31 May 2008

Where's my Carrie Necklace?

Last night I had a crash course trip through the last five episodes of Sex and the City. We have a ladies night planned on Monday to see the big/Big movie and I couldn’t go in without doing all my homework. I was always a little late to the party on this one, watching it mainly via DVD box sets that my friends received years after the seasons were actually finished. But, as an age-appropriate single gal in NY, Buffalo that is, I was up on the lingo of Carrie et al. In fact, I even took the “which girl are you?” quiz and proudly sported a tight little “Carrie” t-shirt for one summer.

Just in case you’re rusty on the details, in the final episodes, Carrie takes to Paris with her older artist lover and spends her days shopping the City of Lights and eating enough pastry to stuff four of her tiny little bodies. Despite all the luxuries one could imagine, she’s miserable and just wants to come home to trusty NYC. In one tragic moment, she falls flat on her face in Dior, spilling her purse across the marble floor. When she’s bemoaning her losses back in her fancypants suite, she realizes that she’s lost something far more valuable than her credit cards… her “Carrie” necklace, the gold (or not so gold) trinket that she sported in many a scene, one of her fashion statement pieces that girls everywhere adopted (nope, couldn’t go that far, but I did have several floral broaches so I’ve earned my bandwagon stripes). She calls home to complain to Miranda, as she is wont to do as a true whiner, and reminds the viewers, who may not have all their trivia fully in mind, that she bought the memento at a street fair she attended with the girls and so, it is a symbol not only of herself (obviously) but of herself with them… in NY.

Later in the episode, when said fantastic lover makes her miss the one event she’s looking forward to in Paris, a book party for her French fans, and then ignores her once his own insecurities have been mitigated, she forlornly sits and attempts to smoke, digging through her vintage bag with the unfortunate rip in the lining. And we all see where it’s going… she finds her necklace as an overly wrought metaphor for rediscovering herself, she runs through the streets in what look to be 8-inch heels, missing her book party and discovering only a stained copy amidst the spilled wine and cigarette butts. She immediately ends the relationship and leaves to find herself again… only to be rescued by another man.

So, ultimately, the whole finding yourself lesson is a might bit chucked out the window or perhaps into the Seine in the show’s overly romantic ending which leaves the foolish girl unable to even find her own damn hotel room. And as to being alone in Paris with nothing to do… um, you’re supposed to be a writer, you silly dolt, pick up a pen and set thyself to work. But of course, that wouldn’t capture the attention of single girls everywhere who have to daily get themselves up, do their own work, pay their own bills and not rely on the Prince Charming to inevitably come along when there is big trouble. TV is fantasy after all, and when we’re schlepping to work in our Target shoes and Old Navy wardrobe, we all prefer to daydream about the Manolos and the Chanel and the man who will arrive in his black shiny car and pay for all those regular life nuisances like heating bills and groceries, not to mention great apartments in the city and carriage rides through Central Park.

But, putting all that aside and running with the painfully obvious symbolism the show throws our way, I was wondering where my own Carrie necklace is… and even what my Carrie necklace is. This past academic year has been wonderful, tumultuous, frightening, exhilarating, exhausting and super duper stressful. I resigned my own writing job, flew around the country doing job interviews and conferences, experienced some difficult family health situations and yet, at the start of my summer, I’m in the same exact place in a lot of ways. While there are still many concerns for those around me, for the most part, people are healthy, I have a job in Buffalo and I still have to finish my damn dissertation. To some degree, I have my Carrie necklace all around me in that nothing has changed, my life as it has been for years is with me, all around me every slow second of every day sitting with my books and computer. I haven’t lost who I am at all…

… or have I?

The necklace, after all, is more than just her circumstances. Yes, she could write and shop and go out for dinner and drinks anywhere, but not without her joie de vive, her spirit, her thrill for taking a mundane encounter and turning it into a self-reflective column… slightly like the one I’m writing here with the noted self-indulgence and fast and loose liberty takings with the symbolism and adaptation. I feel like I’ve been searching for my own joie de vive for far longer than she mourns her missing bauble. There’s nothing wrong at all and in many ways things are great and wonderful. Yet, there’s just something a little off.

But I’m looking in my holey handbag of life and don’t even know what I’m looking for underneath the silky lining of mundanity. Perhaps this is just the existential damnation of life, always wanting some new thing, some new experience, some new thrill to keep us bouncy and buoyant and not thinking about the futility of it all. But really, while I may be misanthropic, I’m not that morose. And similarly, while I’m sure my spiritual well-being could use some polishing, it’s not an emotional or intellectual or heart thing at all… for once. Sorry, U2, but I don’t need to be all emo to know that what I’m looking for isn’t a grand notion of the meaning of life. I think it’s actually a quality of life thing. My necklace is tarnished from not being used. Aside from the regular walks the little pooch has recently added to my day, I spend most of my time working on my diss… or procrastinating at the computer because I don’t want to work on the diss yet knowing that I really shouldn’t do anything else. That’s a lotta sittin’ and bein’ grumpy… even for me.

But perhaps I am just being a dolt in Paris myself. I can look at her experience and say that she is being whiny and childish, missing out on a wonderful opportunity to live in grandeur and use her days to do new writing or reading or pursue new interests. I could certainly be fine with Paris at my fingertips and hours of solitude a day.

Or could I?

While no one will mistake Chez Leslie for a grand hotel, I do have hours of solitude at my disposal and my own book to write, even if a diss isn’t exactly as fun as writing a book on fashion and boys and silly pseudo-psychological questions. But then again, I’m currently writing about a man who wore velvet pants, loved harems and wore too much bling. Um, that really can’t be that boring, can it?

I guess it’s a matter of perspective. The life that I’m looking for is shiny and happy and silly, a little carefree and giggly, full of pretty clothes and new shoes, apartments with cool furnishings and social outings that require multiple clothes-changing episodes and the consideration of at least twelve possible pairs of earrings. I just don’t know where to find the thing, the symbol, the object, the memento or experience to jump start my attempt to get that life going. I’m like a junkie jonesing for a hit of something but I just don’t know what it is.

What would a Leslie necklace represent exactly? What identifies me and the life I’m creating?

Well, I know there’s no Prince Charming pulling up anytime soon and really, I also know that I don’t want that kind of salvation. That dream kinda turns my stomach, to be perfectly honest. I wouldn’t even know what to do with an offer to be a kept woman in Paris! (Not that I couldn’t figure it out, should such offer come my way…)

I do think the key to the whole symbol in this little TV image turned into life lesson is actually the holey handbag lining. She finds the magic necklace while emptying out her bag of the latest Paris crap, namely the cigarettes that she repeatedly mentions are killing her. When the detritus is out of the way, she feels the strange lump and starts really poking around in there. I’ve started cleaning out my proverbial handbag already and think there just may be treasure stored beneath the dust bunnies and my own versions of cancer sticks. While I won’t get my own movie or book deal out of the discoveries of the material and written kind, I’m looking forward to pulling out the Leslie necklace.

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