Welcome back to Sex and the Psychological City!
If you have read the earlier posts, you are familiar with my confession that I was a hipper psychotherapist when my go-to girlfriends -- Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha were on the air, with fresh new material on everything from masturbation to marriage. Granted, their wardrobes and lifestyles were totally unrealistic, but the fashion and fabulousness worked well as a delivery platform for groundbreaking discussions about sex, commitment, friendship and love.
Since I specialize in relationships and intimacy, the show became an ideal co-therapist that I've brought into the therapy session whenever appropriate. A lot has changed since the show first aired in 1998. Imagine a dating world void of blackberries, iphones, texting and Facebook! And yet, it is shocking to watch early episdoes and realize that the core issues remain the same. In honor of the show, I am taking a trip down Memory Lane that considers each first season episode, from a psychological perspective.
Episode six, titled Secret Sex, opens with Carrie posing for a promotional photo for her column. The photo is scheduled to post on the side of a crosstown bus. While she feels self-conscious about her provocative pose and her skimpy outfit, her conflicts are abated when she learns that she can keep the skin colored, low cut, backless mini dress used in the shoot. To celebrate, she decides to wear her new frock on her first official date with Big. While hanging with her girlfriends and trying to summon pre-date moral support, Miranda calls the dress "tits on toast" and the group nicknames it the "naked dress." When Big meets her at his limo, all he can say is "nice dress." The dress leads to unrestrained passion, both in the limo and at Big's bachelor pad. Afterwards, they follow "great sex" by going out for "greasy chinese" at a local Sechuan dive. Carrie is enjoying herself but grows perplexed when she notices her buddy Mike in the restaurant and Mike fails to introduce her to his date, Libby. Carrie follows up with Mike the next day, and he acknowledges that, although Libby is "smart, sweet" and "the best sex in my life," he is embarrassed to be seen with her. He also admits that what he likes about the Sechuan restaurant selection is the low likelihood of running into others. He then apologizes, realizing that this analysis may shed light on Big's true intentions or lack thereof. When Big later fails to introduce Carrie to his skiing buddy in the street, and he brings her back to the same restaurant for date number two AND he declines her invitation to come out to a local bus stop and celebrate her bus photo with her friends, Carrie wonders:
How many of us are having great sex with someone we don't want to introduce to our friends?
Later, Charlotte admits to a secret fling with a hassidic folk artist in Brooklyn, and Samantha reminds her girlfriends that you can have great sex with someone you do not like, respect or even remember. Carrie continues to stress about her status with Big and asks herself:
Is secret sex the ultimate form of intimacy, or just a way to compartmentalize our lives?
I have worked with many clients who hesitate to incorporate their romantic partners into their lives. I also see clients who feel anxious when they are not included adequately in the lives of the people they date OR when they sense that they are included too quickly. Ultimately, there are no clear rules when it comes to the question of when and how our romantic lives should intersect with our real lives.
My advice? Ultimately, both those who rush to introduce their dates to everyone in their world AND those who go to great lengths to delay the process are probably too focused on what others think. They actually are too focused on what they IMAGINE others think, since none of us ever knows, for sure, what goes on in the thoughts and minds of others. If you are dating someone who keeps you completely compartmentalized from the rest of their lives, this is a cause for concern. You are probably dating someone who cares too much about what other people think; this is an exhausting and ego-driven quality that is not conducive to a healthy relationship. Likewise, if you are dating someone who wants you to meet their family or their friends on a second date, this could be a nice compliment, but it could also be a sign that they are excessively social and possibly TOO focused on finding someone that meets their friends' expectations rather than their own. They may lack confidence in their ability to get to know you independently and make their own decisions. Obviously, none of us can live our romantic lives in complete isolation from others, and it is important to choose relationships where you feel comfortably integrated and included.
If you are enjoying getting to know someone, and you are concerned that you have not been integrated into their lives, consider bringing it up with them in a relaxed and non-threatening way. Say something like:
I've had so much fun getting to know you, I have fun with you, and I think it would be fun to also spend time together with some of our friends. How would you feel about getting a group together for dinner sometime?
Talking about your concerns in a productive way is preferable to rushing to negative conclusions. After all, when Carrie confronts Big (in an unproductive, drunken rant) she is embarrassed to learn that the restaurant he chose is one of his favorites, the FORGOT the name of his ski buddy so he was unable to make a proper introduction, and he declined to go to her bus photo celebration because he had court-side seats for the Nicks. Sometimes what we view as a slight is nothing of the sort. Honest, kind communication is always an appealing way to address relationship concerns.
Check in next episode as Carrie wonders: "In a city like New York, with its infinite possibilities, has monogamy become too much to expect?"
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