Season One, Episode Two

“Models and Mortals”

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

“Beauty is fleeting, a rent-controlled apartment overlooking the park is forever.”

We open with Miranda proving her point from the pilot: that she really doesn’t have standards. She’s on a date with Nick, the guy Droopy turned back into after the spell was broken. They’re at a dinner with his friends, and they’re playing a game where they go around the table and answer the question, “Old movie stars you’d like to have fucked when they were young?” Nick says Veronica Lake. His friends say Sophia Loren (“probably because my dad had a thing for her,” gross), Montgomery Clift, Marilyn Monroe (“before the Kennedys got to her,” gross), Bing Crosby, and Miranda answers “Sean Connery, yesterday, today, and tomorrow,” because she is correct. I say Marlon Brando, specifically the moment after he does this

or in Streetcar Named Desire, but only if he yells “Stella!” during orgasm.

Anyway, after dinner the broads gather in the kitchen to get dessert ready, as they do, and Nick’s turds of friends reveal that

A) Nick is “a modelizer”

B) They gave him an ultimatum to bring home a girl that eats and can carry on a conversation for once, and they were so relived that Miranda is “so not a model.”

Why the hell would they tell her this? Why the hell can Nick date models? I’m not even sure which part of this I’m more exasperated over. We’re treated to a montage flashing back to all the other dates he brought to dinner while they play the same party conversation game, then transition to man-in-the-street interviews about how cool men think it is to date models and how much models get for being beautiful. Hardhitting stuff. The most interesting part of all this is noticing the very specific version of nineties beauty. Every model they show is so All-American that they almost seem plain rather than beautiful, compared to our standards for “modelesque” now of being exotic, intriguing, and possessing an unattainable beauty. The nineties models all seem like merely the prettiest girl in school by comparison. However, the men talk about their obsession with models as a thing of status more than a thing of beauty. As dear Nick puts it, “Why fuck the girl in the skirt when you could fuck the girl in the ad for the skirt?”

Here’s the thing: this whole scenario may seem a bit ludicrous for anyone living anywhere besides New York and L.A, but it is a genuine hurdle women dating in these two cities have to leap over. It’s not just models. The conundrums men in my particular dating pool might face lean more towards ones like, “Why fuck the girl who loves the band when you can fuck the girl who’s in the band?” “Why fuck the girl who loves to read when you can fuck the girl who writes the books?” “Why fuck the girl who’ll go to an art museum with you when you can fuck the girl who painted the work in the show?” And these are just regular-ass dudes, but the option is always going to be there for them. (Some think this option is more likely for them than others, no matter how well that thought is deserved.) Even if they don’t literally leave you for the girl who wrote the book, they don’t want to commit to you LEST THEY GIVE UP their chances on meeting the girl who wrote the book soon. It blows.

And I may not necessarily be competing with models for the same guys, but, when Carrie talks about the weirdness of encountering models in the wild as part of your day-to-day life in New York, that hits home too. I’m not even striving to look like a model, but I can’t say it doesn’t get me down to realize I’m suddenly standing in the middle of a gaggle of them while we’re all waiting to cross the street. I have a friend who, after a brief stint in New York, moved back to Boston and was barely joking when she said part of her reasoning was that “In New York, I was never the hottest girl in the room. In Boston, there’s a pretty good chance I will be!” Even for the most confident, least looks-obsessed women, that shit can be draining.

Which brings us to a particularly heartbreaking scene where the girls are casually hanging around Carrie’s apartment, flipping through magazines. They’re comparing themselves to the models in their pages and proceed to participate in my least favorite ritual of womanhood: going ‘round the circle and sharing what we all hate about ourselves. Charlotte hates her thighs, Miranda hates her chin, Carrie hates her nose. Samantha doesn’t hate anything about herself because she’s a boss. I refuse to participate in any of these kinds of conversations. Listening to people talk about why they’re terrible is one of my most hated activities, and my insecurities are, perhaps oddly, one of the few things I’m private about. I’m more anxious about the previous two paragraphs being out there in public than any of the sexual encounters I know I’ll be detailing at some point, and they merely HINT at my having insecurities at all. But for some reason this scene makes my heart ache rather than my eyes roll.

All that aside, I’ve gotten this far into the post and haven’t even gotten to Barkley yet. He’s an artist friend of Carrie’s who exclusively fucks models, and she goes to visit him to get insight on why he could possibly want to sleep with models for her next column.

Barkley: would.

We find out that, not only does Barkley only have sex with models, he also films them all while it’s happening, not always with them knowing about it. Rushing right past the Sexual Assault Lite, he shows Carrie some videos playing on multiple TV screens at once — which is a setup I’ve only seen artsy guys use on TV shows — and calls it his “real art.” There’s a close-up of him looking up and winking into the hidden camera while he’s fucking some unknowing model. Carrie asks for a light.

Skipper is pining after Miranda, who’s ignoring him.

Stanford is pining for Derek, aka The Bone, an underwear model who’s his client in the private talent agency he allegedly runs. He and Carrie are backstage at a fashion show, and we get a nice lingering shot of Derek in the briefs he’ll be modeling on the runway soon.

Derek: would.

Carrie brought Samantha as her date and they’re front row because Carrie is glamorous and Samantha likes that “you can see all the flaws from this angle.”. Barkley is there looking for his next subject and is seated right behind them. Samantha has her eyes on Barkley and is once again not deterred by the fact that he only sleeps with models. At the after party, she makes her move on him, and Carrie runs into Big, because he’s fucking one of the models in the show and because there’s apparently only one place to be in New York at a time. He tells her he started reading her column after they met and I swoon. He asks her what she’s working on now.

CARRIE: I’m working on a story about men who date models. Any thoughts?

BIG: Only that they’re very lucky. So what have you discovered about these men who are dating models?

CARRIE: Well, I’m discovering that some of them treat it as a competitive sport, and others I think just need the validation

BIG: And probably others just have a thing for exceptionally beautiful women.

CARRIE: Exactly

BIG: And there’s something wrong with that?

CARRIE: No, there’s nothing wrong. I just think it might become a little monotonous.

Big soon gets swept off by his model-of-the-moment, only after learning where Carrie usually writes her columns — in a coffee shop on 73rd and Madison — and Carrie is left feeling self-conscious. Samantha comes by saying she thinks she’s going to get to go home with Barkley after all, and when Carrie warns her that she might not want to because he secretly tapes his conquests she responds with a smiling “Really? What a pervert!” and rushes back to leave with him. Alone, Carrie decides to leave, but is unexpectedly stopped by Derek asking if he can come home with her. It doesn’t seem like a particularly sexual request, and when they’re back at her apartment sipping on wine the atmosphere reads more like old friends. Derek reveals he never dates models because they’re too stupid, and that he can’t wait to leave this big city life all behind and move back to Iowa, have kids, and be a cop.

It’s an incredibly charming scene, like two teenagers who are just getting used to the idea of being alone in a room with someone of the opposite sex. (Derek even asks Carrie what she wants to be when she grows up.) After they talk, he asks, “Do you mind if we just lie here? I get so lonely in the city. Sometimes it’s just nice to lie with someone.” And they go to sleep. Just like in real life, when sometimes nothing feels better than only to lie next to someone in the mad dash to find the next person you’re going to fuck, it’s this totally refreshing moment in a series full of stumbling sex to see two people simply comfort one another.

No worries though, we quickly cut to several people having sex when they probably shouldn’t be. Miranda runs into Skipper while buying cat food (after the bodega guy unrealistically shames her for only buying cat food; in my experience they’re all totally cool about it) and invites him up after he calls her “luminous” which, admittedly, would probably work on me too. Samantha fucks Barkley, telling him that she knows he’s filming them and puts on a show. It’s neither of their finest moments.

The episode ends with Carrie working on her column in the aforementioned coffee shop. Big appears.

BIG: I can’t stay. I’m late for a meeting, but I’ve been thinking about your article about men who date models.

CARRIE: What about them?

BIG: First of all, well there are so many goddamn gorgeous women out there in this city

CARRIE: What an amazing observation.

BIG: But the thing is, after a while you just wanna be with the one that makes you laugh, you know what I mean?

They look at each other meaningfully, and then Big takes his leave, but clearly not for good, because he’s found the one who makes him laugh, damnit.