Gracing the cover of September’s Elle, Sarah Jessica Parker is radiant. Blonde hair bobbed and eyes gleaming, she smiles broadly at the camera while her stomach protrudes tellingly from underneath a vintage-inspired pink frock. What’s she so effusively happy about? It seems that for the first time, Sarah Jessica Parker’s entire life has come together with perfect resonance.

Her marriage to Tony-award winner Matthew Broderick: near-perfection. “Yes, my home life is wonderful, and that sort of allows me to work and have some creative freedom…It’s not completely easy all the time, but it’s definitely right. It’s good… He is a substantial person.” And now, at the age of thirty-seven, she is finally pregnant with the couple’s first child. They were “surprised—and thrilled… Matthew’s face is so cute. He has big lips and they basically sprang to the expression of a capital O.”

On all counts, Sarah Jessica Parker seems to be an old-fashioned girl with a fabulous marriage, baby on the way, a blossoming career, and a supportive family of eight tight-knit siblings. Family seems to be at the center of her universe. It’s refreshing to read about a celebrity not afraid to admit that happiness can stem more from a rock-solid family than a few Golden Globe awards.

But at the end of the interview, Sarah Jessica Parker is asked about her role as Carrie Bradshaw in HBO’s breakout success Sex and the City. Will Carrie ever get married?

Suddenly Parker changes tones. “People have this idea that contentment is a man and a child. I respect that, but it should not be defined in such narrow terms. Contentment and triumph and joy for Carrie is having a career that she really loves and is proud of and having friendships that are meaningful. And hopefully having a fellow that brings those same qualities to the relationship.”

Perhaps the more disturbing juxtaposition, however, is Parker’s attempt to bolster Carrie’s career-gal independence while the viewing audience perceives something very, very different.

In the past season of Sex and the City, Parker’s Carrie Bradshaw has assumed a new air of despondency as she recognizes the emptiness of her life. “Contentment and triumph and joy?” Not quite.

Oh, Carrie has the career she loves and can be proud of. In fact, she’s at the pinnacle of professional success, and her sex-and-relationship column has been co-opted into a high-profile book deal. All Carrie needs to do is write an upbeat introduction for her book—just a little glimmer of hope for the women still searching for the right relationship. Yet Carrie can barely convince herself to write a hopeful note for her readers. Can a thirty-something single woman really believe in finding love?

Carrie seems to have lost her early enthusiasm. In a fit of lonely reflection she even declares that her first love is New York City—“big, tall, cement, glamorous, disappointing, ever-changing boyfriend.” But the city can never love her back, and what Carrie needs most is love.

In fact, in this new fifth season the entire cast of Sex and the City seems to be lonely, loveless, aging gracelessly. Their years of bar hopping, martini swilling, and sleeping around have left them with damaged livers, a few wrinkles, and more than a few broken hearts.

Each character seems to be realizing the emptiness of her life. Charlotte, the eternally optimistic romantic, morphs into a thirty-six year old divorcee’ desperately flaunting her breasts in Atlantic City. Samantha, the ever-libidinous provocateur, realizes that she’s given her heart to a playboy who can never promise to do the same. Miranda, a hyper-successful attorney, finds herself depressed as her personal life can’t achieve the same success as her career has. And Carrie … in a moment of reflection, dear Carrie realizes that she’ll have to risk her heart if she wants to find true happiness. True happiness, it seems, can’t be defined by a book deal or glamorous friends. No. True happiness will only reach Carrie when she opens herself up to the right relationships and finds a man who can love her.

One friend of mine who is a particularly insightful Sex and the City devotee summed up the show in a pithy comment. “It’s like watching a movie about the horrors of drug abuse. There’s an initial glamour and excitement, but you quickly notice how gruesome and horrific the character’s lives are. The women on that show—they’re always looking for love, always sleeping around, always falling for the wrong guy, always ending up miserable. By watching the show you learn what NOT to do if you want happiness in your own life. It’s a primer for ‘this is how to be miserable and empty.’”

Luckily, the Sex and the City actresses who so deftly play their sad characters seem a little smarter with their off-screen love lives. Kim Cattrall (Samantha) admits in her new book that she has finally found true happiness and intimacy with her husband, after years of promiscuity. Cynthia Nixon (Miranda) is the happy mother of two and has been with the same man since she was twenty-one years old.

Even Candace Bushnell—the author of the original Sex and the City book – has exited stage left from her role as the Eternal Single Girl. Her new role: the blushing bride, complete with a gushing story in that mainstay of all things traditional: New York Times vows” section.

Back to Sarah Jessica Parker’s interview with Elle. Why does she try to deny the importance of “a man and a child” for achieving happiness? Her real-life coworkers have found fulfillment in family, and their on-camera personas seem to be in the process of realizing what a powerful salve true love can be.

Nobody will deny the satisfaction that comes with career and worldly success. Still, we have to remember that it’s not a weakness to admit that life is a lot more fulfilling when we’re surrounded by people who love us unconditionally. People who will emotionally support us for out entire lives while we support them—through thick and thin, in sickness and in health. We’re not talking about emotional dependence. We’re talking about the richness of a relationship that’s built on true strength, trust, and love: the richness of a family. What’s wrong with that?

Sure, it’s a little unpopular in this day of hyper-drive careers and glamorous singlehood to admit that happiness can come from sharing your fulfilled life with a man and a child. But it’s the strongest, most progressive people who are willing to go against the grain of popular culture. Some may wish to say it loud and say it proud: you want a “man and a child.” Yes, you can succeed wildly in terms of your career goals. Yes, you can make it to the top. But throughout this process, you can also have the rich support that a family provides.
Sarah Jessica Parker, you are one lucky gal … we all envy you. Congratulations

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