No, this not yet another gender-bashing post; the reason I picked the ladies from Sex and the City as my "image du jour" is because the characters from this very popular HBO show (yes, I am a fan) epitomize what it means to be a conspicuous consumer.
I was thinking the other day about what this show meant to the spending habits of not just American women, but of Americans in general. Yeah, we've always been somewhat label conscious, but the advent of Sex put our acquisitiveness into overdrive. Carrie Bradshaw, the "writer", with her seemingly endless supply of designer frocks, shoes and handbags made us all think that life on a shoestring no longer existed. We were all anxious to enjoy the same perks of the profession, which in Carrie's world included unlimited access to the best of everything, even if the show did subtly downplay the excess on occasion. We avidly followed Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte through six seasons of countless men, and countless costume changes, including the very liberal and obvious inclusion of enviable accessories. Man, was I hooked. My own shoe and purse collection grew by leaps and bounds; granted I did not have a closet-full of Blahniks and Fendi baguettes, but let's just say there was a lot of variety.
When Sex and the City 2 landed in theatres back in May, I was downright shocked that it was so universally panned by critics. Then, when I listened to why it was panned, I thought, well, they're not wrong. The days of prolific excess were over, and their reappearance in the movie made everyone extremely uncomfortable. There were rumblings of, these-women-are-now-in-their-40s-and-are-no-longer-behaving-in-an-age-appropriate-manner, which I totally scoffed at; but the ongoing litany of excess was something I couldn't ignore. The general obsession with logos and celebrity has reached a pinnacle of pervasiveness I can no longer tolerate. Plus, I am now attempting to earn a living as a full-time writer, and the reality of the situation is, a freelance writer bears no resemblance to Carrie Bradshaw. I don't care how many fashionable friends you have; if you want to earn a living, your laptop not only becomes your favourite accessory, it is your lifeline to making money. No two ways about it.
I'm not saying I thought any of it was real for even one second, but many people did. For those who don't know what a snake pit New York City can be, life really did look fabulous. In reality, it can chew you up and spit you out faster than an A train, speeding uptown from 59th Street to 125th street, with no local stops. Now, you can no longer go around searching for "labels and love" without encountering some derision from the once mighty who have fallen so far. Many mistakes were made, and many judgments were passed by a lot of people. As far as I am concerned, we are still in a period of recovery that certainly does not warrant the type of in-your-face consumerism Sex and the City made famous. We need to take a while to reassess those mistakes, and try our best not to repeat them. Some of us will learn, some of us won't. I'd like to think I fall into the category of "Now I Know Better", and I'm certainly doing my best to stay there.
I may not ever live a Carrie Bradshaw lifestyle, but at least I can be proud of the work I do. I no longer live in New York, and I no longer covet the things I once did. Sure, I still love my books, shoes, purses and scents, but I always have. It didn't take 4 larger-than-life Manhattan women to show me the ropes. But the same 4 fictional women taught me to appreciate what I do have, and let go of what I no longer need.