“Sex and the City” is Old School

The cast of "Princesses: Long Island" strikes a pose (elitedaily.com)

The cast of “Princesses: Long Island” strikes a pose (elitedaily.com).

Sex and the City: Not Aging Well

Princesses: Long Island has little to recommend it as elevating entertainment goes. The dialogue isn’t particularly witty, the storylines aren’t ground-breaking, and the characters are Jewish caricatures (thanks, Bravo). However, amidst the muck, this new show has the potential to tell a surprisingly family-friendly story.

While society at large shifts from twenty-somethings marrying to cohabiting, these scantily clad women with bleeped language want traditional marriages.

The six women featured on Princesses: Long Island are twenty-something New Yorkers, who worship Louis Vuitton and live in luxury, mostly with their parents. However, their conversations and activities largely revolve around finding and dating marriageable men.

Twenty-eight year old Chanel has already acknowledged she feels like an old maid watching her 24-year-old sister plan her wedding, while their parents grill Chanel about her own husband hunting efforts. When Ashlee meets a handsome stranger at a Hamptons bar, the women pepper him with questions, trying to suss out whether he’s marriage material. Ashlee then calls her parents to report about the man sitting beside her, whom the group has dubbed Clark Kent. Amanda, who has a boyfriend, constantly talks to everyone (including her boyfriend) about how he is The One and she intends to marry him. We don’t know how long they’ve been dating, but based on the non-stop PDAs, the relationship looks reasonably new. And on this week’s episode, the four single ladies headed to Jewish singles’ camp, aka, a definite meet market.

Writing in The Jewish Daily Forward, Emily Shire commented: “In a post-Sex and the City television culture, husband-hunting as a driving storyline for a show about twenty-somethings seems antiquated.” That’s true. It does seem antiquated. “Today the average age of first marriage is almost 27 for women and 29 for men, and the range of ages at first marriage is much more spread out… almost a third of all women and more than 40 percent of all men today [wait until 30 or older].

So even if Chanel feels like an old maid, statistically speaking, she’s not. Single-minded husband hunting is something I associate with my grandmothers’ generation, and yet, perhaps the storyline represents a refutation from real Gen Y women of the Sex and the City lifestyle. Perhaps there’s even an underlying conservative cultural truth: as women have become more liberated, sexually and otherwise, the typical woman still prefers one man she can rely on and love for the long-term, in other words, a commitment like marriage.

Sex and the City represented the experiences and aspirations of an older generation of women. Samantha Jones personified that feminist goal, as she sought to prove that women could be as casual about sex as men. Granted, even Samantha proves susceptible to emotion, when former flame Dominic resurfaces and Samantha falls for, and is hurt by him, once again.

In 2008, New York’s Daily News calculated that “during the course of 94 episodes and six seasons, the women of Sex and the City hit the sheets with a combined total of 94 men and one woman.” Apparently, “the average American woman… has nine sex partners in a lifetime, according to a survey by the Durex brand of condoms. But… the typical New York City number is twice the national average.”

Just as Carrie Bradshaw mocked novelist Erica Jong for being hopelessly outdated, perhaps Carrie and her friends represent an ideal that was never so widely embraced and that younger women have not rushed to adopt. The Daily News recently reported on a Cornell University study that found “college-aged women often reject and ostracize promiscuous peers and would rather be friends with less sexually active ladies.”

If this suburban show had a Samantha, it would be Erica Gimbel, who was the wild “It Girl” of Long Island in high school but has (sort of) mellowed since then. A major plot line in a recent episode involved Casey’s 10-year old grudge against Erica for stealing her high school boyfriend, whom Casey had believed was The One. This, of course, circled viewers back once again to the husband hunting theme.

These women love their mani-pedis, their Chanel purses, and going clubbing. But while they date, they’re more likely to be inspired by Charlotte York Goldenblatt with an eye on the future, because the one thing these women seem to really want is for Mr. Right to put a sparkling ring on it.

This article appeared in Acculturated.

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