Tag Archives: Carrie Bradshaw

In defense of change

Change is good.

Or so the old saying goes. I must have heard that one a thousand times, but the instance that sticks out most in my head is when an old colleague used it on me. I had just announced my plans to leave Teen People to take a job at Us Weekly, and I was feeling nervous about my decision. This particular colleague dropped by my office to wish me well, and I ended up unloading my misgivings on him.

He wasn’t a big fan of mine, and I knew he was glad to see me go. For him, any old cliché probably would have done if it ended our conversation as quickly and painlessly as possible. I’m pretty sure he pulled that one out of his ass. He probably had no idea what an impression he made.

He was right…sort of. Change can be good, and in this professional instance it was not only good — it was essential. But change can also be not-so-good. There’s a lot to be said for stability, predictability and the dreaded routine. Change for the sake of change only is often just a waste of time.

When I was younger, one of my relatives came to live with us for a while. One of my most vivid memories about him (among many vivid, unpleasant memories) was that he used to change undershirts several times a day. Every time I think of him, I also think of his white V-neck t-shirts flapping in the wind on the clothesline in the backyard like blank flags at half-mast.

As I can’t recall him ever doing anything more strenuous than thumping his Holy Bible, I had no idea why he needed to change his t-shirts so often. Maybe it was because my mother did all of the laundry, so why not? Change for the sake of change may have been good for him, but it was a burden for my mom. Though I’ve fully embraced change in my recent adulthood, I’ve remained suspicious and maybe even a little afraid of it too.

But now I’m beginning to see change in an entirely different light. Even when it’s not-so-good, or just for its own sake, it can end up having a net positive effect. Hannah Horvath on Girls would probably agree.

The fourth season of Girls won me over after a kind of hum-drum third season, and I think it was all because of change. There was so much of it. The biggest one: Hannah moved to Iowa (albeit briefly) to attend grad school, which set off a chain of unfortunate events for Hannah but fortunate ones for this viewer.

As a result of the stint in Iowa, she lost Adam, and upon her return, even more change was in store. She took a job as a substitute high-school teacher and her friends became a less prominent presence in her life. Hannah spent more time with Adam’s new girlfriend Mimi-Rose in episode 7 than she did with Marnie, Shoshanna and Jessa the entire season! If that wasn’t enough life upheaval, her father also came out as gay. That’s a lot of change for a 10-episode season.

(As an aside, I love the juxtaposition of her dad announcing he’s gay to her mother getting tenure, which, in academia, is the antithesis of change, as Loreen “I never have to move again” Horvath clearly realizes.)

The move to Iowa was one of the best developments that the series writer and star Lena Dunham has come up with yet. It took Hannah out of the orbit of her annoying New York circle, none of whom, with the exception of Adam and Shoshanna, I could possibly care less about. The Iowa episodes were some of my favorite ones of the season, partly because her New York crowd were barely in them. But most of all, I loved them because the change of scenery and Hannah’s ultimate failure in Iowa were the catalysts for the first signs of true emotional growth we’ve seen in her yet.

I don’t think she would have been able to be so supportive of her father and not make his coming out all about her without the Iowa experience. And look at how she remained in the background during the water-childbirth scenes, not grabbing center stage as old Hannah surely would have done. Had she not let go of so many illusions about herself, about her life, about life in general after Iowa, she probably would have taken Adam back in the season finale rather than seeing that they simply didn’t work anymore…if they ever actually did.

I’m thrilled that Hannah is starting to evolve, but I’m glad that she hasn’t completely changed her irritating ways. Her interaction with her student Cleo offered much-needed assurance that old-school Hannah is alive and well. Some might find her insufferable, but I love her despite her flaws…because of her flaws.

I get Hannah. Maybe it’s the writer in us. We’re a strange, complicated, contradictory breed. I hope friends and strangers don’t feel about me the way people do about Hannah, but I wouldn’t be too surprised to find out that some of them do. It’s not like I’ve never picked up and left everyone I cared about behind for far less clear-cut reasons than Hannah’s motivation for moving to Iowa.

I’m sure more big changes (some just for the sake of it) are in store for both Hannah and me. Maybe they’ll bring about continued evolution and make us more palatable to the people around us. Perhaps, as it did with Hannah, change will finally put me in the orbit of a guy who might actually be good for me and not just provide more fodder for my writing.

I like Mr. Parker. He’s cute and he totally nailed Hannah in just a couple of episodes. I’m curious to see where they go in season five. I love that he called her on her thirst for drama, but I hope she doesn’t bend like Carrie Bradshaw did with Aiden when she tried to give up smoking for him on Sex and the City. Hannah’s dramatic tendencies are a large part of what makes her and Girls interesting.

The last thing she (or I, a once-again thoroughly entertained viewer) needs is change in the form of a sexy new guy swooping in and altering Hannah or her maddening ways. I love them just the way they are.


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The End Is the Beginning: Thoughts on the Second Season Finale of “Girls”

Right back to where we started from It’s interesting — or on second thought, maybe the exact opposite — that at the end of season two, all four Girls girls are pretty much where they were at the beginning of the series: Hannah is back with Adam; Marnie is together again with Charlie; Shoshanna is single; and Jessa is God knows where (which is from whence she had just returned when the show began).

But while revisiting the past need not mean complete regression, only two of our girls have moved forward in any significant way since then: Shoshanna, my overall favorite character after Charlie (the one person on the show who reminds me of actual people I’ve known in real life, ones with whom I’d go out of my way to spend quality time, thanks, in part, to the attractive package that is portrayer Christopher Abbott), and Jessa, my least favorite, have both evolved over the course of the first two seasons. They aren’t exactly who they were when we met them.

Shoshanna is no longer a virgin. She’s now had a boyfriend and an ex-boyfriend, and she’s learned how to hook up just for the fun of it. Jessa is a soon-to-be divorcee who had a breakthrough moment with her father (a second season highlight), though she’s still as self-involved as she was when we met her. There’s a lot of that, self-involvement, going on on Girls, but I was recently told — by a 20-year-old guy no less — that it’s just the way of twentysomethings.

Meanwhile, Marnie is safely re-ensconced in romantic convention with Charlie (apparently, with better sex, but why would she think she’d have brown babies with him?), which she will no doubt sabotage next season when she starts to overthink it again, and she decides that she wants more — again. And Hannah? Poor Hannah. She’s having some kind of breakdown which led her back to the arms — literally — of the guy whom she accused of being partly responsible for putting her in this mess she’s in.

Nice torso, Adam, but you’re not so Big! After the debacle of his sex scene with Natalia in the penultimate season-two episode, Adam redeemed himself a little with his loyalty to Hannah and his shirtless mad dash through New York City to get to her. But if writer/star Lena Dunham is trying to position him as Big to her Hannah’s Carrie Bradshaw, she’s way off. Big could be callous and insensitive (he was, after all, a guy), but he was never mean. I suspect he was better in bed, too. Even without the dog shit, in his finale round with Natalia, Adam’s sexual proclivities still troubled me: Why do so many guys think fast and furious is preferable to nice and slow?

I’m not sure why Natalia stuck around for more after the dog shit, but at least she returned to being clear about what she wanted. Adam, though, was obviously bored with her and had already checked out of their short relationship around the time he told her to get on all fours, probably sabotaging it because he doesn’t think he’s good enough for a normal woman (woman, not girl). I felt a little sorry for Natalia when he reunited with Hannah in the end (she deserves to do the dumping), but she’s so much better off without him — cliched consoling words that probably never boosted the spirits of any dumpee.

Am I Jessa? Yesterday, in defense of still-MIA Jessa, my best friend told me that I’m kind of like her — “the way you leave parties, the way you left this country…” — and she has a point. But I would never dream of inviting her on a trip with me to see my father, abandon her there without warning, and then let the radio silence continue for weeks, without even sending a forwarding address. I’d at least update my Facebook status to let her know where I am. But then Jessa is so the type to think Facebook is beneath her. The one upside to her being such a terrible friend? The last few episodes have been so much more enjoyable without her being in them to infuriate me.

I don’t mind Hannah as much as everyone else does. I believe the general consensus is that Hannah, not Jessa, is the most maddening character on Girls, but I don’t find her as unlikable as everyone else seems to. Maybe it’s the writer in me that can relate to some of her dilemma and her tendencies: how difficult it is to be motivated to write sometimes, how one can manipulate life for material, how it’s so easy to get trapped in your own mind, turning other people into mere characters in your latest chapter.

What I don’t understand is where this obsessive-compulsive disorder and mental illness came from. It seems to have arrived completely out of nowhere. My best friend suggested that it’s basically Dunham angling for an Emmy later this year. I think it’s a lot of that, and an easy way to get Adam back into her orbit. Those two probably belong together — sort of like Carrie and Big on Sex and the City — so I’m willing to go along with it. I’m actually more interested in seeing where they end up in season three than I was in seeing how Hannah got home from Coney Island at the end of last season, which was never explained, by the way.

Is that really how e-book publishing works? Is it as easy for an untested — and as far as I know, still unpublished — writer to “ink” a deal to produce an e-book and get a generous advance for agreeing to do it? Hannah made it seem like a cinch. James Cameron Mitchell is playing the hell out of her editor, though. I’ve written for people who act just like that, which makes me glad to not be doing it at the moment.

I’ll take Michael Penn wherever I can get him! I don’t do TV soundtracks — no, not even any of the Glee ones that used to be released on a seemingly weekly basis — but I might actually download the Girls soundtrack, which was released in January and features the new song by Michael Penn that appeared in the finale. The tunes that pop up in each episode are high points of the shows. If the finale felt a little anti-climactic overall, the inclusion of “Elephant” by Tame Impala was the one thing that left me wanting more. Alas, more Tame Impala, not necessarily more Girls.

The suspense isn’t killing me. As much as I appreciate the ability of each Girls episode to evoke a strong reaction and encourage conversation, I just can’t get into the core four the way I did/do the central quartets on Sex and the City, The Golden Girls, Desperate Housewives, Hot in Cleveland, Girlfriends, Living Single, or in Waiting to Exhale. Maybe it’s because I’m too far removed from my mid-20s to relate to their growing pains (when the Charlotte York/Rose Nylund stand-in is my favorite, we’ve got a problem), or maybe it’s because they now spend so little time together that it’s easy to forget they’re even friends, or maybe it’s because I’ve got too many other TV shows to occupy my time.

Whatever the reason, I’m not exactly dying to find out what happens next, which has been my biggest problem with Girls all along. Lena Dunham can write interesting characters, realistic dialogue and the occasional brilliant scene. I just wish they were wowing me in the context of more compelling stories. Maybe that’s where both she (and Hannah) can really learn something from Carrie Bradshaw (though, preferably, not a penchant for beginning sentences with “I couldn’t help but wonder” and “And just like that…”).

It’s so not a shame about Ray. What am I hoping for next season? More Charlie, Jessa in even smaller doses, and no Ray, who has always been too ill-defined and seems to exist solely to be denigrated, which might be why he’s so annoyingly snarky. (Since when does running a coffee shop indicate that one is devoid of ambition?) But even if Ray were more appealing, I would understand Shoshanna’s wariness of being with someone who is only about her. If ever there was a guy who needs to disappear after the break-up, never to be heard from again, it would be Ray. But exes always come back, don’t they? I just hope an unwanted pregnancy doesn’t leave Shoshanna — and us — stuck with this one.


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Black and White, Republican Vs. Democrat: The Last Episode of “Girls” Really Got Me Thinking….

If I wasn’t completely convinced of Lena Dunham’s prowess as a writer, a scene in the second season-two episode of Girls that premiered on January 20 — an argument between Hannah and her new boyfriend Sandy, a black Republican — sold me on it 100 percent.

I still have no idea if Hannah can even write, though. Unlike Sex and the City, which was grounded by Carrie Bradshaw’s literary musings, Girls has kept its heroine scribe’s written word mostly a mystery. But I’m still marveling at how much ground Dunham the writer covered in the space of about four and a half minutes.

My internal debate continues over Sandy’s comment about white girls who come to New York City and date black guys, treating it as something merely to be crossed off their bucket lists. I’ve met guys like that, and I’ve dated a few of them, too — in and out of New York City. Interestingly enough, just the night before I watched the episode of Girls, I saw a gay Australian stand-up named Nathan doing a routine at the Laird in Melbourne about the Monday night he and his friend wandered into a black club in New York City, and for the first time, he hooked up with a black guy — or rather, as he put it, “a black bear.”

“Oh, I see there’s one out there in the audience right now,” he said, pointing in my direction before beginning his story.

“Who me? I am not a bear.” I was annoyed. I hate stand-up as it is, and now I had to suffer through it while everyone kept glancing over at me to check my reaction. And furthermore, I was no “bear” (gay slang for a hairy guy). Didn’t he see my hairless face? I considered doffing my shirt just to show him and everyone else in the bar that the rest of my body was similarly groomed.

As I listened to Nathan tell his long, pointless story, I wondered how much different it would have been had I not been in the room. It wasn’t a particularly racist tale (though he could have skimped on his overuse of the term “black bear,” which sounded so pejorative the way he kept saying it, possibly because of his strong Aussie accent). It wasn’t particularly funny either — he received only a few polite laughs — but I wondered how many first-timers I’ve hooked up with who were secretly so acutely aware of my skin color and maybe even turned our tryst into a comedy routine. I’ve gotten pretty good at fending off chocolate queens (the ones who only date black men), but those bucket-list queens — far more prevalent in Buenos Aires, Melbourne and Bangkok than they ever seemed to be in New York City — are impossible to avoid.

In Hannah’s defense, she had the perfect comeback to Sandy’s complaint. Since he’s had so many of these experiences with white girls, maybe he should consider the possibility that he fetishizes white women. Score! Thank God nobody has ever presented that argument to me. It would certainly be an appropriate one.

Although I have no ethnic restrictions when it comes to dating and hooking up, my serious and semi-serious boyfriends all have been white and Latino. I can’t say that it’s by accident either. I completely own my double standard, and I have several reasons for it (my own insecurity, childhood issues with black bullies, not wanting to compete with my boyfriends for attention in public) that I may expound upon in a future blog post.

I also thought this part of Hannah vs. Sandy was intriguing because of how it reflected Dunham herself. She fielded a lot of criticism last season for the lack of black characters in the New York City depicted in Girls, and giving Hannah an instant new black boyfriend in this season’s first episode seemed like her way of making amends. Now both she and Hannah could cross it off their lists at the same time.

Some other interesting points were made during the argument regarding gun control, the death penalty, mixed marriages (Republicans vs. Democrats) and Missy Elliott, but it was the one that kicked it off that really struck home with me. “If he’s not reading your essays, he’s not reading you,” Jessa told Hannah (so true — I’ve always judged boyfriends by how interested they are in what I write), leading Hannah to confront Sandy about why he hadn’t read the essay she’d given to him.

Newsflash!: He’d already read it, but he just didn’t know how to break the news to her that he didn’t like it. As I watched the beginning of the fight unfold, I thought of an uncomfortable conversation I once had with my first boyfriend, a German-American artist named Derek, after he slammed a review I had written on Enya’s Shepherd Moons album. (Give me a break: It was 1992, and Enya was huge!) He criticized my overuse of adjectives and my mannered writing. I was trying too hard. He said that in writing about the album, I didn’t come across the way I did when I talked about it. The review wasn’t conversational enough.

Derek’s critique was hard to hear, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t reward him for his honesty at the time. But in hindsight, it might have been more constructive than any criticism any of my editors ever gave me afterwards. It certainly influenced my writing (in a positive way) more than any negative review I’ve gotten since. I gained a lot from my year and a half of dating Derek, but his honesty and bluntness about that Enya review, and my writing in general, might have been the best thing he ever did for me.

Hannah pretended to take Sandy’s critique better than I initially took Derek’s, but she really didn’t. By the end of the scene, they’d broken up. I hope it’s not for good. Their mixed relationship might ultimately be a lost cause, but what dramatic/comedic potential!

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Why I’m Finally Getting Turned On by “Girls” (And Just in Time for Season 2!)

Don’t worry (or rejoice, depending on where you stand on the subject), my sexual preference remains intact. But to everyone who’s ever said I can’t admit when I’m wrong, this one’s for you: I was wrong.

Well, sort of.

Back in August when I watched the HBO series Girls for the first time – using the ninth episode and the first-season finale as my points of entry — I was so underwhelmed that I had to write about it. Encouraged by friends whose opinions I respect, I promised myself to try it again, this time starting from the beginning. Last weekend I finally got around to it, and as expected (by my friends with good taste, not me), after watching all of season one in its entirety — and in order, from the first to the 10th episode — I find myself eagerly awaiting the second season. January 13 (when it premieres) can’t get here fast enough!

Some things haven’t changed. I still think the writing can be too arch, in that self-conscious Williamsburg-hipster way (which might be more a reflection of the Brooklynites that populate Girls than the quality of creator/writer/director/executive producer/star Lena Dunham’s work), and the acting is uneven. But I get that the show isn’t really aiming for Friday Night Lights-style television vérité either.

Also, I stand by my assertion that the Brooklyn it presents could use more color (as in people, not pastels). But now that I understand the specific segment of Brooklyn it represents — those ironic, unapologetic hipsters — the whiteness of the core cast makes more sense. Despite the average hipster’s claim to open-mindedness, free-thinking and great taste in music, it’s a subculture that tends to be incredibly insular and incredibly white.

Girls is a show about the kind of people for whom Wes Anderson films — also exceedingly ironic… and white — are made, girls whose parents probably loved Woody Allen movies in the ’70s and ’80s. Come to think of it, it’s not like the Manhattan of Woody Allen, to whom Dunham has been compared, was brimming with black faces. Next season, though, Girls will add a splash of color when writer/rapper/musician/stand-up/actor Donald Glover joins the cast.

Obvious comparisons also have been made between Girls and another NYC institution, Sex and the City (and can be extended to pretty much any series with four female leads: The Golden Girls, Designing Women, Desperate Housewives, Hot in Cleveland and Australia’s Winners & Losers). But although Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda grew into more multi-dimensional women as the show progressed, Carrie’s Bradshaw’s friends were more or less archetypes. Women — and gay men — are always asking each other and themselves which one they are, and the most common answer involves Carrie Bradshaw and a blend of the others.

The girls on Girls — Hannah, Marnie, Jessa and Shoshanna — would probably say the same, though Jessa wouldn’t be caught dead watching SATC, and Hannah would no doubt hate it. If I’d initially watched the show in the order that God — and Dunham — intended, beginning with the pilot, I probably would have immediately assigned a type to each one. But by the second or third episode, they were already challenging first impressions and revealing themselves to be complicated twentysomething women — and pretty likable, too.

I’d much rather hang out with SATC‘s Samantha and Miranda than Charlotte (too boring and traditional) or Carrie (even with gay BFF Stanford in her life, I always got the impression that she thought her heterosexual romances were more significant than his homosexual ones), but I’d totally go to a party, even one in Brooklyn, with Hannah, Marnie, Jessa and Shoshanna, and I’d want to spend equal time with each of them. Like the guy whom Jessa ended up marrying in the finale, I might even want to hook up with Marnie and Jessa!

No, our girls aren’t always nice. They’re more flawed than the SATC ladies, maddeningly so, but I still feel invested in their stories — not so much what happens to them as how they react to it. Sex and the City was about relationships and friendships and the actual events in the characters’ lives, but Girls is more introspective. Hannah and Jessa would probably make fun of four thirty/fortysomething women who got together to discuss nothing but men over lunch. Girls is more focused on the inner lives of the characters than it is on boys, hence all the lengthy monologues about the characters’ favorite subject: themselves.

If there’s a theme running through the first 10 episodes, it’s that people can be unbelievably self-involved (especially writers!) and that, ultimately, we’re not in this together — we’re all on our own. It’s not exactly feel-good stuff, but I’d rather wince at these generally decent people behaving selfishly than at the dumb fat jokes that filled the first season of Mike & Molly. I’m still not sure what to do with the rampant nudity, which has featured mostly Dunham and not the traditionally “hotter” actresses, all daughters of famous people, who play her trio of friends, or that one completely unexpected sex scene in the sixth episode between Peter Scolari and Becky Ann Baker, the fiftysomething actors who play Hannah’s professor parents, in the bathroom, in the buff.

Since my initial entry into the series was from the vantage point of the ninth episode, when Hannah and Marnie have that big fight at the end, I had little context for the blowout and just saw two spoiled brats hurling insults at each other. Viewing it again in the context of the entire first season up to that point, I realized something I hadn’t seen before: They were making some valid points in that normal clunky twentysomething way. They’re good friends to each other, but terrible ones, too. And they both spend way too much time overthinking everything and dwelling on themselves. (So many pots calling kettles that particular shade of black on this show.)

Hannah, though thoroughly appealing, treats people more like characters in the memoir she’s constantly writing in her head than living breathing beings. And insecure Marnie spends all that time on her perch, looking down on the disappointing little people below, so that she can feel better about herself. That the besties only seem to want the guys they’re with when the guys act like they don’t want them is not only a reflection of the tendency of women to go after the unattainable bad boy but evidence of Hannah’s and Marnie’s extreme narcissism, too. Girls, and boys, are so like that.

Also indicative of the self-involvement of these ladies are the scenarios in which both Marnie and Shoshanna meet their first-season love interests. Both are high on drugs, and they bond with the guy after they’re abandoned by their friends/babysitters (in Marnie’s case, Hannah, and in Shoshanna’s case, Jessa) for — what else? — a guy.

The moral of Girls‘ story (so far): At the end of the day — and night — you can only count on you. It’s a depressing thought, but it makes that final finale shot of Hannah sitting alone on Coney Island, eating wedding cake, all the more perfect.

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Fools Who Rush In: Are They the Dumb Ones Or Just the Crazy in Love Ones?

“You can’t hurry love.”

“Easy come, easy go.”

“Good things come to those who wait.”

“Slow and steady wins the race.”

When it comes to falling in love, time-worn idioms are not on the side of fools who rush in where angels fear to tread. As Steven Tyler sang on Aerosmith’s 1997 single, falling in love (is hard on the knees). It can be even harder on the heart if you fall too quickly.

Then again, easy come, easy go, right? According to TheFreeDictionary, this particular phrase (which was used as the title of a 1993 George Strait single and, fittingly, the 2000 Sex and the City episode in which whirlwind couple Charlotte and Trey got engaged with one simple “alrighty”) is “something that you say in order to describe someone who thinks that everything is easy to achieve, especially earning money, and who therefore does not worry about anything.”

What? Nothing about love? I’ve always interpreted it in two ways, both involving love, not money: 1) If you exert minimal effort to land the one you’re with, you’re likely to lose him or her with minimal effort, too. And 2) If you love the one you’re with too quickly, you’ll get over him or her just as quickly. For the most part, my love life has followed the trajectory outlined in No. 2. I’ve tended to fall hard and fast. As Luther Vandross sang on his 1985 track, my sensitivity (gets in the way). My love can be like a supernova — it glows, explodes and goes.

As I get older, and everything starts slowing down, so do my romances. I now find myself conducting my love life as I do my every other aspect of my existence, proceeding with the utmost caution. It took me a full six months, four longer than usual, to finally utter those four magic words — “I love you, too” — to my last boyfriend, and it took me twice as long to get over him (an ongoing process that will turn one year old sometime in the next week or so).

Does that mean it was true love because it took so long to show up and so much longer to go away. Does that mean love is true blue only when it takes its sweet time arriving? Does that mean love at first sight is an urban myth? I don’t have any definitive answers. On one hand, I still believe love is something that we can’t control. As Pet Shop Boys sang on their 1986 single, love comes quickly (and whatever you do, you can’t stop falling). We can only manage the way we react to it, whether we give in to it right away and let the object of our affection know how we feel, or if we wait until he or she says it first.

It’s hard to sustain love that arrives in a blaze of glory. But as any firefighter knows, it’s even more challenging to extinguish an out of control raging fire. No firefighter would ever dream of stepping aside in the line of duty, but when in the line of love’s fire, sometimes it’s best to get out of the way and let love run its fiery course.

On the other hand, as Mariah Carey and Robert Palmer both sang (in 1990 and 1994, respectively), love takes time. It needs time and space to unfold and develop. I can’t argue with that. But that said, it should be a natural progression, not one that comes about due to any great effort by either of the people in it.

Neither do love at first sight and taking it slow need to be mutually exclusive. Some of the best relationships I’ve experienced (usually from the outside, looking in) have been ones where both parties fell fast, became a couple in fairly quick succession, and then let it develop further organically, at a natural, effortless pace. Once someone who’s dragging his or her feet utters the words “Let’s take it slow,” or uses it to backtrack after plunging in, it’s almost like the kiss of death. Does anyone ever say that when they’re really into someone?

For a neurotic frantic romantic like me, it’s too easy to overthink and overanalyze a relationship into oblivion when it’s developing at a snail’s pace. That’s the risk I run, too, when I try to follow the Millionaire Matchmaker’s golden rule: abstinence before monogamy. Although it’s a great concept, there’s too much potential for angst. But then, I’m someone who’s never really figured out how friends turn in to lovers.

I prefer to lead with sex and let the rest fall into place later. Maybe that only works when two guys are involved, but it decreases the potential for deal-breaker surprises in bed and cements your physical attraction so that you can determine what you can be to each other from the outset, making those early dates less fraught with anxiety. There’s nothing worse than sitting across from a guy you want and wondering, But does he want me? Furthermore, patience is not one of my virtues. I have a short attention span, and when my mind starts to wander, my eyes do, too. Eventually, they focus on something, or someone, else. I’m a typical male that way.

“I want to lock this thing down.”

It might have not been the most romantic thing Aidan Shaw ever said to Carrie Bradshaw, but I got it. When he said that if she doesn’t want to marry him now she never will during their second Sex and the City breakup, despite her protestations, he was right on the money. (I can’t believe I never noticed it until this very moment, but if they’d gotten married, she would have been Carrie Bradshaw Shaw!) There something to be said for taking it slow. There’s a lot to be said for taking it slow. But it’s something that should happen naturally, not deliberately, not after hours of analysis and discussion, and not as a potential out while one or both of you decide if the romance is what you really want.

Unless you’ve got freezing feet after being burned by an ex (in which case, you probably still aren’t over said ex and shouldn’t be embarking on a new relationship anyway), the heart wants what the heart wants, and if the heart really wants it, it generally wants it now. That’s what I told myself a few years ago, several months into dating Matias, when, tired of his general ambivalence toward me, toward us, and his insistence on taking it too slow, I set him free. Within a few weeks, he had a new boyfriend, a serious boyfriend, one he was still with when I ran into him on my birthday a year and a half later.

The heart wants what the heart wants, and his just didn’t want me. “Let’s take it slow” is tantamount to “I’m just just that into you,” or “I’m just not that into you right now.” For the impatient and the insecure (like me), sitting around waiting for someone to decide whether he or she wants you is like watching a lukewarm pot of water on the fire that never reaches a full boil. I’d rather take a cold shower and call it a night.

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Hooking Up and Breaking Up in the 21st Century

“All we’re saying is there really is no good way to break up with someone, is there?”

“It’s funny you should mention that, Billy, because actually there is. You can have the guts and the courtesy to tell a woman to her face that you no longer want to see her. Call me crazy, but I think that you can make a point of ending your relationship in a manner that doesn’t include an email, a doorman or a missing person’s report. I think you could all get over your fear of looking like the bad guy and actually have the uncomfortable break-up conversation because here’s what: Avoiding that is what makes you the bad guy. And just so you know, Alan…”


“Uh huh. Most women are not angry, irrational psychos. We just want an ending to a relationship that is thoughtful and decent and honors what we had together. So my point, Billy, is this: There is a good way to break up with someone, and it doesn’t include a Post-it!”

So said Carrie Bradshaw to Berger’s smarmy friends in the episode of Sex and the City that aired last night on the Sony Channel in Bangkok — and who can argue? I can’t think of a more cowardly get-out-of-love-free card that one can pull out than a Post-it. But, I wondered, as I watched Sarah Jessica Parker give the comedic performance of a lifetime (or at least the entire series), how would Carrie have felt if Berger had put it in an email instead.

Perhaps not as bad? Part of what made the Post-it sting so much was the deception involved. Berger came by bearing pink carnations and professing a burning desire to work things out. Even worse, he left in the middle of the night. No matter what Dido sings (in her song “Don’t Believe in Love”), going to bed with arms around you and waking up on your own can be the most depressing thing in the world.

But getting back to the break-up email, a few hours after I watched SATC, I caught a preview of Steve Harvey’s upcoming daytime talk show in which he addressed the idea of the dreaded dumping by text, or by email. Here’s what he had to say:

Another excellent point, but one that overlooks the very nature of 21st-century romance, much of which often takes place online, if not in separate cities, countries and, occasionally, continents, regardless of how you meet. I’ve been there. And in case I’d forgotten what it’s like, I recently was reminded while having a Facebook chat with Sebastián, a friend with occasional benefits in Buenos Aires. While we were discussing our chronic singledom (his, unlike mine, being not entirely by choice), he dropped the following comment:

“Sabes el tiempo que hace que no leo: Queres ser mi novio? O te gustaria ponerte de novio conmigo?”

Wow! I couldn’t believe the implication of what I was reading. If he can’t remember the last time he’s read an invitation to go steady, that must mean he only reads invitations to go steady.

I sought confirmation.


So does that mean he’s never had a relationship where he and the other guy decided that they were boyfriends while in the same room?


I was shocked. Though I’ve always tried to avoid that awkward let’s-be-exclusive conversation (being the commitment-phobe that I am), I’ve always managed to have them face-to-face. Of course, I’m from the generation where we had to actually call up people we liked on the phone and ask them out. At 30, my friend is from the era of impersonal communication — and dating. He’s always been able to take the easy way out.

Not that I occasionally haven’t. I won’t lie: I’ve broken up with guys by text and by email, and I’ve been dumped by email. In all four situations, there was no face-to-face option at the time. Either we were in different cities, or one of us was refusing to see the other in person.

I’ve always been firmly against putting off for tomorrow what you can do today. Why wait until I return from my vacation in Rio to tell me that we’re through when you can send me a “Dear Jeremy” email? I’ll cry a little, but afterwards, I’ll be able to enjoy my vacation without saving myself for a guy back home who doesn’t even want me anymore.

So you won’t see me or answer my phone calls? Well, rather than putting off the inevitable until you decide you’re ready to talk (and with the line “I break up with him before he dumps me” from Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott’s “The Rain” playing in my head), here’s a text message saving us both the trouble. Considering that I caught him later that evening with another guy, I’d say I made the right decision.

I should have left him a voice mail, though. I would have stuttered, stumbled over my words, probably said all the wrong things, but it would have been a more courageous out. Being a journalist, writing will always be my communication method of choice, but I wish my long-distance dumping had all been done by phone call instead of by email.

The Post-it break-up, though, is an entirely different ballgame, one I would never even think to play, because to leave someone a Post-it, you must have been in their physical space. So there’s absolutely no reason why you couldn’t just tell him or her how you feel in person. Yes, there might be tears, angry words, flying pots and pans or mirrors (the recent projectile of choice of a Thai friend whose German beau gave him the boot), but that’s how love goes. It’s a battlefield, remember?

But then again, wounds heal. Post-its are forever. Or they can be. Carrie’s got her out of getting arrested for smoking a joint in public. So she may not have learned anything from the relationship, but at least some good came of that Post-it. If only all break-up emails and texts served us so well.

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The Zero 7 Song I Can’t Get Out of My Head (Thanks, “Sex and the City”!)

Recently, I’ve made a few more belated Sex and the City discoveries.

The episodes between the one in which Berger broke up with Carrie on a Post-it (“Hop, Skip, and a Week”) and the one called “One,” in which she met the Russian artist (whom I hated) played by the Russian dancer (Mikhail Baryshnikov, whom I love), were the best of the entire series.

I’m convinced that the scene in “The Post-it Always Sticks Twice” in which she explained to Berger’s friends why it’s never a good idea, under any circumstance, to dump someone on a Post-it might be Sarah Jessica Parker’s best bit of acting ever. I’m convinced this was the episode that finally won her the Emmy during the show’s final season.

Then there was Charlotte’s reaction to her miscarriage, Samantha’s very realistic reaction to falling for Smith despite her worst intentions, and my reaction to Blair Underwood (ooh la la!). And finally, there was the music: Chicago’s “If You Leave Me Now” playing during the gay prom at the end of “Boy, Interrupted,” and best of all, Zero 7’s “In the Waiting Line” at the end of “The Domino Effect,” the one in which Big had heart surgery.

That particular episode certainly had enough great sequences to stand on its own, sans music — Carrie’s crying fits, the shift, imperceptible to anyone but her, that Big’s heart had closed again once his health scare had passed — but it was the song that was playing in the background when she knocked over the dominoes in the closing shot that made the most indelible impression when I saw it last week for the first time in ages.

I thought I’d remembered pretty much everything about this particular Sex and the City episode when it began, and I knew everything to expect, except, oddly enough, Zero 7 on the soundtrack. The 2001 single from the British duo featuring a rotating cast of guest vocalists (Sophie Barker, in the case of “In the Waiting Line,” which hit No. 47 in the UK) wouldn’t make a huge impression on me until 2004, the year after the SATC episode, when it was used in the film Garden State. After Jean Smart and Peter Sarsgaard’s mother-son combo, it was the only thing I liked about that movie.

It’s one of those gorgeous singles that should have been a huge hit, but somehow it went over and past the heads of mainstream music fans. The song has a distinctly melancholy air, but there’s hope there, too. Every time I hear it, I feel a surge of optimism rising inside me, despite the sad, gauzy music.

I love that a show like Sex and the City dared to dig deeper than the hits for its soundtrack, if for no other reason than this: In the future, whenever I hear “In the Waiting Line,” I’ll no longer think about Kevin (the guy with whom I saw Garden State) and his dreadful taste in movies (he also dragged me to I Heart Huckabees, which he loved, too), but Carrie, Big and those falling dominoes. What an effect!

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