“Sex and the City” A Microcosm of Real Life?

Today on “Catholic Connection,” Teresa Tomeo was discussing “Sex and the City,” the new movie based on the hit television series starring Sarah-Jessica Parker and company.

Teresa mentioned a study that was conducted on young women (not yet married) about how “Sex and the City” influenced their own dating life. Perhaps predictably, the effect overall was a negative one … and some felt that it glamorized the ultra-feminist perspective that “a gal should be free to ‘have fun’ and do everything [including bed-hop] a man can do.”

The thing is (having watched the show a time or two myself), I can recall several story lines in the show that would suggest that this is not a case that even the author of the series has been able to pull off convincingly:

* Carrie (SJ Parker’s character) gets her heart broken NUMEROUS times with her compulsion to secure the lasting affection of her favorite “Bad Boy” (Mr. Big). Although judging from the movie trailers she does manage to get her man in the end … what lasting happiness can she expect to find with a serial philanderer whose previous marriage she was largely responsible for ending — and who drove away the one man (Aiden) who was clearly far better suited to marriage and family? The Parker character is not a strong, confident, centered individual who wins Mr. Right after a careful evaluation of his suitability as a life partner; her heart is a tatter of scar tissue, held together by an obsessive fear of winding up alone.

* Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), a strong corporate lawyer whose career is derailed when she becomes impregnated by her on-again, off-again lover Steve (David Eigenberg), chooses life for her son Brady (yeah!) … and (give or take a few bedhops as the child is passed back and forth like so much baggage) finally winds up with Steve and his crazy mother. In Brooklyn (which appears to be a Manhattan career gal’s version of purgatory). The thing is, the live-in housekeeper, weekend brunching in the city with the girls, fabulous house, overly accommodating boyfriend/husband, etc etc. is so far removed from the life of most single mothers’ experience, I find her storyline more than a little implausible. And irritating.

* Charlotte (Kristin Davis), obstensibly the most “traditional” character looking to secure a husband and family. And yet she, too, is a fragile soul. Her first marriage to a well-monied doctor dissolves when her baby obsession wears holes in her marriage big enough to drive a triple stroller through (a story line that provides food for though for those of us who yearn for a child). Weeks after her divorce, she converts to Judaism to snag Harry (who initially repulses her because of his back hair and eating habits), husband #2, and like everything else, she dives into the trappings of her new faith, braiding challah and making matzo balls with gusto … but with little thought to the God behind it all. Finally, she and Harry adopt a little girl from China.

* Samantha (Kim Cattrall) is the uber-feminist with the most “manly” (from the feminist perspective) appetites. And yet, you don’t have to watch more than an episode or two to see how guarded, broken, and desperately lonely her heart is. She keeps up with the “men” she beds … by sacrificing everything that makes her most womanly. It takes a bout with breast cancer to wake her up and make her evaluate her life with her boy-toy “Smith.” Sure, he shaves his head in solidarity when she loses her locks to chemo … but will he still be around twenty years from now, when she’s well into her sixties and Charlotte’s daughter is back from college?

I’m not suggesting that we should all run out and see the movie … frankly, I’ve already seen more than enough of these four women to realize how much the young women around us NEED the friendship of women like us (instead of talking amongst themselves). Women who have navigated the relational minefields and are working to build a stable, secure family despite our many mistakes.

On the other hand, these story lines do raise questions that young women do well to consider, if only in their own hearts: Are their own dating habits, acquired over decades of “no strings” encounters, going to mellow into, in the words of Sam’s friend Carrie, “… ridiculous, inconvenient, consuming, can’t live without it love”? Love that keeps the husband gazing warmly at his wife’s photo on his desk instead of the perky new secretary’s caboose? Love that trusts (with good reason) when an “old friend” blows into town for a week? Love that perseveres when one or both lose that six-figure income and they need to start paying for college and/or a triple bypass?

Now, the fact that I am a happily married woman with two children, in some circles, disqualifies me to ask these questions … They are dismissed as the prejudicial rantings of a smug and sexually straight-laced religious fanatic. It doesn’t matter that I was thirty-five, with my own share of heart scars and regrets, when I married (having moved across the country at least partly to escape the toxic tango with my own “Mr. Big”). It doesn’t matter that I actually know enough about SATC from having WATCHED it that I can point out these tell-tale story lines that (let’s just say it) were not of MY making. I just calls them as I sees them.

Some of you may be reading this and mentally (or even physically) be taking me off your blogroll because I am more in touch with the secular culture than any good Catholic should be … or bringing up issues that are totally irrelevant to your lives since you would no more watch SATC than force-feed your family from the compost heap. I understand that … and I freely admit that there are many of you who are much farther along the trail to perfection than I am (and who write primarily for others who are similarly advanced in the spiritual life).

And yet, it is my sincere hope, my earnest prayer, that someone will see themselves in this post and … make a different choice. Because the scars are real, painful, and lasting. How much better to avoid the wound altogether! And how good to know that, even if we make the wrong choice and find ourselves bleeding, we have not necessarily consigned ourselves to a lifetime of damaged relationships.

We can choose again. Make different choices. Smarter choices. Choose to break the toxic relationship patterns. Choose to stop, just stop. Choose to stop dating until our own issues are resolved and we are in a healthy place to start looking for the husband God wants to give us. Choose to stop obsessing about pregnancy, and invest in our marriages as they are RIGHT NOW. Choose not to put a child’s life in jeopardy with IVF experimentation. Choose adoption.

These are real-life choices you will never regret.

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