I believed those were our sweetest spots: "Is it smarter to follow your heart or your head?" "Is hope a drug we need to go off of, or does it keep us alive?" Our sweetest spots weren't what we'd suspected (animals wanting their bellies scratched, or food), they were what we'd hoped (a drug that keeps us alive).
And then; we could eat our cookies.
And, in Michigan, alone at night-time when I'd feel like an alien accidentally born on the wrong planet, I'd watch this show called Sex and the City on DVD and I'd write in my journal: ONE DAY YOUR LIFE WILL BE FAR MORE FABULOUS THAN THIS. I'd cut out magazine pictures of women in powersuits and paste them into my journal and draw pictures with colored pencils. A boy would call and I'd glance benevolently at his name on the ID and sigh at how silly and small he was compared to this city. He was insignificant and mean, I was clompity-clomp and mean, he'd eat my dust like an expensive bon-bon and it would taste like my mouth and then I'd bite his hand.
I saw the sex. I saw the city which got dark and dirty at night -- teeeming with prostitutes and puddles and heartbreak and shoe-break. I saw these things only -- the way the word "brunch" sounds like "french," like french kissing, or french toast. I heard other sounds too; women laughing, the self-assured lilt of Samantha's unapologetic lust, full of pride and self-reliance and hunger. I heard Charlotte's lips twisting in prudish neurotic adorable Charlottehood. I felt Miranda's eyes rolling far far away and then reluctantly returning to the table like someone who'd just eaten your fourtune without reading it and then offered you a really good book in exchange.
I heard Miranda; "We're four smart women with jobs and men is all we can talk about? It's like seventh grade with bank accounts." I thought; true story. I thought; let's talk about women instead. Let's talk about other kinds of desire, the kind we already understand but maybe don't know what to do with yet. Not these strange games and boundaries, where closets and rings mean more than poetry.
"Carrie" was right about one thing -- it is our mistakes that make our fate. And that's got nothing to do with mistakes and a lot more to do with fate. We've all got the same one, and maybe we come here to escape it. And if we don't come here -- to this immortal city -- it doesn't matter. What we come here for is the same exact feeling that every person everywhere feels through fucking or through drugs or through a car speeding through a clean night or through laughter or the kind of love you can't put on a keychain or in a newspaper or on a blog.
Through the moments when stars looked like bright lights, big cities. Through silence. We came here 'cause we wanted it double, which means paying double too.
Here, here, here, this city. Its lights and garish billboards of women selling shampoo like shampoo is secretly a blow job from a girl made out of candy and colors. Women selling underwear like underwear is sex or a city or sex in a city or women on magazine covers, the sides of busses, is women still making less than men but fighting just the same. Is women made immortal by the ambivalent wave of an airbrush, like photographs are magicians and women are bunnies with their ears pert and open. And also by the dirty things women don't talk about, by the compromises.
This is New York City: sex isn't always a soundbyte, isn't how Samantha comes like she's warning the neighborhood. Sex is not always brunch or french.
Sex is not always coloring though sometimes it is. Sometimes it's like the colorful dresses the girls wore in the movie and the show that I liked when I used to have dreams like balloons that kept getting bigger as long as you remained willing to blow.
Sometimes sex is like touching someone's skin with your fingertip and feeling that you've accidentally split their lungs right open and then saying "It's okay, I can teach you how to breathe." It's saying, "trust me," and then leading them underground with one finger latched into their finger and a darkness only you understand.
It's saying "look me in the eyes and tell me how much you like me," and then crawling inside of that feeling like it's a swimming pool you can sleep in without drowning. You can just dream and kiss forever after all.
Is like hitting someone in the face, or just wanting to.
And sometimes sex is a strong hand on the back of your skull, is a moment when you close your eyes and think about ponies and pudding and the sound of your best friend laughing and licking frosting off the spoon while your mother makes cake and you are small and far away. It's thinking these things until it's over and you're still gasping for air and then later, alone in Manhattan at night, walking towards wheels to take you home, you'll hold a cigarette tenderly to your lips to remind yourself that sometimes you can choose the kind of death you let inside you. It's how easily smoke covers his smell and every smell you've ever smelled.
It's the relief of a night where no one gives a shit, where you could drown in a puddle or a pool of pudding.
And the city ?
Is work. Is women working their assess off as if we never took back any kind of night. Is everything that happened after the year 2000 when we realized actually none of us had the right to vote. The city is women working in big, hulking, angry buildings that raise triumphant and phallic into the sky. Is women winning and losing and giving up and leaving and winning and auto-winning some.
Is Samantha in Richard's office, determined to get the account. Is Miranda. Is everything about Miranda until the movie. Is the episode when all four women admit they've been taking care of themselves for a long time, and they aren't really necessarily ready to let someone else take that part over. The film at times felt like women begging for someone else to take over, clinging to prior independence like an illness they couldn't shake. Not 'cause they were tired -- which I fully understand-- but because it just wasn't so important, not as important as keychains and purses.
In the finale, I cried when Big said; "You three are the real loves of her life." Did you? And I wanted a moment in the movie like that. Some were close -- the girls shuffling Carrie into the car outside the library (I'm trying to refrain from spoilers) -- but I wanted one step closer. Clickity-clack, and how do they feel about Carrie's book? How's she doing?
I came here expecting that kind of life and it hasn't been that way at all -- not even for one minute. I came here expecting lessons and shiny shoes and the colors. Tutus. Pillows like apologies and/or hugs and a world where women could have their cake and make it, too. Men like tiny snacks on little pieces of bread. Clackity-clack go the women on the street. Typity-type on the computer.
I'd never understood why people got upset that TV characters had unrealistically large Manhattan apartments, like Rachel Green in Friends. It's teevee, I thought, who cares? It isn't real, we all know that. Who cares?
I guess ... I did. I cared. I believed in Sex and the City.
And watching the film, I couldn't help but wonder ... how, exactly, does Carrie manage to write about her sex life in a weekly column and regularly publish mysteriously profitable books while managing to avoid that occupation's two elemental repercussions:
1) conflict over writing intimately about the lives of her friends, lovers, and friend's lovers.
2) financial struggles.
The L Word unquestionably cloaks characters in Free City, but it's easier to swallow Shane's $200 t-shirts than Carrie's shoes 'cause we literally see Carrie shop. It's part of her character. She cabs, she brunches, and -- most enviable of all --- lives alone in a nice neighborhood in Manhattan while putting in approximately two hours of work per week.
I came here expecting that but with no real “plan” for obtaining it. I wanted movie magic. Did Carrie have a plan? Did you?
The only part of a wedding I ever got excited over was picking bridesmaids, and thinking about a dress I could wear that'd piss everyone off besides whatever woman had agreed to marry me, and that woman would think the dress was sexy.
What happened when she'd put out three books divulging all her personal failures, put it out there for everyone, and was still the only one without a savings account? Did anyone care that she wrote about them? Did Gawker cover the Vogue fallout? How, how, how ... I wanted to see Carrie's plan, the overlap of the personal and the professional. Her body, her self.
"So here I was, a 35-year-old single woman with no financial security, but many life experiences behind me. Did that mean nothing? After all, heartbreak and breakups are the hardest kind of work. So shouldn't there be some sort of credit for enduring them? And if not, how do you retain a sense of value when you have nothing concrete to show for it? Because at the end of yet another failed relationship, when all you have are war wounds and self-doubt, you have to wonder, what's it all worth?"
-Carrie Bradshaw, episode 64, "Ring a Ding Ding"
[Howevs -- she has $40,000 of shoes. In the Book of Riese, ebay gold star seller, those be some assets, SRSLY.]
I came here wanting experience ... and rewards for experience ... at at times, I've had it!
I've had moments that make me jealous of myself and they all felt like magic and gifts. Almost everything I've gotten here has been through magic and love and things I deem unquestionably real, deserved.
This isn't a good long-term plan 'cause magic comes and goes but 9-to-5 jobs are forever, but luckily I believe very strongly in the moment and try not to think about next week.
As for financial security and white knights ... I guess I was looking for a different kind of rock. For what I loved about the show and loved for those brief, multi-colored moments in the film when the four girls rounded the corner and they could've been twenty or two hundred, what mattered was they had each other and they had themselves. Which matters to me more than any kind of deep deep closet.
We saw the movie on opening night in Chelsea at midnight. A drag queen introduced the movie. I raised my hand when he said "Who's a Miranda?" Miranda didn't believe in jackshit. 50% of the theater -- mostly gay men -- cheered for "Who's a Samantha?"
I was entertained and delighted and sometimes moved to tears. I had to hide under my hoodie a few times when it got too cheesy -- most scenes involving J-Hud, or when our dear Stef, fully wasted, punctuated her favourite moments rock-show-style with a scream and a fist in the air. But I believe in that, too.
I didn't come here expecting to give up men altogether, I didn't come here expecting anything that I got. I may've come here expecting the precise opposite of all this in which case yes, my mistakes did make my fate except I don't believe in fate. I believe in many silly things, but not that.
As for this city and what it's got that I believe in; I believe in love, and I believe in Caitlin and I believe in Alexandra (though they don't live in the city proper, 'cause no one does anymore) and Natalie, and I believe in music and I believe in english muffins and Team Emily and words and books. In art. In everyone who lives here that I love and who will walk down the street with me in Chuck Taylors.
As for that silly movie -- I found Charlotte charming, Samantha oddly bearable, Miranda not pleasant though she's usually my favorite, and Carrie -- I don't know. I liked the fashion show in her closet. I liked the moments that reminded me of 80's movies about cute girls in suburbs who wanted to have fun. I was thoroughly entertained. I didn't like the parts where strong women had nothing else to talk about besides men.
What I love about SATC the show, and what changed my life while I thought I was watching love stories and colors in fabric, was that it challenged my perceptions of the centrality female friendship could hold in one's life. Prior to SATC and TLW, most onscreen female friendships were a series of Brenda and Kelly esque catfights -- competitions over boys or cheerleading squad, etc.
Later that day, I got to thinking about relationships. There are those that split you right open like the heart is just another fruit and those that yank you from your present and drop you mercilessly into the feelings of someone you thought you'd left behind. There's those that remind you of where you were, those that help you get where you're going, those that make you think you've got it all wrong and those that lift a heavy gate revealing something right and full of color. There's those that bring you back. But the most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself. And if you can find someone to love the you you love, well, that's just fabulous.