Coming to terms with ‘Sex’

I started out among what exec-producer Michael Patrick King refers to as the “cocoa-time” Sex and the City viewers. When the HBO series’ episodes were handed over to TBS for syndication and harsh editing — the sometimes-explicit, commercial-free, half-hour-long show was whittled down to something safer, blander, and short enough to accommodate ads — (reformed) prudes like me dipped our toes into the stuff paid cable had wrought. Over coffee, of course. (Cocoa, as you may suspect, is for the weak.)

This all occurred during my summers off from college, because it’s true that only so many full-time college students actually etch out time for TV. (I’ve never gotten over it.) A few years ago, when my younger sister turned 18, she received the SATC box set from my mother. I had a permanent summer residence by that point, but returned home to visit and do laundry at least once a week (as is still my custom … I may or may not have an obsessive-compulsive fear of public laundromats). Anyway: There we were, my mom, my sister, and myself, all comfy and watching full-length episodes with plots that suddenly made sense. And the swearing! The boobs! The old-man butts! It was all so magical.

As a writer who litters her stories with personal information (I type, having just read Emily Gould’s disastrous New York Times Magazine account of doing just that), and one in possession of a “gross protuberance” — that would be not an unsightly cock, for the Cyrano de Bergerac-uninitiated, but a grand beak (thanks, grandpa!) — it’s no surprise that empathy was established fairly quickly.

But hand to Manolo Blahnik, I’m not here to confess “I’m a Carrie.” Nothing about $500 shoes or heart-diseased playboys turns me on — and I’ve a filthier mouth than Victorian-literature-loving SJP could ever dream of lowering her inhibitions enough to possess. (Also, I’ve never feared for the end of a relationship because I accidentally, erm, let one rip, if you take my meaning. If a gent can’t accept the whole pie of bodily functions, may I suggest dating a Realdoll?)

It was actually always Miranda I preferred. (A mentor of mine even refers to my ex-boyfriend as my “Steve.” Sigh.) The down-to-earth, hotshot corporate attorney played by stage-gem Cynthia Nixon liked chocolate cake and disliked post-coital cuddling and was the least centered on men — a trait Sex and the City feminists overwhelmingly took issue with. (It is a show about a sex column, my sisters.) Miranda, though, was usually the voice — our voice — that criticized that aspect of the show from within, asking her cohorts, essentially, “Why can’t/don’t we ever talk about anything else?”

It wasn’t that she was averse to sex or men (OK, maybe she had some trust issues. Who doesn’t?). Point is: They didn’t rule her. She had other things to do. While Carrie and Charlotte were acting like grown-up girls — roles LA Times writer Rachel Abramowitz recently attested Cameron Diaz is holed into playing — Miranda was confronting the struggle of buying property as a single woman, contemplating the outcome of an accidental pregnancy, and (spoiler!) balancing a career with motherhood. Sure, she was a tidbit darker than I am … less interested in clothes than me, so the other characters provided that necessary vicarious-retail-therapy element (that eventually became too over-the-top and rampantly consumerist, in my opinion).

As much as too-cutesy Carrie’s moral summations and old-fashioned Charlotte’s aversion to the word poop (though not rim jobs, bizarrely) made me want to pull my hair out, if I were totally intolerant of the other female perspectives illustrated in the show, I would have no girlfriends. I couldn’t even be friends with my mother, for fuck’s sake. I think Sex’s marketing got so irritating and out of control and PINK — a little like the last season or so — that we take for granted that the show depicted four unmarried women in their 30s and 40s, who were screwing like rock stars (the very same way bachelors have been portrayed for eons, only with emotions!), not The Golden Girls.

No, I haven’t seen every episode — certainly not in order. I probably never will. But when it comes right down to it, when the single major relationship of my life fell apart, or when I really like someone I shouldn’t (or when a dim-witted M.D. decides she thinks I might be pregnant — cute), and my mom calls and says, “Come home and we’ll watch Sex and the City. I have food.” I’m there.

Eck; maybe I’m still a cocoa-time viewer after all. •

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