Love and Sex in the Cities of Today

Sex and the City is not just for your sassy, single aunt. I recently binge-watched the entire show spanning from 1998–2004 and got sucked into the realness of the complicated, messy relationships. The show resonated with me so deeply that I couldn’t put the remote down. I finished all 94 episodes in two weeks, and yes, I am aware that I need a life.

The generation born the year Sex and the City first aired will soon be old enough to order cosmopolitans—the drink of choice for single women in Sex and the City.  Not only have the drink tastes of single women changed over the past twenty years, but so have dating norms.

I couldn’t help but wonder—what would Carrie and her friends think of the swipe-fests on our smartphones that have become the impersonal world of dating today?

Would they put up with unsolicited, hyper-sexual messages from strangers on dating apps, inexplicable ghosting by emotionally-stunted guys you went on three perfectly enjoyable dates with, no-strings attached sex with friends with benefits who have replaced the human connection that comes with messy, vulnerable but honest relationships?

I don’t think Carrie, Miranda, Samantha or Charlotte would subject themselves to the callous dating norms of today, and they definitely wouldn’t put up with partners who mistreat them. Although Carrie always goes back to her commitment-phobe love interest Big, she sets boundaries for their relationship when she realizes he’s not good for her mental health. Like cosmopolitan cocktails, boundaries seem to be a thing of the past. Dating would be better if we all put our cards on the table and were honest about our intentions.

Like the first-gen Apple laptop Carrie uses to write her columns, dating lingo from the ‘90s has become outdated. Now we have endless phrases to describe casually seeing someone, such as “hooking up,” “Netflix and chilling” or “hanging out.” Phrases that signal anything deeper than surface level interactions are avoided like Melania avoids Donald Trump’s hand when they’re standing side by side.

So why is our generation so afraid of commitment? Do so many people our age not want relationships because that’s the status quo? Or is it just a convenient life choice for people working multiple jobs while also often trying to get an education?

Millennials can go to the tattoo parlor and get inked like it’s a trip to the corner store for kombucha yet can’t commit to one person. Dating while looking for a meaningful relationship now is like going on a juice cleanse—it always seems like a good idea at first, but after your third carrot juice you realize you’re trying to be someone you’re not, exhausted and have a headache. Deciphering what someone else wants while avoiding showing your own hand is frankly a waste of time.

I can’t help but wonder if the uncertainty of the future—of our professions in a suffering economy; the hopeless politics of the MAGA administration; whether or not the earth will exist in twenty years—has worked its way from the deepest part of our psyches into our attitudes about dating? If the earth is dying, why invest time and energy into another person?

And yet, we still yearn for deeper connection. While Carrie and her friends would check their answering machines religiously to see if a love interest called, we check our Bumble, Tinder, Hinge and Grindr inboxes to see if someone new has graced us with a “Hey, you’re cute. Wanna hang out sometime?” And this in itself is a godsend in apps where you can have mundane back and forths with someone for months without ever meeting face-to-face.

I’m not sure how many others feel as hopeless as I do when it comes to the casual, deceptive dating norms we follow to avoid the label of “clinger” or even just *gasp!* someone who wants more than friendship with benefits, but I do have plenty of friends trying not to drown in the tumultuous sea of apathetic dating app users. That’s why watching Carrie and friends navigate the dating world with poise is so inspirational to me as a single woman dating in the city.

Although I still have some hope for my dating future, I’m not sure I’ll find anything meaningful through a dating app. I’m ready to declare myself a nun and join a convent if it means never again being ghosted by yet another avid pizza connoisseur who just moved to Portland for the mountains and beach and works in data analytics. Or on second thought, maybe just buy a better vibrator, like the one Charlotte replaces dating with in that one episode of Sex and the City.