It’s been 20 years since the first episode of Sex and The City aired, and whilst I didn’t become obsessed with it as an 11 year old, it has since become a pivotal guide for how I viewed sex and relationships as an adult.
At times the show was gut-punchingly hilarious as equally as it was heart-breakingly sad. From Charlotte’s pregnancy woes to Samantha’s cancer diagnosis, Miranda’s pregnancy to Carrie’s doomed Parisienne romance – the show took us all on a journey.
It was ground-breaking television as it starred older women as the main characters. Four strong, individual female characters who could talk so openly about sexuality.
Had we not had this iconic HBO original, the premise of gathering with friends over Cosmopolitans to discuss orgasms and masturbation may have been a wild fantasy for years to come.
Who would’ve known 20 years ago, exactly how much it would teach us?
So here are sixteen life lessons we all learned from Sex and The City:
10 YEARS, Carrie spent on that man. Dropping everything to fall to each of his whims. Torturing herself over his engagement to a woman that wasn’t her. Choosing him over beautiful, precious Aidan, only to be left heart-broken once more.
An overarching angle of the series was Carrie’s quest to change Big into becoming a man that would want her.
And not in a casual pick up and drop off kind of way but to become the man she would settle down with.
It just never happened.
Sure we had the wedding in the first movie (of course the second one BECAUSE HE FUCKED HER OVER AGAIN during the first one and we ALLLL wished we were Charlotte, beating the crap out of him with a bouquet) but Big was as unavailable as a pair of those blue Manolo Blahnkiks after that episode.
It taught us that we will encounter partners in our lives that are just inherently not right for us. It taught us that we just can’t love someone into loving us.
‘You and I are like that red wall. It’s a good idea in theory, but somehow it doesn’t quite work.’ Carrie
In all seriousness, none of us are ever going to HAVE £40k, let alone to spend it on shoes. But Carrie’s consumerism was a wild horse running free from DVF to Prada, via Fendi and back again and then suddenly, she was fucked.
She found herself unable to pay for her rent and her bills and she had to lose what meant most to her. Her sizeable shoedrobe.
Whilst the show gave us all clothes, shoe, hair, career and apartment envy (delete as applicable) – it did a great job of showing us what can happen when your spending goes too far.
‘I’ve spent $40,000 on shoes and I have no place to live? I will literally be the old woman who lived in her shoes!’ Carrie
Throughout the series, each woman went through life events that were the most dizzying of heights to crushingest of lows and each time, the rest of them were there to pick up the pieces.
Like when Samantha put herself through babysitting for Miranda. Or when Carrie gathered the rest of them to support Miranda after her mother died.
They were there each time Carrie had her heartbroken and they were there each time Samantha regaled them with a tale of a bed broken.
We ALL wanted a friendship like this. And if we were lucky enough to have it, we made sure we kept it up with regular cocktails and gossip sessions.
‘I know your friends just fine. Charlotte is the brunette, Miranda is the redhead, and Samantha is trouble.’ Mr Big
Remember that episode where Samantha stayed at a restaurant til closing time and even paid off another single woman on the prowl JUST so that she could bed a hot waiter?
I’m sure most of us wouldn’t go to those EXACT lengths but seeing Samantha’s unwavering confidence and assurance within herself, certainly bolstered us into being braver and taking leaps when dating or meeting new people.
‘Easy?! You men have no idea what we’re dealing with. Teeth placement and jaw stress and suction and gag reflex. And all the while bobbing up and down, moaning and trying to breathe through our noses. Easy? Honey, they don’t call it a job for nothing.’ Samantha
Even Harry himself admitted that he was nobody’s type ‘on paper’, the short, balding and not ‘conventionally’ attractive lawyer fell hard for Charlotte but she wasn’t sure.
She confided in the girls that she didn’t think she could date anyone that unattractive. But she did. And she fell hard for him too.
This was the one of the first times TV or film had shown a character, who was so obsessed with finding a tall, dark and handsome stranger, find true love with someone different.
As a show, it taught us that looks aren’t everything and sometimes you find love with the most unexpected of people. And Smith Jerrod.
‘Ugly sex is hot. Some of the best sex I’ve had is with people I can’t stand.’ Anthony Merentino
Charlotte was so obsessed with having the picture perfect New York life of an incredible home, a providing husband and plenty of babies so she rushed into a marriage with shit-dick Trey and couldn’t have been more miserable.
After being brave enough to leave that crap-as-his-cock relationship, Charlotte spent a few years learning to love herself, exploring her own career before meeting Harry and settling down to adopt.
It proved to us that we can’t force our ideals of how our lives should pan out and that we should just let things unfold in life – it’s more exciting that way.
‘He has one ball, and I have a lazy ovary! In what twisted world does that create a baby? It’s like the Special Olympics of conception.’ Miranda Hobbes
We all know by now that at the end of the second movie, each of the women had their own versions of happy endings – with partners or without. But that didn’t stop them going on some HORRENDOUS dates first.
Remember when Carrie dated Justin Theroux as Vaughn – the fellow writer who was so emotionally troubled that they could’ve made an entire series just on his therapy sessions?
Or Brad, Charlotte’s face-licker? Whose kissing technique was as unappealing as 3 months in France with Petrovsky?
Who could forget Vince Vaughn as the lying Keith who showed Carrie around his amazing apartment – only for it not to be his?
The best part of the show were the encounters with these awful men and the lessons that each woman learned afterwards. But we also learned that to get to our happy endings, it may involve a lot of Jims.
‘Do any of you have a completely unremarkable friend or maybe a houseplant I could go to dinner with on Saturday night?’ Miranda
As Charlotte said,
‘I’ve been dating since I was fifteen, I’m exhausted, WHERE IS HE?’
Dating is tiring.
Over the 6 series, the women dated over 100 men between them and anyone who has dated for a long period of time will know those feels.
Dating fatigue is real and it can kick your ass when you continually get rejected, or heart-broken or meet twats. But it’s OK to take a break. To spend time on yourself and to build a career – like Charlotte did in the art-world or like Carrie did at Vogue.
Ah Samantha Jones. An icon.
In a time where young women were learning about their own feelings and sexualities – Samantha pounced onto our screens with the vigour, confidence and ‘IDGAF’ attitude that was sheerly admirable.
At times, during the show, she was judged for her promiscuity – either by the other women or outside people that she came into contact with. And at times she showed glimmers of their judgements being hurtful.
But for the most part, Samantha was proud of her sexuality and unashamed of her enjoyment of sex.
This taught us all that judging people for what they choose to do in the bedroom (restaurant, theatre, parking lot, bathroom, wherever) is the worst and that if someone is enjoying themselves in a confident, secure and careful way – then power to them.
She couldn’t have put it better herself.
“I will not be judged by you or society. I will wear whatever, and blow whomever I want, as long as I can breathe and kneel.”
Carrie’s quest throughout the entire show was to find the kind of love that she wrote about. Ridiculous, inconvenient, consuming, can’t-live-without-each-other love – and whilst we shook our fists at the screen every time she went back to Big and had her heart-broken, her unwavering journey was admirable.
‘I think I have monogamy. I caught it from you people.’ Samantha
Even prim and proper Charlotte, who would often judge the others for sleeping around finally broke and had a hook up.
Proving to all of us that women have needs and are sexual beings in the same way that men are and that it’s ok to just want to fuck!
‘Honey, what’s the point of being in the suburbs if you’re not going to fuck a gardener?’ Samantha Jones
When Smith Jerrod entered our screens with his dazzling smile, tan, wavy hair and six-pack we swooned alongside Samantha.
We watched their relationship unfold and we saw Smith fall in love with her for the confident, no-nonsense and sexual woman that she was.
But we also watched Samantha need more. She said it best, at the beach house, when she told him, ‘I love you, but I love me more.’
And we all realised that sometimes, you can love someone so much but that if it’s just not working, you have to do what makes you happy.
‘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.’ Carrie
It’s easy to get sucked into a dating lifestyle where all you do is organise dates, go through the dating app admin, talk to your single friends about your latest conquests and spend hours of brain time wondering where, ‘he’ is.
But Miranda confronted this in an episode where she said,
“How does it happen that four such smart women have nothing to talk about but boyfriends?”
And we all realised that finding ‘the one’ isn’t the only goal we should have in life.
Big dumped Carrie more times than we can remember. Carrie broke Aidan’s heart. Steve cheated on Miranda. Charlotte divorced Trey. Samantha let Smith go and was left devastated after catching Richard with another woman.
But each time, each character came back stronger.
They learned lessons in not settling, not letting relationships go stale, and not accepting shit treatment from someone else and it taught us all that it’s normal to have your heart broken but that a tub of ice cream, a Cosmo or 6 and a new pair of shoes will normally see you back on track.
‘The fact is, sometimes it’s really hard to walk in a single woman’s shoes. That’s why we need really special ones now and then to make the walk a little more fun’. Carrie
Carrie was ROTTEN to Aidan.
She closed herself off emotionally and was passive aggressive at times. She was inattentive and disinterested in most of the things he was passionate about.
She took him for granted and used him as a crutch after Big broke her heart.
And it taught us that sometimes, the other person isn’t always the devil.
Was Aidan right for Carrie? Probably not. But did he ever deserve the treatment she gave him? Definitely not.
We all fell in love with Aidan for how much he fell in love with Carrie. He was the man we always wanted – kind, nurturing, emotional, funny and more – but he just wasn’t Big.
We learned that sometimes, in relationships, we can be the bad person who is mean or who is not making effort and that if we find ourselves being as AWFUL as Carrie was, we need to have a word with ourselves and let that person sail free.
As cheesy and trite as it sounds, Sex and The City showed us that we can overcome any obstacle, we can strive for what we believe in, we can go for what we want and we can do it all by just being 100%, truly us.
‘Maybe we can be each other’s soul mates. And then we can let men be just these great, nice guys to have fun with.’ Charlotte
(fancy a bit more nostalgia? See the 16 lessons we learned from FRIENDS here)
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