With television’s new summer season beginning this week, I can’t help but long for the season premiere of Sex and the City as it would usually begin on the first or second Sunday in June. Having ended in February 2004, that too was the last year I lived in the city, and I must admit, I become a bit homesick for both of them – stylish, life-loving woman and a city to dream in.
Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte will continue to be in the lexicon of television royalty and for good reason. While the HBO series was a phenomenal success – addressing taboo topics, revealing female conversations about sex and relationships, as well as showing the strength of female friendships, the movies as well had their good points (although many argue there were more drawbacks, than high points, I still enjoy watching each of the movies from time to time).
Needless to say, there is a reason so many of us keep watching the re-runs. There is a reason a new generation is also falling in love with these four women. And for each person, the reasons may be slightly different, but today I’d like to share the dating, fashion and life lessons that I learned while watching (and re-watching) this beloved sitcom.
1. Let him chase you. A woman who is in love with the life she has created for herself exudes a healthy self-confidence and is curious about getting to know people, yet doesn’t exude any neediness. These qualities or lack-thereof are very attractive. As I spoke about in a previous post, while women have the approval from society to take the reins in the dating department, letting him chase you, letting him convince you that he genuinely wants to get to know you, will result in less heartache. After all, if a man knows he can have you, you aren’t exactly projecting the image of being his “someone special”. Respect yourself enough to know that you are worth the chase, and if he doesn’t want to chase you, you don’t want him in your life.
2. Redefining sexy. While the show empowered women in many ways, many viewers I feel misinterpreted the intention regarding sex. As Vivienne Westwood defines sexy, “It is about looking powerful and important,” not easy or out of control. All four women, each in their own way, took control of their lives (which included their sex lives), and took responsibility for them as well. While not every scenario was something we could relate too or want to involve ourselves in, we have to remember this was a show being broadcast on HBO, and they needed to attract attention – thus sex (and lots of it) for ratings. The underlying message though is something not to miss. Women and men are sexual creatures, but it is in the respect for oneself where the balance resides.
3. Slow down. While it can feel like an emotional roller coaster of ecstasy at the beginning of the relationship that you never want to take a break from because it feels surreal, slow down. Don’t jump into a pattern of seeing each other every day when you’ve only just met. Always keep in mind that while you may believe you are thinking rationally, your emotions are in a state of euphoria, and it is best to take it slow in order to build a relationship that will last or determine whether the relationship should last. In other words, “moving too fast, too soon usually only causes the spark to extinguish faster.”
4. Find your equal. As my mother says, you deserve to have a partner, not a project. In other words, you want an adult and more specifically, you want to be with someone who has more similarities with you than differences, a similar drive and passion for life, a similar respect for how the relationship should be handled. And most importantly, you both need to be people who are secure within themselves. While you don’t have to have the same level of education (i.e. Miranda and Steve), to some degree (pun not intended), this can reveal similar ambitions, but there are always exceptions.
5. Heed the red flags. Sometimes a relationship is not meant to work out, even though we believe there is potential. For example, when Carrie’s high school sweetheart returns to visit her, and she later learns he was in town because he had voluntarily checked himself into a Connecticut mental health facility. This is a red flag. Another subtle red flag occurred with Birger in the bedroom. If you have to work too hard in the beginning, this may be a sign to get out before you get in too deep.
6. Know your deal breakers. The first time Carrie called it quits with Big, she refused to be involved any longer with someone who couldn’t be emotional intimate. This is a wonderful example of a deal breaker where she stood her ground whether he understood it or not. By knowing what your deal breakers are, you establish self-respect, and that is the foundation for a sound self-confidence and the likelihood that you will be respected for your stance in a future relationships because you are clear about what you can and can’t live without.
7. Consider your friends’ intuition. While you and only you know when something feels right, sometimes a good friend may see something that you are unable to see due to your rose-colored-glasses vision. This doesn’t mean you have to abide by their every opinion, but at least take it into consideration. Miranda spoke up to Carrie when she was willing to give her job up to move to Paris with Aleksandr Petrovsky, and in the end, she knew what she was talking about.
8. Find somebody who is ready to be in a relationship. Timing has a lot to do with the success of a relationship. If one person is ready to settle into something serious while the other simply wants a partner to be at their side while they continue with their busy social life with friends without putting the relationship first, the relationship doesn’t stand a very good chance of going the distance. Carrie constantly had this struggle with Big not being ready to be in a relationship with her, and with Aiden the situation was reversed. Compatibility certainly plays a large role, but so does timing.
9. Be able to laugh with each other. Charlotte and Harry embody this lesson quite well. So well in fact, that I came to regard them as the most enjoyable couple to watch by the end of the series. They thoroughly enjoyed one another’s company, all the while respecting each others’ eccentricities and individual quirks because they sincerely adored each other.
1. Know your signature style. Each woman had their own style. Charlotte – a very classic and uptown girl, Miranda – quite professional, yet with a bit of a twist, Miranda – trendy, costume jewelry and colorful, and Carrie’s – unique, but a clear understanding of how to mix trends with classics and was comfortable taking risks that worked with her figure.
2. Have fun with fashion. Patricia Field, the head-stylist for Sex and the City, quickly acquired, due to the growing success of the show, all sorts of designer wares to choose from. Having so many choices, she was able to play and dive into what fashion is all about – self-expression. As mentioned in #1, each character had a signature style, but she stretched it ever-so-slightly each season. Fashion should be fun, as it is an extension of who we are, but at the same time, it is just fabric and you can wear something different tomorrow.
3. Mix and match. In the first movie, Carrie wears a black studded belt that Patricia Fields shares was a vintage find. Carrie wears it so many different times in the movie that she allegedly named it ‘Roger’. Paired with dresses and coats, this simple item is the perfect example of mixing high items with low items, new and old items, and feminine items with masculine items. In other words, mix it up.
4. Accentuate your strengths. Charlotte had the classic pear shaped figure, and she styled her curves sublimely. There were many outfits that Carrie wore that had Charlotte worn the exact same thing, it would not have been flattering. However, Charlotte owned what she had, and I have to say, her classic style always impressed.
5. The thirties and beyond can be even better. The ladies in SATC demonstrated that beauty and better quality of life can in fact increase as we age. By taking care of ourselves, respecting our bodies and skin, we grow into the beauty and potential that is possible if we treat ourselves well.
6. Play with trends, but don’t let them define your style. Each season runway trends were seen in Carrie’s wardrobe, but she never fell prey to wearing them exactly as they appeared on the runway. Patricia Fields always played them up or down with accessories, layers, or a unique up-do, but never did the trend overshadow the woman.
7. Invest in your retirement/home/savings/etc before purchasing a pair of Manolo Blahniks. Very few women will forget the episode where Carrie utters, “I will literally be the old woman who lived in her shoes.” Certainly the obvious lesson is to put your future, your security, first - then go shopping.
1. Don’t live to please or find a man. Each of the four women were loved by the audience because they were unique individuals. More than likely you can relate in some way to at least one of these characters (Carrie’s emotions, Miranda’s determination, Charlotte’s romanticism, Samantha’s risk-taking gumption). But the lesson throughout the entire series and throughout the movies is that they didn’t lose their sense of self even when they were involved with men.
Always keep the hobbies you love, the friends you cherish and the dreams you still long for alive because if a man simply wants a puzzle piece, he’s not going to truly love you for how special you really are. Let them get to know you, gradually, but truthfully, and eventually, you will find someone who you adore for who they are (quirks and all), and visa versa. Live for your dreams and the woman you is continually growing and evolving.
2. Nurture and be appreciative of your female friendships. The series, at its core, was one about the relationships between these four women. Without their chemistry, loyalty (and the paycheck to keep them on the set), there would be a huge chasm. Their bond gave them strength, a boost during the tough times that life inevitably will throw at us all at one time or another and someone who allowed them each to be who they were honestly and authentically.
3. Let go of those who don’t want to be in your life or respect who you really are. A la Aleksandr Petrovsky.
4. Financially, be able to take care of yourself. While Carrie’s ability to shop on the budget of a freelance writer was a bit of a fantasy, the one thing all four of the women had were careers. Each woman was able to take care of themselves financially. Follow their lead.
5. We can plan, but that doesn’t mean it will go as planned. Miranda’s rigid boundaries nearly prevented the relationship with Steve and an eventual move to Brooklyn, but when both occurred, her life unfolded in beautiful ways she hadn’t imagined. While we must always plan, we must also be willing to swerve a bit along the way.
6. Embrace your singleness
"The most exciting, challenging, and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself," she said. "And if you find someone to love the you you love, well, that's just fabulous." – Carrie Bradshaw
7. Know when to hang on to the right man. While the movies where a bit fairy-taleish, they both demonstrated that as we get older, relationships only become more emotionally involved because we are no longer dating wildly inappropriate people. We do begin to make better decisions, as long as we are conscious about the mistakes we have made in the past. But there will come a time when we find someone who is perfect for us (if indeed that is what we’re looking for), someone who makes life all the more full. Because wherever you are together, it’s home, and that is beautiful.
“It wasn’t about . . . choosing a man or choosing a bag or choosing a life. It was about, choose yourself.” -Michael Patrick King
As the promotion for the second film was making its rounds, the writer of the script and series, Michael Patrick King, shared this statement with Elle, and I have been convinced that self-respect breeds self-confidence breeds the life of our dreams, whether it goes according to plan or not.
Well, those are a handful of the many lessons Sex and the City taught me. I’d love to hear what lessons you have incorporated into your life as a fan of the series and the movies. And since there won’t be any more premieres of this beloved show, here’s to writing and starring in our very own fabulously stylish and uniquely lived lives every single day.