How Not To Date Like Carrie Bradshaw

Carrie Bradshaw is not only a Manhattan and fashion icon, but as a dating columnist, she’s considered a dating icon as well. Why? She’s selfish, immature, manipulative, impulsive, and, let’s face it, kind of psycho. She gives women, even kooky women, a bad name. Ladies, feel free to emulate Carrie’s style and visit her favorite NYC haunts, but when it comes to dating, it’s best to do anything but what she does. Carrie makes several common mistakes throughout the “Sex and the City” series and by watching her missteps, women can learn a lot about what to do and, more importantly, what not to do, at all stages of a relationship. Assume makes an ass out of u and me. When Carrie begins dating Mr. Big, she assumes that since she’s not seeing anyone else, he’s not either. Predictably, she’s shocked when she finds him at dinner with another woman. Although she and Big had slept together, they had only gone on two dates at that point; he certainly didn’t owe her exclusivity, especially when they hadn’t discussed it. If you don’t want your new guy to date anyone else, make sure he knows it. While there’s no magic time to have the “what do we call this relationship” talk, it’s imperative that you have the talk at some point.

Over-analyzing doesn’t solve anything. Carrie often falls into the trap of over and over and over-analyzing every aspect of her relationships, wondering what each and every little tiny thing means. She looks for hidden meanings in the most ordinary events. When Big takes her to the same restaurant twice in a row, she looks for a secret motive. She listens to answering machine messages from him repeatedly, straining to hear what he’s not saying. Sometimes, men are not up-front about why they do what they do, but most of the time, a restaurant is just a restaurant and a message is just a message.

Stalking isn’t sexy. “Sex and the City” existed in a time before cell phones were ubiquitous, Google was a verb, and posting on Facebook and Twitter became a national pastime. Yet Carrie still manages to stalk Big, following him to church to see what he does on Sundays and with whom, and concocting a scheme to meet his ex-wife. While there’s nothing wrong with looking up a new date online (I once found out a potential suitor had a girlfriend after I Googled him!), cyberstalking or, worse, actually stalking someone likely won’t end well. When he finds out that you’ve been moonlighting as a private investigator, he won’t be flattered. Instead he’ll wonder what he’s getting himself into and will probably be ready to end what may have just started.

Every couple has their own “normal.” After Carrie sleeps with Big three nights in a row without having sex, she asks Miranda if the celibacy streak is normal. Miranda gives the perfectly succinct response: “It depends on what’s normal for you.” Every relationship has its own “normal.” If you had sex three times a week with your last boyfriend and have sex twice a week with your new boyfriend, it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with your new relationship; it just means you two have a different rhythm. While you should always be you in a relationship, you’ll interact differently with every guy you meet, meaning every relationship will have its own idiosyncrasies.

Drama doesn’t equal passion. Carrie is scared when Aidan seems “too perfect.” She wants to know what’s wrong with him and insists he must be hiding a big secret from her. As she ponders her new relationship, she writes, “Do we need drama to make a relationship work?” The answer is no. Unfortunately, many women equate drama with passion. A relationship filled with drama is usually exciting because you never know what could happen – good or bad. That kind of excitement can be destructive and is ultimately unsustainable. A drama-free relationship isn’t one that’s necessarily without love or passion; it’s one that’s mature enough to not need the emotional roller coaster.

Perfect doesn’t exist. Even as Aidan is too perfect, Carrie insists on perfection when she goes out with Berger for the first time. She goes shopping for the perfect outfit and tries to think of what would be worthy of their perfect first date. However, she soon realizes that Berger isn’t interested in her clothes or doing the best thing ever; he’s interested in her. When we strive for perfection we’re bound to be disappointed because no date, guy or relationship will ever live up to that expectation.

Be the better person. In one of the most memorable scenes of the series, Berger dumps Carrie on a Post-it note. Was he nasty and immature? Absolutely! But was she right to yell at his friends when she ran into them at the club opening? No. Of course she was hurt and angry, but she ranted at the wrong audience. Although he was a jerk, she made herself look ridiculous. Everyone gets dumped at some point — if you take the high road, he’ll look like the bad guy and it won’t look like he had a reason to end things.

If you’re not yourself around him, he’s not right for you. When she’s dating Aleksandr Petrovsky, Carrie subverts herself and her desires to please her new man. She feigns interest in his interests and eventually gives up her career, apartment and city for him. It’s great to explore new things in a relationship — in fact, one of the best aspects of dating is that it opens you up to new people and ideas — but when you stop acting like yourself and start taking on your boyfriend’s ideas and ideals, it’s time to disentangle from the relationship and find yourself again.

Magical endings are for movies, TV shows and fairy tales. The series ends when Carrie is reunited with both Manhattan and Big. Sweeping camera angles, soaring music, and kissing under lampposts in the rain are great for fiction, but sometimes holding hands on the couch says more about a couple’s commitment to each other. Don’t forget to cherish the small moments while you wait for the big ones that might never come.

Photo: HBO