Are you ready to head off to Atlantic City, dear friends? (Something which, loyal and devoted Jersey Girl that I am, I must confess that I have never actually done. Don't tell anyone, they might revoke my official Proud New Jerseyian Badge!) I do hope so, for it is off to my dear native state we are, where the ladies will wear unfortunate belly shirts, gamble more money than they likely ought to, and angstily obsess about a wide variety of issues. To the casinos!
So do you remember how we left Carrie, at the end of our last episode, feeling more hopeful about the world (in general) and her romantic prospects (in particular)? Yeah, scratch all that, she has since plunged right back into all things Cynical and Skeptical. (Le sigh.) With her dating life looking particularly bleak, Carrie is getting ready to just throw up her hands and give up on luvvvvv altogether. Why risk the rejection and hurt and boredom of the dating world when she knows she's always going to have a lovely time hanging out with her friends? (Samantha's two cents on that one? "Aw, honey, you're cute, but I'm never going to fuck you.")
In the spirit of renewing her posse's (currently rather frayed) bonds of friendship, Carrie proposes (and then forcibly insists on) a group trip to Atlantic City. Her friends are mired in a variety of their own crises, but eventually agree to go, nonetheless. Pack your bags, friends and your various issues--we are on the move!
Miranda is actually super happy to go, as it will be her first solo trip away from home since she had young Master Brady. She loves the little mite, but hot damn if she is not looking forward to getting to sleep uninterruptedly the whole night through, and actually get to read that pile of New Yorkers which have been forlornly accumulating on her nightstand.
Her only point of unease is that she's still not happy with how she looks, post-baby--living in our culture of constant "How I Got My Bikini Body Back TWO MINUTES Postpartum" magazine covers, Miranda is unsurprisingly self-conscious that just after having a baby she... looks like she just had a baby. (Because she did just have a baby, for the love of Pete.) One night in the casino, some jerk makes a crack about her "fat ass," and her friends round on him like the Furies in a particularly cranky mood. And quite right, too! Darned jerks! Shut (what I believe the kids today call) your pie holes! (And on a separate note--pie.)
Charlotte, meanwhile, is about to turn 36 (about which... mavel tov, Ms. C! Or, wait, you're not Jewish yet, so, um... Protestant congratulations unto you!), and is royally freaking out about same. Convinced that men are more interested in meeting 35 year olds than 36 year olds (?), Charlotte has decided to let her birthday slide this year. I see.
Terrified of becoming, as she puts it "an old maid," whilst in Atlantic City, Charlotte decides to 1) wear as little in the way of clothing as humanly possible, and 2) flirt with any and every man who looks her way. Does this nab her the man of her dreams? Um, is the series over yet? Of course not, on both fronts--so the episode ends with Charlotte still uneasy with the fact that she is growing older and as-of-yet unwed (though happily having thrown out the god-awful lame dress which she'd slapped on at one point. My eyes, oh, my eyes! How they did suffer from it!)
Samantha, meanwhile, is still with Richard (head, desk, I believe you two have met?) He's also in AC while the ladies are there, and Sam spends a goodly proportion of her trip running after him, terrified that if she leaves him alone for more than two seconds, he'll cheat on her again. After gadding about like an anxiety-ridden whirling dervish several days, Samantha decides to break up with Richard, again. For good. He reminds her of his charming promise that he will try not to cheat on her (ah, a promise to warm the heart of any lass!), tells her he loves her... to which Samantha sagely replies "I love you, too, Richard. But I love me more." And... Jones out. Buh-bye, Richard! See your slimy face in Season Six!
So what has Carrie been up to while all of this is going on? Musing about what it means to grow older and be alone, musing about the meaning and significance of friendship, musing about love and the lack of it. (Oh, and also wearing a fringed belly shirt makes I think may have rendered me temporarily blind. Will nobody think of my eyes???) Beginning the episode thinking "Love! Bah humbug! Pshaw, I say to love--pshaw!", Carrie ends it by thinking that maybe love is still worth aspiring towards, after all. In a show centered around its heroine's romantic quests... I cannot say that this shocks me! Let's see if we can keep that fragile sense of hope and belief alive until the beginning of our next episode, hmmmmm?
People of Color Watch: Carrie's renewed sense that maybe love is something worth fighting for, after all, is in large part inspired by listening to a (clearly long-standing) couple having a charming conversation one night while she is out on the boardwalk. Both the gent and the lady are African-American... and are actually dressed in the way in which normal people would dress, to go walking on the boardwalk on a chilly evening. It seems someone is thinking of my eyes, anyway!
Old Maid Language, How Delightful It Is! Or, Sorry, Is Not, I Meant, Is Not, Watch: I do appreciate the fact that this episode actually does consciously reflect on the fact that there is a significant linguistic disparity in how single women of a certain age, and single men of a certain age, are referred to in our culture. After Charlotte's "I must avoid old maidhood as though it were the Black Death!" speech, the other ladies muse over just why it is that men get to be "bachelors," whereas women have to be "spinsters." Ooooooh, I know, I know! Call on me, call on me! It's because... our society is messed-up and sexist and has really weird ideas about female aging! And... one point to me, I think. (And to the writers, for explicitly engaging in a candid discussion of sexist double standards. Points for everyone!)
"Charlotte's Thirty-Faux Birthday": Female Aging in Our Creepy, Youth-Obsessed Culture Watch: Perfect timing for me to talk about this particular episode during this particular week, as my particular self just turned the particular age of 30 (please send your gifts to Back on Carrie's Stoop, care of the Cranky Feminist Bloggers Network. What I really want this year? For that ghastly-sounding SATC prequel show to not actually get turned into a real live television program. Please please please, universe, work with me on this one!)
I think the episode does a really nice job of representing Charlotte's queasy distaste with the idea of getting older in a culture which insistently links women's sexual desirability with their youth. Hoping to get hitched and have herself some youngsters, watching her age tick upwards causes some distinct panic over in the Land of York.
And the writers do a good job of handling that panic, I think--once again, they're not mocking Charlotte for having the desires which she does--they respect the fact that getting married and having a family are high on her list of priorities--but they do nonetheless raise questions about how she chooses to cope with this newest milestone in her life (maybe trying to change her entire personality, and lying to herself and others about her age is not the best way to go?), and implicitly criticize a culture in which a woman like Charlotte (who is a smart, interesting, good person) is made to feel that her "stock" is falling in the dating "market," simply because she's no longer 25. Wow. My 30th birthday present? I think I just got it, right there! (I wonder what the writers will dream up for me for Christmas? Ooooh, I hope it's a pony!)
Valuing One's Own Mental Health Above Gentlemen Who, Though Admittedly Are Snappy Dressers, Have No Moral Compass or Ethical Principles Watch: The breakup between Samantha and Richard was inevitable, of course--the writers would never keep Sam off the market for too long--but how much it delights me to see it take place, nonetheless. Richard is (and always has been) so clearly Bad News, that it is a pleasant thing to have Samantha tell him to take a hike--permanently, this time. (Okay, permanently till Season Six, but still--progress.)
It's interesting to see Sam's journey here, from thinking that she can totally cope with her dashing boyfriend occasionally cheating on her, to realizing that she just can't--that spending her entire life wondering when his next infidelity is coming will give her multiple ulcers, and cause more grief and pain than being with him is worth. Now if only we could have gotten Carrie to have a similarly healthy attitude towards Big earlier on... oh, wait, then we pretty much wouldn't have had a series! My mistake! Carry on with your self-destruction, Bradshaw!
"My Ass is Fat Because I Just Had a Baby, You Asshole": Grappling with Women's Bodies in a Realistic Way, Thank God Watch: Love this episode, too, for the way it continues to muse over Miranda's post-baby life. (I am just full of love, here--perhaps it is because they set this here episode on my beloved home turf? That may be it!) I enjoy how it shows Miranda and Steve's ongoing, awkward adjustment to parenthood (Miranda, trying to persuade Steve that he can take care of the baby all by himself while she is away: "Look, we're both afraid we're going to kill the baby. Monday through Friday, I try not to kill him, Saturday and Sunday, you try not to kill him.")
They both adore the wee lad, but that does not mean that they are not both scared out of their bloody minds by the responsibilities of parenthood, and eager to take some breaks from it. (Sinking into reading The New Yorker uninterrupted on the bus into AC, Miranda has clearly achieved a state which, if not quite nirvana, is certainly next door to it. She has clearly not read a complete sentence in months, and she is happy to do so.) Love the acknowledgement that parenthood... can be stressful and challenging! And that sometimes parents stand in desperate need of what I believe is sometimes unfortunately called "me time"!
I also appreciate that they directly tackle the fact that Miranda's body has (gasp!) changed from having had a baby, and that that's hard for her, given our culture's general body MADNESS when it comes to the ladies, including the pregnant and post-pregnant ones. Cynthia Nixon herself was enceinte when Season Five was filmed, and, needless to say, looks totally gorgeous--but not at all wire hanger, "what is this thing you call 'flesh'?" like. Neat to see one of the main heroines of a major tee-vee show looking plausibly like a woman adjacent to motherhood, who did not immediately follow birth with either lipo or a Pilates class. Well done, my SATC pals!
Also nice to have one of the big moments of the episode be the ladies bawling out a guy en masse who dared to taunt Miranda about her body. Fun for them (and for us) to see them attacking a gent for thinking he has the right to say anything about any woman's body, and particularly for mocking a woman who's just recently given The Birth. (Of course, this scene takes place with Charlotte wearing a dress in which you can see every bit of her clavicle and sternum in quite painful detail, and Carrie wearing a belly shirt which reveals not one inch of non-toned skin... ah, contradictions. Why must you always be present, hmmm? Can we never persuade you to take the day off? What can I do to persuade you to get lost? Would it help if I wore an unflatteringly-cut glittery belly shirt...?)
Charlotte, after Carrie suggests that they just "skip all the drama" of relationships, and just focus on their friends: "But I don't wanna skip all the drama. That's life, that's everything, that's relationships and anniversaries and kids... And I want all that, in addition to my friends."
Next Up...?: "Cover Girl," in which Carrie judges Samantha for being so sluttttty (bad), much amusement is derived from Miranda dating a nice gent she meets at Weight Watchers (also bad), and Stanford has a beautiful new boyfriend, who actually seems really, really nice (and... we have suddenly swung to the good! Success in our time!)