The other women of Sex And The City

Women are for friendship and men are for fucking.
Samantha Jones

Enough has been said and written about the four women of SATC. And their friendship. And their men. And their clothes. And their Choos.

But what about the ‘other’ women? The women who come in the girls’ lives across six seasons are definitely not as important as men are to the story-arcs, but they provide a great sounding board to the theme of exploring our main characters’ life in Manhattan.

One of the outstanding things about SATC is total lack of bitchiness even when it comes to its minor female characters. She could be your big boyfriend’s ex-wife or your boss- the characters and the show doesn’t indulge in the tired cat-fighting , woman vs.woman cliche.

Miranda is a sarcastic wit, a cynic, an ambitious lawyer and is the least ‘feminine’ of the girls. She wears the pants, literally and metaphorically. She also has the series’ most obvious feminist one liners. And it is her who undergoes the most dramatic character change throughout the series. She becomes a single mother, she loves and marries a man who is financially/ socially her inferior, and she moves to Brooklyn with her a large family.

It is interesting that the women in Miranda’s life are maternal, and are traditional examples of femininity. They offset her type- A personality and make her ‘acceptably feminine.’ Because hey, motherhood trumps all the glittery clothes and loud orgasms and beautifully decorated homes when it comes to acceptable femininity.

The annoying Magda is the glaring example. A judgemental Ukranian housekeeper who reminds Miranda of her mother, Magda almost always gets the last say, usually with the pursed lipped smug look on her face that closes the scene. Magda disapproves of condoms and vibrators and coffee. She suggests tea and Mother Mary and making pies. She disapproves of any boyfriend who is not the baby’s father, especially when he is one hunk of an african-american ( So what he is a doctor for the Knicks? The most ideal man for a woman is the baby’s father!!). She cheers during Miranda’s wedding with annoying Steve. She ‘validate’s Miranda’s capacity to love when Miranda rescues her senile mother-in-law. As if 6 seasons of Miranda showing love and support to her friends was not enough!! She is one the characters I hate the most,because her so-called earthy-mama wisdom is used to validate Miranda as acceptably feminine in the most traditional way possible.

When Miranda’s baby is in the 24 hour crying phase, she is helped by her neighbour, a fellow mum, who gives her a vibrating chair to soothe the baby. And although she proclaims that ‘Miranda’s friends will never understand how to handle the baby since they haven’t had one themselves’, the resourceful Samantha does the trick by placing a large vibrator next to the baby, to the same results!! ( Go Sam!!) A frumpy sales-woman helps Miranda find the right bra-size and reminds her of her mother. Debbie-Steve’s girlfriend is young and decidedly down-market with her acrylic nails and shoes and job in a credit card call centre. She is also warm and unpretentious and a conventionally ‘ideal’ girlfriend, who is dumped by Steve eventually. Steve’s mother is an eccentric alcoholic who admires Miranda for her honesty. In the series finale, it is she who provides the finale to Miranda’s character when Miranda not only agrees to keep her in their house, but also runs out looking for her and bathes her tenderly.

From the cynical ambitious career-woman who is mistaken to be a lesbian early in the series, to the firmly established mother-superiour of her family ( in Brooklyn, nonetheless) in the series finale, Miranda’s character arc is the most apologetic of the series. It represents everything which I dislike about the later parts of the series. And it has nothing to do with her becoming a mother, but with the fact that the changes in her character smack of traditional stereotypes.

Samantha is the friend we all would love to have. The most entertaining, adventurous and honest character of the series is also the warmest of them all. That is why it is surprising that Samantha is not shown to have other female friends- she is the ultimate girls’ girl. The most significant other woman in her life is the hot Portuguese artist Maria, with whom Sam indulges in an affair. Maria admires Sam’s cockiness, her fabulous sense of humour, her loyalty for her friends and her lust for life. Although the ‘relationship’ aspect of it bores Sam and her libido, they remain friends.

Samantha locks horns with a chef who doesn’t want her brother to date a white woman. But characteristic to Sam, although she claws the chef, she realises that it is the brother who is to blame here, and not the over-possessive sister. Samantha helps the nun to get a doctor’s appointment by pimping her boyfriend. The most beautiful scene of Sam and other women is during a fund-raiser for breast cancer. Sam starts with a prepared speech, but decides that posing and pretentious are not for her, and takes out her wig. In a moving show of camaraderie and freedom, many woman in the fund raiser spontaneously take off their own wigs.

I adore and worship Sam- and wish had a friend like her. Because I am never going to have the guts and honesty to be like her in real life.

Charlotte is burdened with the most evil stereotype of all- a meddlesome, bossy mother-in-law. Bunny is every Park Avenue princess’s nightmare and a doppelgänger for Charlotte’s own prejudices and rules. Bunny provides a hilarious and nasty peek into the future for what Charlotte thought of as a paradise, but is actually a repressed and mean WASP hell hole. For a woman who upholds the most traditional value system of all, Charlotte touches our hearts when she soothes the girls with what is perhaps the one line synopsis of the show. She says,

“Don’t laugh at me, but maybe we could be each others soulmates? And then we could let men be just these great nice guys to have fun with?”

Carrie almost stalks Big’s first wife and ends up really liking her. Even Natasha, the ‘idiot-stick-figure-with-no-soul’ a.k.a Big’s second wife is shown in a warm light. She might misspel ‘there’ for ‘their’, but she is sincere and had a steely character that belies her designer look. It is Petrovsky’s wife who proves an insight into his self-centred character, that marks the change of Carrie’s attitude towards him. Carrie’s boss Edith starts out as an ice-queen, but Carrie chooses her over the ‘father-figure- editor’, contrary to expectations, going by Carrie’s penchant for picking up older, successful men. Many friends, foes and rivals cross Carrie’s path throughout the seasons, but in no episode does she behave in the psycho manner with them, that she does with each and every man she is with.

All in all, SATC is one of the unique shows that gives us a refreshing view of the world ( albeit the glitzy Manhattan world) where women are not out there to get each other throats only to be saved by the eternal love of a stable and secure man, a marriage and a baby. Having spent majority of my life surrounded by smart, warm and strong women- I totally relate to this world-view.

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Shopping woes

I don’t know why I do this to myself every now and then.

Be adventurous in shopping for clothes I mean.

Blame it on a drunken marathon of Sex and The City few nights ago- but suddenly I got inspired to shop for flimsy, sequined clothes. For my younger brother’s upcoming marriage reception. In which the groom will be wearing a retro-trouser-styles DENIM!! Doesn’t matter that it cost a bomb and looks like something hobo people wore in 1800s. DENIM. ON HIS OWN WEDDING. I LOVE MY BROTHER.

Sequins.. sequins… those glittery little darlings..I went to shop for something with sequins. Not too gaudy but not my usual monochrome either, flowy material but not too sticky, dressy enough for the evening but not too loud, little sexy but not slutty ( not that I have something against it, but I am not comfy in revealing clothes, that too AT a family function). In nutshell, something like a Gucci but on a budget of Linking Road.

Because I do not want to spend money on clothes that I will wear maybe once in my life. My wardrobe primarily consists of:

Comfortable casuals- oh yes!! Working as a creative in media in Mumbai means you spend 90% of your day in virtually ganjee-chaddi- khakis attire where the maximum dress code is to keep your crotch covered.
Chikankari Kurtas, dupattas, salwars- I am crazy about Chikankari and husband’s frequent trips to Lucknow in the last couple of years has brought home some really stunning pieces.
Smart formals- Requirement for media markets and conferences. And buying them in Europe is a delight- since they do make great formals for women whose boobs are not lemon sized.
Shoes:Oh yes, my inner Carrie Bradshaw!

But come wedding season and even my dredlocked and chaddi-ganji wearing colleagues would go all Masaba Gupta and Rohit Bal. What is it about Indian weddings that forces otherwise carefree people to go all humph humph?

My principle is to spend on things which you would use at least 10 times in the first year, then after at least 5 times a year.

Yes, the middle class desi frugal mentality of squeezing the maximum value for money you get.
Plus it is not the typical Indian wedding, with a groom wearing a DENIM!! I wore a simple silk kurta for my own marriage so why even bother shopping for glitter wear now?

But the sequins beckoned me. I was dragged to the fancy designer stores by friends and if it was not for the excellent iced mint teas offered everywhere ( in tiny lovely glasses, ah so elegant) , I would have fainted at the price. I mean hullo, how much time/effort/money/ ideas go into a flimsy slip adorned with a line of sequins for it to cost 30 thousand rs?

So I decided to hunt for cheap and cheerful alternatives by going indie designers in the backlanes of Bandra.

Needless to say, my shopping trip to find the cheap but elegant sequined wear was washed down by disappointment and severe body image issues, that I am not proud of.

Remember that scene of Tarts and Vicars party in Bridget Jones Diary? I made a similar faux pas with my friend, when I laughed off a netty-mirrory Anarkali suit that I was trying out ( on her recommendation) by saying I look like a poor man’s Rakhi Savant- only for her to retort icily that she bought the exact same model for her sister’s reception. I felt like a sexist prick or Mayank Gandhi at his worst.

I decided to be very fashioniasta and buy a western dress ( sequined!!) and pair it with some unconventional bottoms ( also sequined). Well, everything sequined was either made for figures like 12 year old boys or had me looking like a giant lit tent trying to attract customers for a tarot card reading.

The clothes were too pricy. I worried that the cloth would rip. I realised how high maintenance they were. The sheer number and variety staggered me in a bad way. With all that lush around, no way would I be able to make up my mind.

I realized, too late, that my love for my brother doesn’t extend to shopping for clothes in tiny Bandra boutiques, sweating in April Mumbai heat, accompanied by an ever enthusiastic shopoholic friend who was giving me a headache with her experimental attitude. She ended up buying stuff while I slowly realised how much work goes into wearing those seemingly innocent simple clothes.

Maybe it is my face, maybe it is not having the ‘right’ attitude, but anything which is outside my comfort zone looks awful on me. And by awful I mean I look so conscious and so uncomfortable that the clothes look silly. I have no patience to work hard to ‘put a look together’.

I finally passed one window only to see a lovely thing- only to realise that costed my non-existing month’s salary. Desi calculation- am I going to wear the sequined beauty 10 times a year? Nope. So why spend on it when I can buy a lovely Chanel jacket that I can wear every day for work. Well, not every day, but for important meetings and stuff.

I even entertained a wild idea to go off sequins and get into some nice saree. I imagined myself all Rekha ethnic. But Remembered my mother politely pointing out that I have a history of tripping on the pleats and generally making a fool of myself- so maybe I want to get into something more comfy since there will be a lot of running around required?

It was hot. Hours of shopping with chatty chatty friend in refined environment had fried my nerves. I would have bombed Bandra if one more aspiring designer enthused about how this piece will look great with right amount of make-up and done up hair and accessories. I had three beers. SANS CHITTY CHATTY FRIEND.

I am so not cut out for this. Why haven’t I realised this before?

So I played safe, again, and bought a long silk kurta in Beige which I am sure looks more like a mid-level political party worker celebrating her party’s win, than wedding attire. But I had had enough of fashion torture and it was a relief to slip into something familiar and comfortable.

Familiar and comfortable- ah. These are my watchwords. I have decided not to get into these experimental attacks which never end well.

Although it will sure give me a pang next time I dig in SATC..

Ya ya Sisterhood…

I spent the last weekend at a get together of cousin sisters. While I do meet some of them on and off, it was the first time since I was a kid that we all were together.

We met at one of my mausi’s home – a place filled with amazing childhood memories for all of us sisters. And the weather was gorgeous. So was the setting. Clouds floating in the windows, bright green trees, waterfalls, jutting hills, winding roads, fluorescent green grass that makes me want to graze like a cow on hilltop…

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We trekked, ate Bhajiyas, drank copious amount of tea, told dirty jokes, shared stories of husbands, ruminated on emotional upheavals and spent the night chatting about this and that.

I was surprised at myself when I told them about a bout of depression I had had two years ago.

They asked me why I don’t want kids or quit my great job. They listened patiently, asked questions and supported my choices. I never thought that support from people I don’t see for decades would make me so happy.

It was like the Sex and The City Indian version produced by Yash Chopra!!!

All of them are mothers of young kids and their lives revolve around their kids. Apart from one cousin, all others are homemakers, stay in small towns, need to adjust with big families. About 90% of our lives are dramatically different.

If we were not related and shared a very happy childhood I can not imagine I would have ever spent a weekend with them that didn’t bore me even for a second.

In fact the one and half day filled me with such happiness and eagerness to meet them again, that I started wondering if it was all just nostalgia?? Or was there something else?

I do think that lack of malice, openness, a gay happiness at small things, shared fondness for each other do matter. Maybe the fact that we all love nature and roaming around helped.

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But I am sure what mattered the most was the feeling of SISTERHOOD…

What struck me with force, yet again , is that women mostly get along extremely well together. They try to understand each other. They are more open towards new trends. They are less judgmental. They are more accepting of different opinions and people.They are also more positive about future.

It could be the result of social conditioning, in fact I am damn sure it is.

I have seen the same conclusions in dozens of market researches we had commissioned over a period of years, but this time, it resonated with me forcefully.

Whatever the cause, the fact of the matter is that sisterhood rocks.

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This is the nest of killedar ( Harverster) ants I spotted during our climb. Myth is that even if the nest is demolished, the ants would build it in a couple of hours from scratch. Thus the name Killedar Mungya.

These smart, hardworking ants and the beautiful nest is a reminder of us cousins together.

Sex and the city in Mumbai..

Kareena came to Mumbai to be a writer. She got some money from her mother and thought she would pay her own bills in a few months. She still gets money occasionally from her mother to be able to pay rent for her Kandivali one room kitchen.

Kareena wanted to write about modern relationships from women’s point of view, for print. She writes kitchen soaps and backbiting reality shows, for television. Like everything else in Mumbai, television has swiftly buried a reality sword in Kareena’s creative dreams.

Kareena loves fashion, and regularly shops at fashion street, that is, when the production house pays her.

She sits with a cup of coffee in Lokhandwala CCD for hours with her friends and hopes that her script will be picked up by Anurag Kashyap or Kiran Rao. She sleeps with her fellow strugglers since in this one billion plus city you hardly meet anyone outside your own industry.

Kareena had a fling with a rich, sexy, vegetarian stockbroker. But he objected to her non-veg diet and wanted her to wear salwaar Kameez so that his family would approve. Kareena rejected him and repents till date. He was better looking than all the Delhi chaaps her family forces her to meet.

Kareena will get married very soon and move back to Chandigadh if she doesn’t want to spend her life in one room common toilet in Mira Road.

Maryam is a top notch lawyer from Bandra. Her family is one of the oldest Parsee families in Mumbai and is constantly disappointed that she hasn’t married a nice Parsee boy yet. Maryam often hangs out with her non-Parsee friends and hopes to meet an interesting boy , preferably a non-Parsee. She loves good-looking north Indian hunks as long as they do not open their mouths. Which they do. All the time.

Maryam has a dry sense of humour which turns off the good-looking Punjabis she favours. She hasn’t told them that she is a top lawyer fearing it would end her chance of meeting any cute man ever. She tells them she is a struggling actress. She tries to ignore their sniggering at her obviously non actressy looks.

Maryam will get married very soon- and to a Parsee, since she doesn’t want her future kids to be cut off from their tradition just because their mother married a non-Parsee.

Sharmila is a rich Gujarati from Worli who wanted to get married and have a kid.
She did get married and has 2 kids. She lives with her in-laws in a large house on World Sea Front.

She was a curator at an art gallery, one of the best in the city. But her father in law objects to her working and she gave in after a few fights. She is on board of her father-in-law’s charity with her mother-in-law. Sharmila has to snort coke every time she is with her in-laws. Which is all the time really.

She hangs out with Kareena and friends, and when she can’t – she spends hours on phone, listening to their wild stories about men, sex , midnight drives on bandstand and Bollywood parties. She still doesn’t know that her friends sometimes exaggerate for her benefit.

Salma loves sex and real estate. She has four apartments in Mumbai and her own PR company. She has refused to get married or get involved with anyone. She has also seen all her friends and lovers get married and have 2 kids each. Since she doesn’t have kids, nor a steady partner , she can hardly socialize with people of her age. She is worried that it may have a bad effect on her business.

Very few men she likes want to sleep with her now, since she has crossed forty and it looks bad for them if they are sleeping with a forty-year old single woman, however gorgeous. She is increasingly getting stuck with 50 + paunchy , balding men , something she is trying hard to overlook if she wants to have sex. They  cry after sex and tell her their wife is like a goddess, and they shouldn’t be doing this, but what to do, a man has his needs and being married to goddess doesn’t guarantee fulfillment.

Salma recently tried to buy another apartment in her building, with 100 % down-payment, but was refused by the society members , citing her bad behaviour. They politely suggested that in fact, she moves out from her present apartment since this was a respectable society with families and what would be her influence on kids??