... or, Charlotte Seriously Broke Up With a Bloke About Differing Taste in China Patterns, What the Heck?
The Summary: I will begin with a disclaimer that I just love this darned episode, and that said love might blunt my critical teeth a little. But then... I think I love it for perfectly good, legitimate reasons! (Ah, self-justification, what an art-form and a pleasure thou art.)
So, this episode is the first to focus explicitly on The State of Being Single. What does it MEAN to be single, anyway? What is it LIKE? [Mutters under breath: "... for straight, wealthy, urban women in their 30s."] How does society perceive you, if you are one of the unwed? Is there some kind of simmering hostility, um, simmering between The Unmarrieds and The Marrieds? Well, let's find out!
The episode begins with Carrie staying at the beach house of her married friends, Patience and Peter. (I am guessing they live on Alliteration Beach?) They're having a lovely time until one morning Carrie bumps into Peter in the hallway, sans his pants. (Because... it's very common to wander around one's home underpantless when one has guests?) She mentions this pantless-bumping-into to Patience, who promptly ejects Carrie from her hearth and home, declaring all the while that Carrie cannot understand her wrath because, of course, Carrie isn't married.
Returning to the city in the wake of this incident, it's Musings Over Singlehood Aplenty! Carrie talks to married and single people about what they think about their respective states, and about each other. In the process, she also muses about whether or not she herself is the marrying kind (her tendency is to doubt it) and gets set up with Sean, whom she describes as "the Marrying Guy... that elusive and rare Manhattan man whose sights were set on marriage." He's nice enough, but Carrie breaks up with him--she says, because she knows that he wants marriage and she doesn't know what she wants--though I think the fact that he's represented as being "waiting-at-the-DMV-without-a-book" boring might also have something to do with it.
Meanwhile, it's rankling with Miranda that she's the only single lawyer at her law firm, and that her married colleagues seem to be getting preferential treatment on account of their married status. (Invites to parties and informal social get-togethers by boss for married colleagues? Yes. Similar invites for Single Miranda? No.) She consequently allows herself to get set up by a colleague at a firm event... only it turns out, the set up is a lady, Syd. (Whoopsies!) When the head of her law firm mistakenly thinks the two are actually a couple, he's suddenly interested in adding Miranda (plus ostensible girlfriend) to his social circle. Miranda would love to be a part of said social circle, but she eventually concedes that she can't pretend to be a lesbian purely in order to advance her career. (Also, it would seem rather unfair to ask Syd--who is a total bloody stranger, after all--to pretend to be her girlfriend on a long-term basis, one would think... but no matter!)
The Charlotte and Samantha plotlines are pretty minimal in this episode. After Carrie dumps Sean, she sets him up with Charlotte (who, of course, is also of the Eager to Marry stripe.) Charlotte also dumps Sean quite rapidly, however, when she learns more about his (she feels, dubious) taste in china patterns. (Again, I suspect the "dull ditchwater looks radiantly interesting by comparison" thing might also be playing a role here.) At a party which the ladies attend, Samantha gets quite, quite drunk (after having been patronized and looked askance at for her singlehood), during which drunken state she seduces a beautiful Irish doorman who wears sock suspenders. Ah, that every drunken evening concluded thus!
Lesbian Ladies with Speaking Roles Tally: It begins! I'll grant you, Syd doesn't actually say too much--but still, number of lesbian characters whose names we learn and whose personalities are at least faintly sketched out for us... one! Also, this is totally giving the show credit for something which should just be a default, but it's still nice to see Syd presented in a positive, non-stereotypical way here, and to see that the writers chose not to have Miranda react with distaste when assumed to be a lesbian by her colleague. (She's more annoyed at having wasted Syd's time than she is anxious at having her Sacred Heterosexuality questioned.) The episode also shows that Miranda and Syd get along well, have a nice day together... unremarkable in and of itself, but since the show will later suggest that straight and queer women can't be friends, I value this moment. (Additionally, if tangentially, Cynthia Nixon looks very dashing in the suit and tie which she slaps on to go her faux-date with Syd. Yes, dressing her like a 1920s movie gangster when she is pretending to be one of The Lesbians is totally cliche, but also... snazzy!)
Thing About This Episode Which Has Me Scratching My Head: Okay, so, while we're talking about Syd, riddle me this. Say that you yourself are Syd. You get set up with a nice gal, who informs you that she's straight. Bummer, but whatever, you still have a nice time hanging out with her. Said nice gal then asks you to go to a dinner party with her as her faux-date, at her boss' house. You don't really know the person who has invited you to this dinner party. You don't know any of the other people who will be at this dinner party. Are you just doing a favor to this nice gal you hardly know...? Have you formed a hopeless crush on this (unavailable) nice gal...? (The show doesn't indicate that this is the case.) Is it that the Lesbian Ladies have so much free time that they're free to escort straight women to dinner parties as their reverse-beards at will...? Why...? What...? How...?
And How Could I Have Not Mentioned Stanford Already?: Call me a bad person, if you like, because this is the first time I'm mentioning the character of Carrie's dear friend and "gay husband" (as she dubs him), Stanford Blatch, even though he has appeared in every episode of the show so far. It's not like I have some kind of personal vendetta against the actor who portrays Stanford, Willie Garson. (Garson is adorable, and very charming in interviews.) It's just that the show hasn't really given Stanford very much of interest to do, yet. (Suggestive in and of itself, perhaps?) He is clearly a staunch and loving friend to Carrie. He has a crush on the beautiful but dim underwear model whom he represents as his agent. And... that is all.
Until this episode, at least. This episode gives us an interesting Stanford moment, I think--as well as a little "These Past Few Decades in Gay Marriage" history lesson. (Yay! I love history lessons!) So, in this episode, when Stanford and Carrie are talking about the whole "married vs. single" thing, Stanford laments that all the gay couples he knows are going to Hawaii get married, "putting on a caftan, and feeling superior to me." Now, for the historical background! So, in 1993, a Hawaii court ruled that denying marriage to same-sex couples constituted discrimination. (Well done!) Alas, this ruling later resulted in a state-wide ban on gay marriage. (Badly done!) As of this particular moment in 2010, Hawaii courts have struck down efforts at both civil unions and gay marriages. (Extremely bad done!)
So at this interesting historical moment, in 1998, when gay marriage/civil unions are starting to seem possible, we have Stanford questioning whether or not gay marriage/civil unions are actually the best thing for the LGBT community. Now I'll grant you, he's clearly not doing this from a political, "why should we embrace a heterosexual model historically rooted in inequality and oppression?" perspective, but more from a personal "how irritating for me that now even some of my gay friends are Smug Marrieds" perspective, but still. Interesting.
Thing Which Makes Me Clap My Hands With Glee About This Episode: I am particularly fond of this episode specifically because of the discussions which the girls (darn it, so hard not to use said infantilizing language...) have about being single women in their 30s, and what that means in terms of the ways in which they are perceived and treated. Like when Carrie notes that she actually does like being single most of the time--except for those times "like family functions, when you're the only one who's not married, and they sit you at the kids' table." Like when the ladies commiserate over being the only single person at a party/wedding/assorted other social function and being treated to a wealth of " 'poor single you' looks." I like the fact that the show brings forward that these women (apart from Charlotte, yes, always apart from Charlotte) are pretty happy with their single lives--and that part of what makes them unhappy about said lives comes from the negative ways in which singlehood is perceived/single people are treated. Re-watching this episode has actually sparked so much singlehood-themed ranting in me that I'll be devoting another post to it anon. So stay tuned for anon!
Random Fact About This Episode I Am Quite Confident You Will Not Care About: The actress who plays Syd reads my favorite audiobook version of The Awakening. She does an amazing job. I just love The Awakening. That is all.
Immortal Words, Memorable Lines: Unidentified married woman whom Carrie talks to about marriage for her column: "Some people, like me, choose to grow up, face reality, and get married. And others choose to, what, live an empty, haunted life of stunted adolescence?" (This sucker just cracks me up every darned time I hear it--yes, it's an exaggeration of how our society looks at The Single Folks... but alas, not that big of an exaggeration.)
Carrie, musing on The Single State: "Sure, it'd be great to have that one special person to walk home with. But sometimes, there's nothing better than meeting your single girlfriends for a night at the movies." (Awwww.)
Next Up...?: An episode entitled "Valley of the 20-Something Guys" in which three of the ladies date younger men and muse on the perils and pleasures thereof, and one of the first "Lengthy Discussions About Anal Sex To Take Place in a Cab" scenes ever to air on cable TV occurs!