Sex and The City Ruined My Life
Updated: Jul 29
Like many of you, since the beginning of lockdown I’ve had the pleasure (and occasional displeasure) of watching a lot of TV. Up until the pandemic I had always been behind on bingeable television, so in many ways all of this extra time on my hands has been a much welcome way to catch up on all I’ve been missing out on (you know, when I was busy living in the real world). One thing is for sure though, once this pandemic is over my screen time will be happening solely at the cinema...
To showcase the gravitas of my binge-watching, below is quick list of the shows I actually remember streaming since March 2020:
Year of The Rabbit
Interior Design Masters
Call My Agent
Next in Fashion
This Way Up
Dead to Me
Curb Your Enthusiasm
I Hate Suzie
Amongst all of these programmes I have also rewatched every single episode of Sex and The City, plus the films, plus a follow up documentary that aired in 2004. As I rewatched the series, I couldn’t help but wonder, did Sex and The City ruin my life?
I can’t really remember when I first became acquainted with the show, I was a child when it came out. I do recall hearing the name of it though, and thinking it was brilliant (despite being all of 7 years old). I remember my mother being suitably shocked at the name too “...soo slutty…” as so many 90s housewives were (I think more than anything because the premise of the show threatened their way of life). In any case, I assume I probably started watching SATC when I left home at age 17. Since then I’ve seen every single episode at least thrice!
In re-experiencing it this year I have been reminded of all the false expectations it gave gals like me when we watched it for the first time. There are the obvious things; fab, rent-controlled apartments in Manhattan being easy to come by, newspaper columns taking one evening and a cup of coffee as sustenance to write (and result in a salary which would subsequently enable you to maintain a designer shoe habit), and meeting gorgeous and available millionaire suitors who are tricky but will spoil you constantly and marry you in the end. All of this completely aspirational, seemingly attainable, and a load of bullshit.
Then there are the other, very problematic things it set us up to believe. Credit card debt is glamorous, sleeping with numerous idiots who don't give a toss about you will make you feel empowered, alcohol is the answer as long as it’s in cocktail form, and that you can act like a “See you next Tuesday” and your friends will always come to your aid whenever you feel you need them (I’m talking about you, Carrie).
Carrie, not a great friend after all.
When I began watching the show I was a typical combination of young, impressionable, ambitious and clueless. I looked to these women on TV - slim, fabulous, taking on the big city in chic clothes, taking on grand and much sought after careers, and taking on lots of gorgeous men - and thinking I want that. In their world it all seemed so possible, that you could hardly work and buy designer clothing constantly, that you could shag around and in that eventually find the ideal husband, that you could spend money you didn't have on shoes you didn't need and there would never be any consequences.
The closest I came to living this way were my single years in London and Sydney. Now a few things I did were aligned with the SATC formula. In London I dated and shagged and dated. However most of those dates were set at local pubs with bearded East-London boys, certainly not with bankers in chic cocktail bars. Often these encounters made me feel confused and exhausted and bored. “What the hell, I’m living in London, dating life should be fabulous!” In Sydney I had a rent controlled apartment in the inner-city, which was terribly cute on the surface but in reality, a complete shoebox infested with cockroaches and came with a peeping-Tom neighbour. How did I feel during these times? What I felt was a constant mix of empowerment and independence, paired with stress, dread and loneliness. More than anything I felt lost. This was not the life I was sold?? I was also bloody broke, despite the cheap rent, and constantly stressed about dosh, as well as being kind of ashamed about my humble dwellings (even though in hindsight I shouldn't have been).
I think this is a common feeling for any young person, and of course you need to experience different modes of life in order to appreciate your eventual, more grown up life. But what Sex and The City did was make those sorts of pursuits appear seemingly easy to grasp, as well as appear much more enjoyable and glamorous than they actually are. It turns out that not really having a job usually doesn’t result in a designer wardrobe. The same way sleeping with a string of idiotic, rather vain men, does not fulfil your deepest romantic needs and desires. And one thing is for certain, writing is not a lucrative way to make money!
Writing is a rather impossible way to fund a Manolo Blahnik addiction.
Now I have let go of the SATC fantasy somewhat. Whilst I do feel like much more of a boring-bitch, living sensibly with a gorgeous, stable man, in the inner part of a more sensible city, Melbourne, I am a tonne happier. I still think my life is semi-aspirational, partly because I can actually afford some designer clothing now (well, when it’s on sale). But above all I am much more content with my current reality, and my aspirations are much more within reach. In that I also have the freedom to focus my mind on things that require a bit more grit - like starting my vintage clothing business during an international pandemic and recession.
Now I hope I don’t sound preachy; I am not saying you should tell Sex and The City to bugger off, move to Melbs and date a Tasmanian, then you'll be happy too. What I’m saying is once you realise how much bullshit shows like SATC shoved into our young minds, let go of that, and proceed to follow the positive things that land in your lap somehow, you will become happier and much more yourself. Another thing I'll add is that single life is just as fabulous as being partnered. If you happen to be flying solo at present, just make sure you live on your own terms and in your own unique way (single life is also a lot better than living with a shit relationship!).
There are many other problems with SATC, and certainly a list of “un-woke” things they did at the time, being the 90s and all. But it has ruined my life in that it set me up to think doing certain bad and irresponsible things would enable me to have a fabulous and effortless existence. I won’t go into it now but one of the most personally irresponsible and outrageous nights out I’ve ever had was after spending a bloody boozy day on a Sex and The City bus tour in New York City, only to end up vomiting in front of a beloved celebrity later that night - oh dear!
SATC, not very woke. But we will forgive them as we must do with most things that occurred on TV in the 90s.
There have been many articles and “breakdowns” of how unachievable the life of Carrie Bradshaw is to emulate, more so in this post GFC, and now Covid19 crisis atmosphere. There are some articles that literally figure out her cost of her living vs her likely salary. Now don’t read things like that unless you want to get really depressed!
I say all of this partly in jest, because the show has been with me throughout tough times too (including now, may I add). Firstly, politics and false expectations aside, I live for the fashion on that show, and you know you do too. Much more importantly I re-watched all of the episodes during the first “lockdown” of my life, when I spent six months recovering from a serious injury and having extensive spinal surgery as a result. In this I was horizontal for half a year, living in my parents' particularly dowdy spare room, and on painkillers so strong I could hardly focus my eyes enough to read a book. In many ways the fun and frivolity of Sex and The City pulled me out from that dreadful period of misery, pain and utter boredom.
The cultural obsession with Sex and The City still reigns supreme. Even though we’re privy to “The Golden Age of Television” sometimes a fabulous little episode of SATC is all you need to unwind. To me hearing that instantly recognisable theme-song is like a tonic. Now there’s also the popularity of SATC memes and dedicated Instagram pages. Right now what people want is pure escapism. Plus, who wants to see realism set post 2008? No thank you, darling.
To wrap up I will finish with some poignant observations from my boyfriend, who had the privilege of watching the odd episode with me this year, and who’d never seen Sex and The City until he met me:
“I want to see a remake of this for Mr Big’s point of view.”
“Shopping isn’t a personality trait.” - on their lifestyle
“I now understand you more and less…”
All imagery was sourced via Flickr. This is an opinion piece and meant for entertainment only. Follow me on Instagram here.