BY LORRAINE DUFFY MERKL
Eighteen years ago this summer, we were introduced to Carrie Bradshaw — the Upper East side writer of the column “Sex And The City,” which appeared in the paper none of us read because it was made up. (In fact, by this time in 1998, the HBO series had already reached cult status.)
I must confess, I miss the show if only because, for six seasons, the program really energized New York. The two movies rejuvenated us, of course, and the internet keeps SATC alive as well. On any given female-directed website, you will now and again find an article referencing the telecast or one its characters, because even though it stopped airing in 2004, “the girls” are still part of the zeitgeist. But, the weekly booster shot of Cosmopolitan-fueled wisdom was what really kept us going.
Carrie & Co. brought into polite conversation topics that can’t be mentioned in a family newspaper, and the questions that she posed at the beginning of each column (and episode) had many of us going in search of answers: Can you ever really forgive if you can’t forget? Do we need distance to get close? Is a relationship a relationship without the zsa zsa zsu?
In its heyday, “Sex And The City” just made Manhattan seem more alive. People became more observant about what was going on and how they could relate it to the antics of Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha and Miranda.
Young women started looking for their own Mr. Big (and believing they would find him). The fact that all four women were never wanting for dates also seemed to send a mixed message, since most single women I knew were always saying there were no men out there.
And the city rose to the status of “fifth friend.” More than any other TV drama/comedy before or even after it, SATC really did showcase our borough as where the action is.
Because of the out-and-about BFFs, the same ol’ neighborhood haunts didn’t seem enough anymore. Those women were all over the place, giving the rest of us the impetus to get in a cab and go across or downtown “... to eat at that place, then go shopping at that store.”
The show had such an effect that New York women’s self-esteem rose and fell with what was going on in Carrie’s life; watching her retch on the beach after seeing Big with Natasha in the Hamptons was truly a downer for days; but when Carrie introduced Berger to her friends and brought his male perspective to their dating tales of woe, the very next morning everyone was shrugging off the guy who got away with the phrase, He’s just not that into you.
So much a part of us did Carrie become, that The Harvard Crimson ran an article that coined the phrase Carrie Bradshaw Syndrome: When you act like you’re in this movie about your perfect life.
To which I say, isn’t being the leading lady in your own life what living in New York City is supposed to be like? I think we need a third movie so Manhattan can get back its own zsa zsa zsu.
Lorraine Duffy Merkl is the author of the novels “Fat Chick” and “Back To Work She Goes.”