The conventional wisdom—at least in gay circles—is that “Sex and the City,” the TV phenomenon about randy urban women as alive now on DVD as it was on HBO every Sunday night, is really about gay men. Surely, we say—hope?—women don’t talk about sex that much, that graphically. Surely women don’t have sex that much, that . . . graphically.
And we’re not the only ones questioning the show’s veracity. A woman friend of mine notes that straight men—her current and ex-boyfriends included—can’t stand the show. They cringe at the thought of women sitting around talking about their sex lives—talking, in point of fact, about them (not to mention their penises). They refuse to believe that it happens. But, my friend assures me, it does. It happens all the time.
Maybe that’s precisely what makes “Sex and the City” so fascinating—the fact that those of us who are not women have never heard these things coming out of women’s mouths before.
Still, we gay boys do have a point. It’s not hard to understand the confusion. Tune in to any episode, close your eyes, and imagine the voices a couple of octaves deeper, and you could just as easily be overhearing the average Sunday brunch on Fire Island.
That image got me thinking (this is where the camera would do a close-up on Carrie’s laptop): Even though gay people are all over the media these days, does anyone outside of the gay world really know what we talk about? Maybe it’s time they did. Rather than putting our words in the mouths of fluffed, glossed, and mascaraed fashionistas teetering atop ridiculously expensive Manolos, I thought it was high time to let gay men speak for themselves. Or one of them, anyway—namely me. With a little help from my friends, of course.
I had a blind date recently—well, not blind exactly; we had seen each other’s photographs jpegged on match.com. (By the way, my friend Dick refuses to call these obligatory meetings blind dates. Since they’re always conducted at cafés and inevitably seem more like interviews, he stubbornly refers to them as “blind coffees.”) Anyway, as I was in mid-sip on my no-foam latte (the last thing you want is a foam mustache when you’re trying to make a first impression), the inevitable question arose: “Which character on ‘Sex and the City’ would you be?” It’s become standard shorthand for getting to know people—the gay equivalent of Barbara Walters asking her guests what sort of twee they’d wike to be in their next wife.
All the types are there—slutty Samantha, neurotic Miranda, innocent Charlotte, and woefully adjective-deprived Carrie. But, despite this embarrassment of carnal riches, everyone claims to be Carrie. No one will admit to being any of the others, least of all Samantha (now there’s a red flag on a first date). Actually, it’s not hard to understand why: in this fictional universe, Carrie is the only complete human being; the others are merely her id, ego, and superego floating around hopelessly, seeking completion in sometimes-slutty, sometimes-romantic, sometimes-together, sometimes-a-mess Carrie.
Samantha, of course, is more fun: like Carrie, we want to live vicariously through her life (and deny that we ever do the same things). But to keep Carrie from being easily seduced by Samantha’s exploits, Charlotte sits demurely on her other shoulder, reminding her about romance, the perennially unproven theory that men are meant for more than fucking. As for Miranda—well, she’s great to have around primarily so that Carrie can feel superior to her: sure, she has a great job and a great apartment, but she’s the most neurotic creature to hit the screen since Alvy Singer met Annie Hall.
But here’s the rub: We may all want to be Carrie, but do we really want to hang out with her? Do we really want to see everyone from all sides, all the time? Do we really want to be reminded that other people, too, are fully fleshed human beings?
I’ll admit to lumping several friends into the more extreme categories—it makes life simpler. If we actually acknowledged all people as complex characters, how would Jerry Springer earn a living? We’d probably all walk around smiling all the time, saying “Have a nice day” to everyone we meet and actually meaning it. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like hell to me. Or Cleveland.
Besides, to put it bluntly, who has time? Let’s face it: achieving a balanced, complete view of the self is a lifetime goal. It requires years of reflection, meditation, therapy, weightlifting, endless shopping, and—for some of us—the occasional liposuction. And still no one notices: we are forever pigeonholed as somebody’s son, somebody’s brother, somebody’s boss, somebody’s sex partner, somebody’s projection of their own unfulfilled childhood needs, etc. No, it’s just too much trouble. I’ll focus on my own wholeness, thank you very much; you take care of yours.
Which brings me back to Samantha. Ask any guy who he’s like and, sure, he’ll say Carrie. But ask him who he’d rather have a cosmo with, and there’s no contest. Of all the ladies who brunch, the leggy blonde with the potty mouth is the one we prefer—by a landslide. If our favorite foursome were ever magically transformed into men, she’s the one who would fit in the easiest in the Castro. Carrie makes a fabulous fag hag, but with that fashion sense, she’d make one lousy fag.
Samantha Jones lives for sex, and that, apparently, is something we can relate to. If men in general think about sex every five seconds, only gay men act upon it with anywhere near that frequency. Samantha’s our vindication, our evidence that successful, professional, well-mannered people can still be sluts. Every time you’re faced with a risqué temptation—the UPS man smiles a little too slyly in his tight brown shorts, a muscle boy removes his towel in the steam room, your local sex club places discount coupons in the newspaper—ask yourself what Samantha would do, and your fears are vanquished.
Every time I hear someone complain about Will Truman and Jack McFarland—the eunuch and the bimbo of sitcom-land—I like to refer them to Samantha, the only real gay man on television.