Season One, Episode Seven

“The Monogamists”

The I Couldn’t Help But Wonder Project revisits Sex and the City episode by episode

“My boyfriend and I have a kind of 90’s monogamy. We have sex with other people but we don’t exchange fluids or phone numbers.”

In our commitment-phobic modern times, “The Monogamists” is one of the episodes that feels the most retro. I mean, geeze, you’re just going to assume you’re monogamous simply because you’re spending all your time together and things seem to be going really well? I know people who have met each other’s families, gone on trips together, and practically have moved in with each other but still insist, oh, they’re not dating dating. I’ve referred to the subjects of years-long something-or-others as “a guy I see sometimes.” I don’t think I’d dare claim someone as my boyfriend unless it was explicitly discussed that we were Together.

Nevertheless, it still stings to watch the rug get pulled out from under Carrie when she’s shamed into having lunch with the girls after ditching them for her honeymoon period with Big only to stumble across him on a date with another woman. She’s feeling left behind not only in her relationship with Big, but in the apparent trend of monogamy being on the outs. Stanford, of course, is quick to chide her on not being with it. The millennium is approaching, baby, and everyone’s leaving their options open. So when Stanford’s handsome friend Jared — played by Justin Theroux, who plays two different Carrie boyfriends who are both writers on the show and I seem to be the only one to have ever noticed this — passes by them and stops to say hello, Carrie looks him up and down and ponders taking advantage of her options being open as well.

Unsatisfied with Stanford’s analysis of her Big conundrum, Carrie then mulls it over with Miranda and her neuroses really start spinning out of control. She’s worried that all that she’s interpreted as his feelings for her are really just projections of her feelings for him. It sounds crazy (and probably is) but this is something I worry about all the time. It’s a leftover habit from an emotionally abusive relationship where, despite carrying on for months acting like a loving partner of sorts, he would occasionally pull away and tell me he had no idea why I would ever be under the impression that we loved each other. After enough cycles of this, whenever we were in a good place I would be constantly second guessing whether his words and actions and emotions were genuine, then convincing myself it would be nuts to doubt them when they were so forward, then doubling back down on the suspicion even further. It’s something I’ve never been able to shake with men ever since, including those who’ve never wavered in expressing their feelings for me. I always manage to convince myself that, for whatever reason, I can’t actually believe them. They’re just keeping me on the hook as they’re biding their time until they want to leave. This person was my Big. It’s why I will, forever, understand their relationship.

But Carrie doesn’t have the chance to spiral too far, because Skipper and his new impossibly out of his league girlfriend pass by and they stop to say hello. (Again, the most unrealistic part of this show is how often people just happen to run into each other in New York.) Miranda, who asks “Who was that self-important bitch?” after they leave, is clearly shook. Nothing makes a man look better than seeing him with another girl after you’ve left him. No matter how many times I yell at the screen whenever I watch this episode, Miranda decides to call him later to see if he’d like to go out again, even though I will never ever understand why. The only problem is he’s currently having sex with his new girlfriend, but when he hears Miranda’s voice on the answering machine, he picks up. After they make a plan to see each other, he hangs up, looks down at his girlfriend, and breaks up with her so he can be with Miranda again. Oh, did I forget to mention that he’s still inside her the entire time? It’s one of the most excruciating scenes in television history. I don’t watch Game of Thrones, but I assume this is a million times worse to sit through than the Red Wedding.

Then we move on to another one of the most excruciating scenes in television history. Big takes Carrie to a party at the kind of apartment where the hostess only serves clear drinks. First they run into Melissa, who teases Big that he still has her passport from when they traveled together, platonically I’m sure. Then he wants to introduce his friend Max to someone “very special” and he turns to Carrie with open arms and assumes she’s Julia. Big tries to save face and hypes Carrie’s column, but when Max hears it’s called Sex and the City he says:

MAX: Well, if you’re looking for material you’re dating the right man.

BIG: Oh, thank you Max.

CARRIE: Are we dating? I thought we were just sleeping together.

BIG: Oh. I’m sure after tonight, we won’t be doing much of either.

Another one of my all-time favorite exchanges. They have a hushed tussle about just how many women he is dating and Big makes a classic crucial mistake of getting frustrated and asking Carrie, “What do you want from me?” She tells him nothing, and ditches him to go to the 30 Under 30 party that Jared had invited her and Stanford to instead. When Stanford asks her what happened she says, “He became predictable.”

There have been a lot of other things going on in this episode as well. We get a brief check-in on Miranda and Skipper in post-coital cuddling where Skipper assures her that the other woman meant nothing to him and she hits him with a “Oh, that’s fine, I don’t mind if you see other people.” Ice cold. He storms out and, thankfully, I’m pretty sure that’s the last we see of him. Charlotte’s also been having this totally unbelievable issue with her latest guy where she’s upset that he really wants her to give him blowjobs when she hates doing them, and I just think it’s IMPOSSIBLE that this is the first time this has ever come up if that’s true. They break up when she breaks the news to him that she never wants to give him head. Can’t say I blame him. Also, Samantha’s been looking for a new apartment and has been using one realtor for her contacts and another realtor for his dick, and she gets busted having sex with the second realtor by the first one and they’re both more upset about cheating on each other with other realtors/clients than the fact that they’re having sex.

Back to Carrie. She’s hitting it off with Jared, but just when she’s about to go home with him she decides to make a call to Big instead to flaunt the fact that she’s with another guy, because that’s really what this was about all along. He demands they meet up and she leaves Jared behind to wait for Big to show up.

BIG: Ok, I’m here now, what’s going on?

CARRIE: I’ve done the merry-go-round, I’ve been through the revolving door, I feel like I met somebody I can stand still with for a minute and … Don’t you want to stand still with me?

BIG: You drag me out to a park at 03:00 in the morning to ask me if I want to stand still with you?

CARRIE: Yes.

“In a city of infinite options,” she says in voiceover, “sometimes there’s no better feeling than knowing you only have one.” He hugs her, but we don’t get to hear his answer, if he ever has one. It’s a bittersweet hopeful moment, but in hindsight it’s clear that hope was projection.