. "You'll like it, Mom," my daughter said. "It bridges the gap between the generations." Before long, we moms were hooked as well. We were fascinated by Carrie, Miranda, Samantha, and Charlotte. They wore fabulous clothes and lingerie and were like sexually active Barbies, with brains and wit. They were best friends - family - who never competed for a guy. They talked so freely and frankly about sex that I couldn't imagine watching the show with my teenager, as many of my friends did.

After the series ended in 2004, I caught the occasional rerun. Eventually, I lost interest in the show - until my marriage ended two years ago. Unbeknown to me, friends who were going through breakups, or who had lost a spouse, were back watching SATC, just as I was. It was our bedtime story, the comic relief we needed to get through that tough time between about 9 p.m. and slumber.

Some of us were also starting to date. Clueless about how to go about it, as we hadn't dated in decades, we used SATC as a refresher course. My daughter's generation needed SATC to show them the way; mine needed it to show us the way back. My friends and I learned many lessons. From Samantha, we learned how to talk about sex. Carrie taught us never to forget who we are. From all of our SATC heroines, we learned not to take the ups and downs of dating too seriously. We learned that if you're looking for that can't-live-without- you kind of love, you'll find it, no matter how lonely you may feel tonight.

The refresher course is working, though I haven't met a straight man yet who loves SATC the way women do. That's because SATC isn't really a show about love and sex and looking for a guy, which men would probably like. It's really a show about female friendship and how important that is whether you're single or have found your Mr. Big. It's why women identify so strongly with SATC and its characters and even wear T-shirts that say "I'm a Carrie," "I'm a Charlotte." It's why we find Sarah Jessica Parker appealing, while most men don't. She's the perfect friend who's always there for you.

I'm looking forward to seeing the movie. The last time we saw Carrie and friends, they were all in happy relationships with men who seemed good for them. I'm hoping it lasts, for their sake and mine.

Marianne Jacobbi lives in Cambridge.

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