“I Think About This a Lot” is a series dedicated to private memes: images, videos, and other random trivia we are doomed to play forever on loop in our minds.
Growing up in a small town, I had plenty of cliché daydreams inspired by Sex and the City. I imagined commuting on the subway in clippy-clappy heels to a fabulous media job, filling my calendar with notable parties and happenings, and keeping a Rolodex of complicated, sexy men who would take me on romantic dates to bars with overpriced cocktails. But mostly, I dreamed about the late-night dinners. Eating a delicious meal at 9 p.m. at a chic restaurant that requires reservations and insider-y knowledge about its trendiness felt like the pinnacle of cosmopolitan life. This is why the penultimate episode of the series, “An American Girl in Paris, Part Une,” has always frustrated me.
At the beginning of the episode, Carrie Bradshaw is preparing to move to Paris with her new artiste boyfriend played by Mikhail Baryshnikov. Her three girlfriends aren’t necessarily happy about the move, but they organize a dinner to send Carrie off. To my great confusion, they schedule it for 6 p.m., on the night of her departure, at an ugly restaurant.
Sure, the restaurant looks expensive and exactly how you would imagine a midtown restaurant to look back in 2004. But it’s all wood-paneling and glass with mint-green and neon-blue accents. There are multiple sets of salt-and-pepper shakers on the table, a crusty bread basket, and a background humming with the sound of elevator music and men in suits.
The girls order their usual to drink, cosmos, and don’t appear to eat any food. Carrie inexplicably wears a bubblegum-pink Jill Stuart ruffle dress. The conversation is startlingly sober. Out of nowhere, Carrie bursts into one of her typical bouts of earnest sentimentality, saying to her friends, “Today, I had a thought. What if I had never met you?”
What I can’t get over is: Why is this what she chooses for her last night in New York? Why are they eating so early? Why is everyone sober? And why such a tasteless, stuffy spot after six seasons of S&M-themed restaurants and parties that require getting on “the list”?
After years of watching these same four people traipse all over Manhattan in ridiculous outfits, at ridiculous events, with ridiculous people, the show gives us the lamest last supper ever. It’s Carrie’s last night in New York, the show’s unquestionable fifth main character, and the place that all of them have built their lives. It’s a travesty when Miranda considers moving to Brooklyn earlier in the season, but for some reason Carrie’s last night before switching continents is a boring affair. There’s not even a Judas, ready to start some good old-fashioned back-stabbing.
When it comes time for Carrie to say good-bye, she doesn’t throw a lush going-away party, or hit the town for one last night. At dinner, she doesn’t cling to her friends and ugly cry the way I would imagine myself doing. Rather, she very stoically proclaims, “I want to thank you all for wishing me well tonight.” In what world does Carrie Bradshaw say good-bye to New York without drinking so much with her girls she trips her Manolos over a subway grate? “I can’t be drunk on the plane. I want to arrive stunning and impossibly fresh-looking,” she tries to explain.
It’s not the idea of the main characters moving on that’s sad, it’s that the change happens so quickly. The previous episode is all standard SATC fare. “When you live in New York City, it can take all your energy to stay in vogue,” Carrie declares before meeting her Vogue editor over lunch, where they split the dorado. Later she attends a swanky party hosted by documentary filmmakers where guests say things like “Please don’t mention this conversation to anyone at Condé Nast.”
What I think the show is attempting to signal to us in this dinner is that Carrie has changed. Elsewhere in the episode, it slaps the viewer across the face with proof that things are different, like Carrie abandoning her sex column. But the dinner scene feels different than the more obvious declarations of change in the air. It feels like both a missed opportunity and a betrayal of Carrie as a character.
Maybe that’s why the dinner scene sticks with me. Sex and the City is built on unreal expectations about living in New York. Its unattainability is part of the appeal. In a moment where the city feels unlike its previous self, that’s why the dinner rankles: It’s devoid of possibility and New York serendipity. I want the usual nonsense. I want Carrie to be celebrating, not bemoaning the choices she hesitantly makes. I can’t help but wonder, if everything was normal, what would I do for my last supper?