me, myself, and Carrie Bradshaw

My personal love affair with a fictional icon

Her name has become synonymous with style and the chic, single-girl lifestyle. She represents the new woman’s funny, sharp, likable everygirl. She’s Carrie Bradshaw, possibly one of the most influential fictional characters to ever influence a generation. Sex and the City played a huge role in revolutionizing the way America views single women; presenting the idea that we do not have to be programmed primarily to achieve the cookie-cutter life targets we’ve been told we should reach for so long (marriage, house, baby, etc). Instead, the bachelorette cherishes single life, independence and freedom. The major storylines in the show, however, do center on not whether or not the characters do in fact marry, have children, or even serious relationships, but how they do it–without losing their sense of self. Being single is not the key, a sense of self is, and Carrie Bradshaw leads the way.

Along with many other women around the world, I have always identified with Carrie. She’s all about opening your heart and your mind at the same time. She’s witty, she’s sharp, she’s sexy–but all in a very accessible, believable way. Mine and Carrie’s “storylines” have coincided as I have watched and re-watched the show and begun to experience my single life as a young woman. While I’m not near my thirties yet, I still feel the inevitable pull from older influences–and society in general–to “settle down,” whatever that means. For Carrie and I, marriage and “happily ever after” is not the be-all, end-all in life. And just like Carrie, I’m a career-focused girl but not necessarily as schooled or as driven as the other three women on the show.

I feel akin to Carrie in many ways. She smokes and drinks and has had a fair helping of casual dating and one-night-stands, but at the end of the day, she’s an old-fashioned girl. She believes in the One, she believes in romance, and most of all, she believes in love. She’s sentimental and reflective. All women are complex, but I relate to Carrie a lot in this way too–her needs and feelings are often conflicted and result in charged and sometimes difficult relationships with men. She’s had to know when to walk away, and it’s bittersweet; especially in her second breakup with Aidan, whom she truly loved and respected, but it just didn’t work, and she couldn’t be what he wanted her to be. It’s never easy to strike a balance. Not just anyone will do. Mischiko Kakutani accused Carrie of “disposing” of men when she reviewed her book in Season Five; I’ve had many of my older friends and colleagues say the same thing to me. But I digress: When searching for a soulmate, one can never be too picky. And so continues the endless search. Carrie was looking for love, real love. “Ridiculous, consuming, can’t live without each other love.” And she found it, as we all hoped and predicted–in Mr. Big.

It’s easy to make a sweeping judgment of the carefree single girl–Carrie and myself included–and throw out terms like “promiscuous” and the like. Aside from the ludicrous societal double-standard, I like to believe that I’ve maintained a moral compass. You can’t look back, you can only learn. Carrie is flawed. I am flawed. We trip over things, we can’t (don’t?) cook, have messy apartments and high credit card bills due to an unshakable shopping addiction. But she’s real–still fictional–but that’s what makes the show so amazing. The writers really, really made Carrie real and relatable to all of us. We can look at her and say: “I’m her.”

maps

If you live in a small, generally unglamorous, unsophisticated city in New Hampshire like I do, you’ll soon discover that it takes a certain amount of distance to find a suitable male counterpart. The first time is always with a certain amount of trepidation; me clutching a crumpled map and my steering wheel in the same sweaty palm. I used to have contingency plans with girlfriends when I planned to meet strange men from the Internet, but not anymore. I suppose if one of my future dates were to machete me to death on the way to apres-dinner coffee, no one would be the wiser. It could be days before someone went back to my apartment, finding it just the way I left it–probably with a stack of dirty dishes and vetoed outfits strewn about the (tiny) bedroom.

I used to save the maps and directions to boy’s apartments, printed from Mapquest.com. I don’t anymore. It’s only the first time that I need a map, anyway–but in the past, I’ve tucked them in the pocket behind my passengers seat. In one instance I found it (ritualistically cleaning my car) days after a fresh breakup and it was, as reminder can be–bittersweet. The best piece of advice is to refrain from retaining physical tokens of the men you date. (I have a startling amount of toothbrushes I use to scour my bathtub…) If you become serious with someone, gifts may become inevitable (but mostly not) and flowers mercifully die within a week and even the nicest guys seldom bring flowers. So basically, you’re all good.

Back to me, clutching the map. Long stretches of dark pavement are excellent for clearing the mind. And you really don’t know where you’ll wind up. Lost, delirious, entertained, in the arms of someone novel and fantastic. It’s anyone’s guess. And drive carefully. But you should probably throw out those maps.