[Note to my readers: It's clear that I'm going to have to write a book deconstructing "Sex and the City"...]
I knew it. I knew that Carrie would take Big back. And I suppose there was a demand for it—the passion between the two of them was undeniable, and the majority of SEX AND THE CITY fans wanted it that way. The magic of Paris—billed as the romance capital of the world—fueled this desire, leading fans to murmur in their sleep: “If only Big were there in Paris with you…”
But that I knew it was going to go down this way doesn’t stop me from being disappointed. I’ve always seen Carrie and Big as a reverse Scarlett and Rhett (boys, that’s from GONE WITH THE WIND, which was both a book and a movie). As prone to scandal and flexible political loyalties as he was, Rhett loved Scarlett. Soulmates? Certainly. But Scarlett was always too selfish and immature to do anything else but take Rhett’s wealth, presence and support for granted. At the end of the story, Scarlett realizes Rhett has always been her true love, but by then it’s too late. He loves her, but can’t be consumed with hopes that she’ll change, or thoughts of what will happen to her once he leaves. Rhett has done what is right for himself, and removed himself from the dysfunction of his relationship with Scarlett.
It’s not a perfect analogy, but that’s what I wanted from Carrie. To lay down the law: Big needs to prove that he has changed, not by jetting to Paris as the emissary of her friends (which he never reveals), but by actually engaging in a normal relationship, one where the noncommittal hunk actually treats her with (oooh!!) respect and (gasp!!) regard, as well as (aahhh…) romance. Their previous encounters—which, though passionate, amount to mere stolen moments between and during her other relationships—prove him emotionally unstable, a loose cannon, and fundamentally non-intuitive. He’s hurt Carrie more times than any of us can count. What’s changed now?
I’ll admit that what I want for Carrie in her life as a spunky, creative New York writer, is what I want for myself…independence, feistiness, tenacity, perseverance, and a passionate relationship with a soulmate. And it’s clear to anyone with half a brain that neither Alexsandr Petrovsky nor “John Big” (and don’t even get me started on the neutrality of this name) fits this description.
But there are two “characters” who could: her friends and New York City.
The girlfriends are tight. Now. But even in their thirties and forties, they’re just beginning to metamorphose. Brooklyn does not an automatic rift make, but Miranda will become very busy very quickly. Now, cultivating a marriage, tending to her aging mother-in-law, and still trying to work, Miranda will have to prioritize. And there are going to be times—most times—when her girlfriends are going to get the short end of the stick. It’s partly a function of the maturation process, partly a function of “out of sight, out of mind.” It’s happened to me many times. Not that I don’t love my friends with children who live in the suburbs. Some of them are my oldest and most loyal friends. But the plain and simple fact is that a parent’s priority is what is present in their immediate range of vision. Telling children not to touch the stove because it’s hot, meeting with mortgage brokers, and trying to recapture the romance of marriage can sap their energy and consume their time. And then, while they’re drifting off at night, their brains get a reminder email, which they subconsciously and guiltily acknowledge—like pressing the snooze button—promise themselves that they’ll call you tomorrow before submitting to sleep. You’re on their brains. They love you. But they just don’t have the strength to keep in touch.
When Miranda stops calling, I’m betting Samantha won’t notice. She’s got Smith, which—when the writers introduced him—I never imagined would be enough. But he’s been the boy-toy surprise in the Cracker Jack box. He was a hot waiter that ran deep, and Samantha suspected it all along—initially running from it, but eventually, surrendering to it. She’s changed, not so much because of her illness, but because of how Smith reacted to her illness. She’s dedicated to the dyad, in a world apart from everyone else.
Charlotte, for all her sweetness, idealism and innocence, has always struck me as the most self-absorbed. And now, she had baby brain. Not in the pea-sized sense, but in the single-minded, must-have-baby-now sense that I’ve also seen personally. (I will reveal no names.) First, there were Goldenblatt dogs, and now that she and Harry are getting a Goldenblatt baby, Charlotte will become a Miranda, and realize she never really had all that much in common with Samantha, who probably won’t note the distance as a loss.
And when the relationship between the four girls changes, what will Carrie do? She’ll cling ever closer to Big, which will accelerate the velocity of their relationship in one direction or another. And no doubt she’ll pen many a column on her other soulmate, her computer. But if Big leaves, and her computer crashes, what will be her source of strength? (Certainly not her editor, Candice Bergen. Although maybe Sanford. But anyway…)
There has been much ado made about the fact that NYC is the fifth girlfriend in the group, the background against which the four central characters live their lives. Living in NYC informs their career pursuits, their personalities, their survival instincts, their romantic choices.
New York has it all, and conveys the feeling of the endlessly possible. And with the hordes of men and women living in this city, you’d think finding someone to love wouldn’t be so difficult. But it is. The vastness of the endlessly possible can be lonely and overwhelming. This is why, in a place where possibility has no limits, Carrie falls back on the known, the flawed, instead of putting past behind her and heading into a future that, for all its potential, is unknown. She lets her fear limit her. By returning to her male Scarlett, a man who only acknowledges his own needs, she restricts her own potential for happiness.
I try to remember that Carrie’s choice was not as much a choice between Petrovsky and Big, as it was a choice between lifestyles, between the unknown and the safe and familiar. In Paris, she had Petrovsky, who never paid her any attention and was always sticking her in awkward situations with his friends. (Subtract one point.) Plus, she was in France, which meant being the “ugly American” who trips and spills the contents of her purse on the floor of Dior, and, in one of my favorite moments on the final episode, being smacked on the head by a random French child. (Subtract another point. In NYC, she had Big (add or subtract points as you see fit); her friends (add three points); if not her job, then at least her reputation (add one point); and New York City, where she had made her name and her fortune (add one point). In case you’re keeping score, that’s Petrovsky/France=-2 points, Big/NYC=4-5 points (depending on what you think of Big). Correct my math if you want, but in the end, it’s a landslide. Carrie picks New York.
I’m not saying that Carrie should have chosen Petrovsky, or even France for that matter. And it’s definitely good that she chose NYC, as it’s a better environment for her. But once in NYC, what should she do? Big was not only her biggest relationship temptation, but also her knight in shining armor who rescued her from the ickiness of France. The audience doesn’t get to see the two of them spending time discovering Paris together or discussing how different the relationship was going to be when they returned or going back to Petrovsky’s to get Carrie’s beloved baggage or that Big had been sent by her friends to bring her back…Presumably they talked things through on the plane, but audience members weren’t privy to those conversations. Leaving us out of that thought process makes those of us who thought Big is Bad to scowl angrily at Carrie’s weakness.
To the series’ credit, it didn’t show Big and Carrie getting married. This leaves open the possibility, not only of movie sequels and DVD alternate endings, but that Big and Carrie give the relationship thing a whirl and then figure out that it doesn’t work. Or that it does. We don’t know. I’m sure that even the writers had different opinions on how what should have happened. There’s no easy answer. Theoretically, after the final credits rolled, it still could have gone my way. Which isn’t right or wrong. It’s just different.
Maybe, if I had been an SATC disciple from day one, this final episode would have been my Gospel, something that I felt intrinsically and with every fiber of my being to be an absolute truth. But as it happens, even though the series is over, and the characters’ storylines resolved, there are lots of us whose storylines remain open, and I had hoped that the show’s waning moments would have provided us with the inspiration to march boldly into the future. I know so many people just like me: still single in the City, trying not to let fear of the unknown limit our possibilities.