A Doctrine of Exceptionalism I can Support

One good thing about being snowbound (or really snow lazy) was that I had an opportunity to catch up on work, among other things.  Like I suspect many of you also did, I vacillated between productivity and television/movies/books.  One of the movies that I finally watched (and no, I am not necessarily proud of it) was the Sex and the City movie.  I have no problems admitting that I followed the show during its early seasons – I may have attended and even hosted a SATC party or four – but I felt no real inclination to watch the movie.  I’m going to blame HBO for showing it a bunch of times and my insomnia for choosing it over infomercials.

This has never been a space for movie reviews and I certainly won’t change that by discussing a 2+ year old movie of marginal cinematic consequence.  But after watching Carrie get left at the alter by Big, I just knew there was no way they were getting back together… and then I wanted to throw day old Domino’s pizza at the screen when they did reconnect and marry at the end of the movie.  “How could she put herself in this position?” I yelled at the screen, followed by the thought “this is the bullshit message that ends a once formidable cultural phenomenon?”

A day or so later the distaste was still lingering in my mind when I trekked to a bar to meet a friend.  The Only Slightly Sleazy Lobbyist and I were sitting on a mostly heated patio lamenting our NFL-Withdrawal while sucking on discount beers and La Flor Dominicana Cabinet Selection #1* for me and American Spirits for him.  A few minutes later a slightly inebriated woman ambled over to our perch at the bar.

“Excuse me, I just broke up with my boyfriend and would like a cigarette please” she said with just a hint of affect.

My reaction to such information has long been the optimistic “Congratulations.”

Over the course of her smoke, Katerina revealed that it was a mostly good thing and that they split because he lives two time zones away.  In an attempt to find the good news in a painful situation, I offered “That’s a good reason to split if for no other reason than the fact that he didn’t inspire you to want to move.”

Eventually Katerina thanked us for the smoke and the company and returned to her friends.  Before we left the bar, she returned twice more for a tobacco intermezzo and some of the breezy yet serious conversation that is most easily found with imperfect strangers.  On her final visit, Katerina broached the subject of the distance again.

“How do I know the difference between not wanting to move and not being inspired to move?” She asked.

“You don’t really know the difference until one exists.  In my little world, if someone really makes your socks roll up and down, you’ll want to do certain things… like move out west because that’s where he is.  Or he’d want to move here, or you two might find some hybrid between because you want home to be wherever they are.  You see, the veracity of anything we have planned for our lives is never truly known until it’s tested.  I used to think, and now think again, that I don’t want to have children.  Then one day I was knocked on my ass by a love I had never even known could exist.  That exceptional woman wanted children and it seemed like the most natural thing in the world for me to want them too.”

“I never knew that” OSSL interrupted but I was on too much of a roll to respond to his statement.

“We believe all of these things about our world and what we want and then suddenly an unordinary love comes along and shakes our sensibilities like a fucking snow globe.  Only in the face of that test are a lot of our really core ‘deal-breakers’ and ‘must haves’ really proven.  It doesn’t happen often and sometimes not even easily, but it’s that exception that you just know, that you feel in the deepest part of your soul.  Call it the Doctrine of Love’s Exceptionalism.”

In that instant, I realized two things 1) I had shifted from answering Katerina’s question and started speaking for some part of me, and 2) that I had to forgive Carrie for marrying Big.


Ya know, just in case any of you ever need to know what kind of cigars your favorite restaurant refugee likes to smoke.


13 Responses to A Doctrine of Exceptionalism I can Support

  1. I find it interesting that you didn’t think she’d take him back considering her history with him on the show.

    I couldn’t get passed the contraption she was wearing on her head.

    That headpiece was rather ridiculous. Even given their history, I still thought it was a bridge too far. At the very least, I think that they could have done a better job of making the case for the exceptionalism.

  2. Cara says:

    I can’t forgive her. Big is a selfish ass. It’s that old trope that women are better off coupled, even if coupled with someone who isn’t really good for them, than they are alone. Bah.

    I was never a huge SATC diehard, but always enjoyed it; the movie ruined the entire franchise for me.

    (I always thought OSSL was a woman for some reason.)

    I agree that they portrayed Big as a selfish jackhole (with a softer side.) But if you can suspend disbelief long enough to assume that they had an unordinary love – the proof of which was just never shown – then it becomes easier to swallow. I do see, and on most levels agree with, your point.

    … and I am going to take some pleasure in telling OSSL that you thought he was a woman (even though that probably speaks more about my lack of writing quality than anything else.)

  3. carrie m says:

    I feel the need to say that while the SATC movie was certainly not a cinematic wonder, at the very least, it was not of marginal importance. It opened huge and grossed over $100M if I’m not mistaken, showing the film industry that women can anchor a movie and still make money.

    There’s a part of me that feels weird for validating Carrie and the girls that way, but it was significant in 2008…

    I completely agree with your point. My position (incompletely expressed as may have been) had more to do with the cinematic quality of the movie in the grand scheme. I don’t think that students of cinematography will consider the movie to have had a lasting impact in 20 years. While it was demonstrative of an obvious and frequently overlooked market niche, that is not mutually exclusive from having marginal cinematic consequence.

    Not for nothing, but the show was a true cultural phenomenon and the subject of a fascinating doctoral thesis a friend of mine is writing.

  4. Christina says:

    I can relate about having someone shake up your life like a snow globe and your “must haves” go out the door.

    It can be the best feeling in the world.

    It can be a terrific feeling, and scary, so many other things too.

  5. kitty says:

    this was so well written, and it’s okay to forgive Carrie.

    Thank you, and thank you. I never really feel too badly about forgiveness – it is a virtue after all.

  6. K says:

    I was a huge fan of the show and SO disappointed by the movie. More angry than disappointed, and even more so because most other women I’ve talked to liked it.

    I think I was more angry at Steve though than Mr. Big. He can’t keep it in his pants just because they haven’t had sex for awhile? Did he try talking to her about it?

    Also, did you notice she wore the same belt multiple tims throughout the movie? Like, with every other outfit? I don’t remember the belt itself being particularly horrendous, but it was just strange considering that she never repeated pieces in the series.

    Given a choice between a one night stand of an affair and being left at the alter, hmmmmm. I’m gonna call that a jump ball. More specifically, however, I cut Steve so much more slack because this was out of character rather than being demonstrative of a consistent pattern of inconsiderate, self-centered, disrespectful, and generally loathsome behavior.

  7. Grace says:

    I think Big and Carrie are made for each other. I never liked Carrie. She was always too weak for me. Carrie and Big and all of their problems make sense to me.

    In a mostly metaphorical and just a touch of the slightly literal sense, I have been Big at points in my life. I kinda get them too.

  8. carrie m says:

    You make an excellent point – they *are* an important cultural phenomenon. I could talk for days about SATC – good and bad.

    So which character is closest to you?

  9. dorothy says:

    I’ll take the Ronco Showtime Rotisserie and Mexican soap operas (I don’t speak Spanish) over that movie any day of the week. Screw Carrie, I need to forgive Michael Patrick King for that insipid screenplay.

    As to your theory of exceptionalism, I agree completely.

    The writing didn’t suck but the story lines sure as hell did.

  10. I waited more than a year to see SATC the movie and, as I knew I would, hated it. Because I loved the show so very, very much. It ended on a perfect note—I needed no further action, heartbreak, drama, or fashion from those four women and their men. Them making a movie (and now a SEQUEL) is just buying out and giving in to Hollywood. It’s disappointing, to say the least.

    “The veracity of anything we have planned for our lives is never truly known until it’s tested.” I love this. So obvious in its truth—and yet so difficult to remember sometimes. We work so hard to determine what we “want” and “need” that the idea of unclasping our grip on those ideals, even just a little, can be petrifying. But, ohhh, all that can come from opening, even just a little!

    Marvelous post, my friend.

    Thank you, that really means a lot from you. And the idea that SATC needs a sequel is further proof that Hollywood, or at least the money people in that cesspool of a town, are virtually bankrupt of new ideas.

  11. Haven’t seen the show so I can’t comment on that, but the post?????
    Your breakdown of being inspired to move & the “real” deal breakers is spot on.
    For me- I’d rather be inspired and wrong than to never have been inspired at all.
    Hot damn I love your posts RR. You are one of a handful of the last true gentlemen whether you realize it or not.

    Thank you so much for your very kind words. I think that is the true quest, not so much for love but for the inspiration to risk, to be vulnerable, to allow love.

  12. […] girl… who wants kids, plural kids-kids” and I am so decidedly not. [ed. note: I acknowledge this exception, but that doesn’t change the […]

  13. Ajuell says:

    Oh yes, compromise is tough. I still sglgture with it after 10 years!!! Being less selfish really does go against my nature, but what the hell. Anyway, when I think about it, I’m being less selfish so as I’ll get my own way later/tomorrow/next week Such contradicton I truly am a Leo!

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