Carrie Bradshaw once said, “Beauty is fleeting, but a rent-controlled apartment overlooking the park is forever.” But that was way back in the second episode of Sex and the City. It was a different time, a different show and, I’m beginning to think, a different Carrie.
Carrie Bradshaw has always had one constant in her life: her grimey oasis on the second floor of a quintessential brownstone on the Upper East Side. Sure, it’s changed a little over the years, just as she has—in the first film, she attempted to de-grime it, hiring an interior decorator to give it an adult update. But it has never changed enough to become anyone else’s—Aidan’s disastrous attempt to knock down one of the walls and take away one of her bathroom doors is proof enough of that. (Back then, Carrie was “the one who loves her two bathroom doors”.)
By the beginning of And Just Like That, Carrie is living with Big in a new apartment—but, as we soon learn with relief, the brownstone studio is still there, waiting for her, just as it always had been: Carrie’s room of her own, an extension of herself, in all of her messy, chaotic, fun-loving glory. It is, as Carrie promised us, “forever”—or at least it was.
(Warning: Spoilers for And Just Like That follow.)
Carrie spends the majority of the latest episode convincing herself, along with her visibly skeptical friends, that she’s ready to give up her apartment. It’s all because Aidan can’t bear to step foot inside after their hideous breakup—the wheels of which were, after all, set in motion by the apartment itself.
Carrie finds a beautiful four bedroom to share with the carpenter and, sometimes, his three Virginian children. At this point, her friends are literally grimacing at the thought. “Is she really sure?” Apparently, she is.
She returns home, where she bumps into her neighbor, Lisette, who is “terrible,” thank you for asking. “I just found out the gay guys I sublet from, they want to move back to New York,” Lisette says. “These dudes are going to have to physically drag me out of here. I mean can you imagine anyone ever wanting to leave this place.” Carrie reflects, then, with a voice full of meaning, replies, “Actually I can.” She calls Seema and takes the new apartment. Cue the voiceover: “And just like that, I went up the stairs of my old apartment without looking back.”
As far as I’m concerned, this latest development is more devastating than the already infamous “Big was a big mistake” revelation of last week’s episode. First, Carrie rewrote her history with Big.. Now she’s rewriting her own history. After all, without her brownstone, who is she?
The apartment itself is the stuff dreams are made of—a perfect den for the artistic, messy New York it-girl. French prints line the walls and sit atop the hallway table. A rotary phone is perched precariously on a stack of magazines. There is stuff everywhere, and it’s delightful.
Carrie’s apartment is a place of perfect, precise contradictions. A place where you can wear designer shoes and tulle, while also lounging on an unmade bed eating Chinese takeout straight out of the cardboard container. A place where you can type away late into the night making $4.50 a word for Vogue, while chain smoking and sipping a cocktail. A place where the fridge is empty and the oven is used to store unworn designer outfits. A place Carrie was free to be herself.
If Carrie Bradshaw was the writer we all wanted to be, her apartment, simultaneously messy and stylish, was where we wanted to live.
Carrie’s decision to sell her beloved brownstone “without looking back” is meant to signify that she’s finally growing up and moving on—that she isn’t the chaotic, chain-smoking, shoe-buying, takeout-eating girl she once was. But why, oh why, must her character development mean giving up her brownstone, her place, for the sake of a man? Can’t she be allowed to grow as a person without relinquishing so much of what makes her her?
My only hope is that Samantha, who is due to make a long awaited return before the end of the season, talks some sense into her. After all, when the old Carrie complained that Aidan was “taking over whole areas” in her beautiful mess of an apartment, Samantha replied, without missing a beat, “This is why I’ve never lived with a man.”
Darren Star, creator of Sex and the City, once bemoaned Carrie and Big’s rom-com ending. “I think the show ultimately betrayed what it was about, which was that women don’t ultimately find happiness from marriage,” he said in an interview. “Not that they can’t. But the show initially was going off script from the romantic comedies that had come before it. That’s what had made women so attached.”
If Carrie continues down this ill-fated path and proceeds to give up pieces of herself for the sake of a (potentially doomed) relationship, And Just Like That will be making the same mistake its predecessor did back in 2004. Team Big or Team Aidan? I’m Team Brownstone.