Ask any mom, new or experienced, and she’ll tell you a lot of things have changed since she had her children: her body, her sleep schedule, her marriage. But for me, motherhood has also changed how I watch TV, and I don’t mean just the depressingly decreasing frequency at which I do it.
Sex and the City — which celebrates its 20th anniversary today — is an entirely different show to me now than it was two decades ago. In 1998, when the series began, I was a pre-teen at a private Jewish middle school in New York state; my biggest concern then figuring out how to get my first-ever zit to go away so my crush would finally notice me. You know, quality adolescent stuff.
I wasn’t watching SATC when it aired — I didn’t have HBO as a kid, which I now realize as an adult is probably because the fancy cable package is expensive — and I surely wasn’t relating to nor even thinking about the kinds of issues 30-somethings Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda, and Samantha were handling on-screen.
It wasn’t until after college, twelve or so years later and around the time the second SATC movie had premiered, that I binged all six seasons of the Darren Star series in its entirety. The show’s premise was far more relatable at that point in my life; I was living with a roommate on the Upper West Side and working for barely minimum wage as an editorial assistant at an entertainment website. I wasn’t quite writing a column for Vogue or living solo like Carrie did, but it was in roughly the same vicinity, right?
Relationship-wise, Carrie was hooking up with basically every relatively attractive guy in the city and getting free cosmopolitans on the reg. I, meanwhile, was happily single and sort of dating. I succumbed to the occasional awful JDate when my friends peer-pressured me, or I was too exhausted to join them at another Murray Hill bar in the off chance my potential future husband would treat me to a vodka cranberry (which is basically like a cosmo minus the martini glass, right?).
Carrie and her gal pals had the guy(s), the wardrobes, the apartments, the careers. But I knew this scripted reality wasn’t reality. I vividly remember frequent conversations with my fellow then-22-year-old best friends in which we said we’d be lucky to have a good job, a healthy relationship, or an amazing apartment in the city — seldom would one of us have all three at once.
But now, it’s been nearly a decade since my binge-watching sesh. I’m now a wife and a mom who’s close in age to the characters on the show. And I realize there was so much more to the series than its glamorous surface. Yes, SATC was about dating and gal pals and careers and shoes. But it also was about family and marriage and, you know, real life. And I find myself relating to the characters in myriad new ways.
Today, for example, I understand more the pain Charlotte felt every time she got a negative pregnancy test while married to Trey, who she thought was her soulmate.
I understand why Charlotte converted to Judaism for her actual soulmate, Harry, and why she pushed so hard for them to have traditional Shabbat dinners each week when all he wanted to do was watch the game.
I understand the joy Charlotte and Harry felt when they were chosen to be Lily’s adoptive parents, and how they experienced that emotion all over again after she got pregnant with their second daughter years later.
I understand why Miranda freaked out when she found herself unexpectedly expecting after she and Steve broke up, because wouldn’t a baby ruin her illustrious career as a lawyer?
I understand why Samantha slept around well into her 40s and swore off kids forever — because does anyone even realize how much work being a mother is, never mind while running your own business, too?!
I understand why Carrie was so content going from Big to Aidan to Berger to Petrovsky to Big again without seriously contemplating kids, because this was the woman who kept shoes in her oven. Where would she even fit a crib?
Every youngish female could relate at some point in her life to at least one of these four main gals. In fact, I’m pretty sure I once wrote a quiz titled, “Which Sex and the City Character Are You?”
When I was younger I was always Charlotte, mainly because I was prudish compared to my friends and knew I eventually wanted that traditional lifestyle of being married with kids. But now, my results would not be as clear-cut. Yes, sometimes I’m Charlotte; I, too, struggle with the balance of being the “perfect” wife and mother. Other times I’m Miranda, as I wonder what my little guy means for my career advancement moving forward.
And, if I’m being honest, some days I’m Samantha or Carrie, wishing I had the freedom to go on an impromptu date night with my husband without worrying about who’ll babysit or if I’ll have to pump and dump when I get home or if we’ll be forced to leave in the middle of the movie if the baby wakes up crying and I’m not there to comfort him.
Of course, Sex and the City‘s characters evolved over its six years on air — I mean, Miranda even moved to Brooklyn, a move that seemed utterly shocking to a certain milieu in the early-aughts — and that’s a good thing. And, of course, my friends and I evolved, too. But I can’t help but wonder… will I ever be able to watch my favorite shows the same way again?