What was Sex and the City? Was it a show? A movie? A second, worse movie? A reboot? A lifestyle? A monument to female friendship? A very expensive Manolo Blahnik commercial? A radicalizing text about journalists’ need to work together and take on the titans of our corrupt industry so that we might all live like Carrie Bradshaw, off the spoils of seemingly one column per week? Sweet Yellow Ruffle Dress
The cop-out answer is, of course, that Sex and the City is all of these things and more: a wonderfully bizarre little microcosm of a certain kind of New York existence in the days before Wi-Fi, as well as a cultural artifact that has, against all odds, persisted into the year 2022 with plenty of new things to teach us about how its central characters—minus the irreplaceable Samantha Jones—are navigating a post-#MeToo, post-pandemic, post-TV-escapism world. (After all, there must be a reason so many of us are hooked on watching angry teenage girls scheme to devour one another on Yellowjackets; maybe we’re tired of watching our television protagonists sip cocktails and complain about the vagaries of Manhattan real estate.)
This is, in a nutshell, why I found myself on a mostly empty tour bus headed downtown from Manhattan’s Plaza Hotel last weekend, my KN95 mask all but stapled to my face as I peered out the window at the larger-than-life ads for And Just Like That… covering seemingly every available structure. I was on the guided Sex and the City bus tour, which promises to let attendees “live like Carrie & co.” for a day with stops at Magnolia Bakery, Buddakan, Carrie’s West Village stoop, and several other locations that any devoted SATC fan is sure to recognize.
I wasn’t sure what the protocol was for taking part in an experience like this as a journalist, so in what I like to think of as a nod to the show’s foundational friendship obsession, I invited two of my own best friends along for the ride: Natalie and Eliza, two women I’ve known since college and who share a more than passing interest in the adventures of Carrie & co. As we sat waiting for the tour to begin, I regaled them with tales of my recent adventures in the New York lesbian dating scene, feeling very much like Che Diaz. I lowered my voice with each sentence, for fear of offending the husband-and-wife couple to our left or the family of four up front, but I was flattering myself; they didn’t remotely care about some random woman’s niche intra-community gossip. Why would they, when we were mere feet from the sex shop where prim Charlotte bought the Rabbit vibrator?
Once the bus began to move, shepherded by a genial driver named Tony and narrated by an enthusiastic and extremely HBO-literate actor and singer named Christiana, I let Eliza and Natalie split a 20-milligram edible while I, ever the professional, stared out at the city I’d lived in for 15 years before moving to Austin last month and thought about ways to make this Sex and the City bus tour about myself.
It wasn’t hard. As we drifted downtown, with Christiana pointing out various places where Carrie and Big broke up, I couldn’t help but dream up a parallel, if somewhat more dirtbag, millennial tour of my own New York exploits. Elegant Dark Blue Ruffle Dress There’s the diner across from the Apple store where I took a wildly unnecessary pregnancy test my junior year of college…there’s the newsstand where I bought my first pack of cigarettes at 14 and promptly threw up after smoking one…there’s the stoop where I had a breakdown after getting a D on my chemistry midterm and called my best friend a bitch via Facebook Messenger and then regretted it. It was like Our Town, if Emily Webb had grown up on the Upper West Side, had perfunctorily dated men for years, and had approximately 0% of her shit together.
My reverie stalled in the West Village, where we trooped to Carrie’s stoop only to learn that crazed SATC fans frequently jumped the hastily erected fence onto the very real owners’ threshold, often shouting “WHERE’S CARRIE?” as they did so. I’m proud to say I’ve never let my obsession with the show metastasize to quite that level, but I smiled anyway when Eliza, Natalie, and I posed for a selfie in front of the window from which Carrie once screamed down at Aidan.
Our next stops, Magnolia Bakery and cosmos at Steve and Aidan’s bar (a.k.a. Onieals, the all-too-real bar in SoHo used to play the SATC bar Scout), only served to highlight the ways in which my gastrointestinal integrity had failed me since the show was first on the air. Sexy Sequin Maxi Party Dress I can no longer eat pure sugar, a fact I recalled bitterly as Natalie and Eliza clinked pink, frosty glasses outside in the cold. While they were occupied with their drinks and cupcakes, I tried to locate the origins of the weird feeling I’d been having since we boarded the bus—which, unlike my friends, I could not attribute solely to THC.