Every so often I spend (waste) a few hours watching my old Sex and the City DVDs. I knit and remind myself of every detail in those shows…which I kind of know by heart and am generally very embarrassed about.
But this isn’t about that.
Watching a few episodes today reminded me about something that I think usually gets lost as background: the city.
I know the show did some great things for tourism in New York City in particular. In a sea of cop shows, it was one of the few truly positive portrayals of the city on television. But it did more than make New York accessible to masses of women. It portrayed this fantastic lifestyle of walking to meet your friends at some interesting new restaurant or bar or gallery, having countless interesting new people to meet, and having so many exciting amenities at your fingertips.
Kind of like how I think many people view college.
But then something happens and many of us let those completely desirable things go when we graduate as though it’s to be grouped with other college activities that probably should be left behind…like binge drinking. And we move to soulless places and live insular lives. I don’t want that statement to be confused with living in suburban places. I’ve seen some suburban places (all older suburbs, though) that are pretty nice and very different from the cul-de-sac ridden, completely unwalkable, and demographically homogenous suburbia in which I was raised.
My ultimate point is that I hope Sex and the City does more than make New York City a great place to visit. The city was a real and significant character in the show. And it seems clear that this should be the case for all of us. The places we live should be real and significant characters in our lives. They should excite us in some way and relate to us so that they are not just meaningless collections of roads we must drive on to get some buildings we must go to. I currently live in a city and probably will live in one for the rest of my life if I’m lucky, but I don’t think this only need apply to cities–which I understand don’t work for everyone. The problem is I see the great things about cities being touted as luxuries, as though in order for homes to be affordable, we have to grit our teeth through hours of congestion, zero public spaces and even no sidewalks.
Maybe a buyer’s market is our time to ask for places that engage us. Maybe cranes halted by a bad economy and kept from creating more far off islands of not-actually-affordable housing are an opportunity to rethink what we’re doing with the land in and around our cities.
While New York was definitely more exciting than my current home of DC, the city and I do have a relationship. It’s not always good–but it’s engaging and interesting. It has a personality, whether the city and I are meant to be or not.
Or maybe all of this is just a sad indication that this nerdy lady watches Sex and the City and misses the whole sex thing in favor of the whole city thing…