When I finally decided to watch Sex and the City for the first time at 40, I couldn't help but wonder, "Why has it taken me this long to watch this show?" Granted, I was 15 when the HBO show first premiered back in 1998 and didn't know a thing about sex or a city. I was just a teenage virgin living in a boring Canadian suburb.
Still, I was hooked on pop culture like it was some sort of IV running through my veins, which explains why I begged my parents to buy me the VHS set of the first two seasons (because, in Canada, we didn't have the American cable network). I didn't have the faintest idea what the show was about, but like everyone else at the time, I was mesmerized by these fashionable women and even more mesmerized by what it would be like to live in New York City.
Surprisingly, my parents agreed to my pleas and gifted me the box set as a Christmas present (I think if they knew what actually went on the show, they probably would've balked, given the fact they forbade me to watch The Golden Girls due to all the "sex talk"). Of course, the sex talk of Blanche, Rose, Dorothy, and Sophia was a cheesecake walk compared to the sex talk of Samantha, Charlotte, Miranda, and Carrie. Everything went over my head. Was this really like real life? Do men act like this? Was this what it meant to be a thirtysomething single woman? I had no clue, so I stopped watching. I didn't get it.
Even after I moved to New York City myself and started to have sex, I didn't watch the show. Sure, I knew bits and pieces of it. I knew Carrie and Big were off and on. I knew Aidan deserved better (even though I didn't know why). I knew Samantha was the "wild" one of the group who would try anything once in bed. I knew Miranda was the serious one, and Charlotte was the romantic one. I knew the basics enough to understand a conversation at a cocktail party, and that was enough.
Over time, I came to think of it like Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones — just another juggernaut series I'd missed out on and would pretend otherwise. That is, until I finally sat down for one week over Christmas break, a few days after I turned 40, and said to myself: "I'm finally going to watch Sex and the City. I think it's time." And it was.
Timing Is Everything
There isn't a better age to fully appreciate a show about single women in their mid-30s and 40s than to watch it as a single woman in her mid-30s or 40s. I know the show is beloved by younger women — after all, the quotes are quotable, the fashion is Instagrammable — but it hits differently when you're actually the same age as the fashionable four.
I didn't have to try to relate or imagine what life might be like for the SATC gals because, despite the many online quizzes that say I am Carrie (probably because I'm a freelance writer who likes a bad boy, too, but without the shoe budget), I could easily be any one of the women.
I've experienced, and continue to experience, what they're searching for and grappling with when it comes to finding love and connection at a certain age as a woman. Miranda's frustration over society dictating whether her career is more important than her personal life is warranted. Carrie's off-and-on relationship with Big — wanting the man who can't commit — is relatable. Charlotte's anxiety over finding the right partner to have a family with, and then not being able to have it, is real. Samantha's fiery independence to live her life on her terms is enviable.
It’s Not Perfect, But It Resonates
Although not everything about Sex and the City has aged well, the issues that Carrie and the gang face when it comes to self-worth, love, sex, and friendships continue to resonate decades later.
Questions like: Is motherhood the goal or an obstacle to fulfillment? Is there such a thing as finding The One or finding anyone? Do women become less valuable and attractive as they age? Can a woman be as happy and sexually satisfied as a man if she's single? What happens to our friendships as we get older? Is being single really a case worse than death? Does Big deserve to be forgiven time and time again?
These questions are ones I continue to ask myself, although I kind of think Big should've fought a little harder for Carrie (or even gotten the old heave-ho). On one hand, flying to Paris to confess his love was indeed huge BDE. Would we expect anything less from one of the OG fuckboys? But does that one move erase all the sh*t he put her through? I don't know. Let me get back to you as I figure out my own sh*t with my ex of two decades.
We’ve All Got Stuff To Unpack
Because that's the thing: We all have our own sh*t to deal with. Yes, the characters have their flaws: Carrie's selfish, Samantha's self-indulgent, Miranda's judgmental, and Charlotte's naive. So what, though? I can be all those things too, and so can my amazing friends. I find it refreshing to see female characters that aren't always nice and tidy. Women can be messy, and that doesn't make them irredeemable or unlikeable. It makes them human.
Reflecting back on the show and my previous wonderings as a teen, I can finally answer those questions. Was SATC really like real life? Yes, except for Carrie's shoe budget as a freelance writer. Do men act like this? Yes, sometimes you get a caring sharpshooter like Steve, and sometimes you get a confusing and complicated man like Big. Do I think Aidan deserved better? Yes, yes, I do. Was this what it meant to be a thirtysomething single woman? Yep.
But as Carrie famously says, "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 [that] you love, well, that just's fabulous."