How “Sex & the City” Taught Me More About Singleness, Sex & Relationships than the Church
I discovered Sex & the City about 1 year after it went off the air. I’d heard of it, of course. I’m not sure who (of age) could avoid hearing about the popular series in the early 2000s. I don’t remember much. I just remember it was in a time when sex on television was still pretty taboo. Janet Jackson’s exposed breast during a Superbowl halftime show was the controversial moment on national television during that time. There were no soft-porn like sex scenes on cable or broadcast tv like we see the likes of now. TV programs weren’t even allowed to say the “B” word or “A” word, but now we don’t even blink when certain words or images grace our television set. “Sex & the City” was immensely popular during that time. Me, being in my 20’s and really very guarded when it came to my faith and my lifestyle- well I sort of judged the show. So I didn’t take much interest in finding out much about it. It was about sex and single women and not only was the sex topic an unmentionable one in the Christian community, it certainly was an off topics conversation for single women. There was only;
Those were the key words I heard when it came to any communication about singleness, sex or relationships. It’s like this episode I once saw of Preachers of LA, where one Pastor was having a relationship conference (or something). They separated the married couples from the singles. The married couples got to go to the room to talk to a sex and relationships therapist. They looked like they had fun. The single individuals got to go to the basement to get a lecture by a 50 year old single Pastor who happened to be a virgin. While the guy seemed like he was pretty cool, I couldn’t help but think, why couldn’t they get to talk to the sex and relationships therapist? Why do single women and men in the church get the half hearted, constricted messages?
As I walked home, I couldn’t help but wonder … When did being alone become the modern-day equivalent of being a leper?”- Carrie Bradshaw, Season 2
I was actually in seminary when I stumbled upon a few re-runs of Sex & the City on TBS in the late evening. After laughing through 3 episodes, it was like suddenly I wasn’t the only one in the room anymore. I had these 4 women with me who were strangely speaking my thoughts and stumbling through life with the same clumsiness and satire that I had been.
“Think about it. If you are single, after graduation there isn’t one occasion where people celebrate you … Hallmark doesn’t make a “congratulations, you didn’t marry the wrong guy” card. And where’s the flatware for going on vacation alone?”
As we speed along this endless road to the destination called who we hope to be, I can’t help but whine, ‘Are we there yet?’”
“Maybe our mistakes are what make our fate. Without them, what would shape our lives?”
“Maybe the past is like an anchor holding us back. You have to let go of who you were to become who you will be.”
I spent the next few nights and weeks, looking forward to watching those mini TBS marathons. Here were these four 30-something White women and here I was this one 20-something Black (and Christian) woman and I couldn’t figure out why I could relate. My life wasn’t exactly like theirs, nor were my life choices. And honestly I can’t sit here and say that this blog is an endorsement of certain life choices and/or behavior patterns. That’s not my point. My point is that my heart and my mind, my emotions and even my hormones were finally being heard. And up until that point I hadn’t really been provided a space where I could express that without judgement. Not only was I not provided that space, but I had not come in contact with many authentic people to help guide me through that. Instead, I looked to these characters on television for any semblance of understanding.
“I couldn’t help but wonder: When will waiting for the one be done?”
“Do we search for lessons to lessen the pain?”
“After all, computers crash, people die, relationships fall apart. The best we can do is breathe and reboot.”
“To be in a couple, do you have to put your single self on a shelf?”
“Being single used to mean that nobody wanted you. Now it means you’re pretty sexy and you’re taking your time deciding how you want your life to be and who you want to spend it with.”
“Friendships don’t magically last forty years … You have to invest in them.”
“One woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure.”
“After a while, you just want to be with the one that makes you laugh.”
“Relationships are not about playing games. They’re about mature and honest communication.”
“No matter who broke your heart, or how long it takes to heal, you’ll never get through it without your friends.”
My friends and I became so enamored with the series that we went to Best Buy, and the store had this pink binder that contained all 6 seasons on DVD. Each of us for various birthday’s and milestones in life would gift the other with “The Pink Binder.” It got me through some tough times. Got me through some tough breakups. Got me through some times when I felt alone and misunderstood. It got me through times when I needed to know I wasn’t the only person on the planet who made those mistakes. And it still gets me through now, in my 30’s, from time to time when I get a chance to pop a DVD in.
The show revolutionized singleness and honored it. This is something that is so anti-culture and really the opposite of the messages I received in the church. It put singleness at the center, which is rarely the case. Singleness is always on the margins. It’s the “other” category. The “still loading” category. The category that they say you don’t want to find yourself in after a certain age or place in life. It’s something we spend most of our lives striving NOT to be. But then there was this:
“A Woman’s Right to Shoes” (click to view clip)
Yes they talked about the joys and celebrations of singleness. There were also the frustrations. There was the uncertainty of dating. The reality that there is nothing wrong with wanting to get married and then nothing wrong with just being okay with being unattached. There were poor decisions made and really successful ones. There were career changes and setbacks. There were babies and marriages and failed marriages. There were ex’s and inlaws. There were friendship arguments and tears and laughs. There were single date nights. There were perfect guys that just weren’t right. There were annoying baby showers and cats. There were choices around buying and renting. There were spontaneous vacations and long conversations in the local diner. There were recurring themes of just about everything I am currently experiencing right now in my life as a single 33 year old woman. In spite of many apparent differences in how we approach and even look at life, I still have my pink binder as a guide.
“Eventually all the pieces fall into place. . . until then, laugh at the confusion, live for the moment, and know that everything happens for a reason.”
I wish that somehow the church had better prepared me for what it meant and means for me to venture through this world as a single Christian woman. Because honestly “just wait” is about as lackluster of a message as any one person should ever have to hear in any one lifetime.