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For a show that has often positioned itself as a love letter to New York City, Sex and the City has always shown remarkably little of the realities of living there — and reboot And Just Like That hasn’t been much of an exception. Not only do Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha all live in absurdly palatial apartments, but they also don’t seem to encounter most of the everyday struggles inherent in living in such a crowded, ill-maintained city — where’s the garbage? The construction? Why does only Miranda take the subway, and why is it empty and quiet enough for her to harass her law professor when she does?
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This week, however, And Just Like That delved into a topic sure to ring true with nearly all New Yorkers, even those living in Charlotte York-Goldenblatt-style Upper East Side mansions — the thin walls, noisy neighbors, and intense personal wars that can be waged when you’re forced to live in such close proximity to strangers, as most people are in NYC. This week’s episode, “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered,” showed Carrie getting to know a new downstairs neighbor (played by Katerina Tennenbaum) who parties late into the night and brings home a rotation of attractive men. Carrie admires her style, but is less thrilled when she and her friends are up until 4:30 in the morning screaming with laughter on the front stoop, finally prompting her to open the window and yell at them to keep it down.
Craig Blankenhorn / HBO Max.
“One girl has a laugh that defies any sound barrier,” Carrie tells the podcast co-host whose name I refuse to learn on the phone, and oh, I felt that in my bones. In my first two years living in NYC as an adult, I lived below a group of six men who hosted parties until the early morning every weekend without fail, and I felt my sanity erode with every passing week. While it would have been more realistic for Carrie to be tormented by upstairs neighbors, I too have been woken by the sounds from a shared stoop — usually those neighbors’ drunk friends buzzing every doorbell and trying to make their way upstairs.
While Carrie torments herself with the fear that her neighbor will think her old and uncool for complaining about the noise levels, she quickly learns — as I did — that trying to play nice is a losing game. The day after Carrie shouts out her window, her downstairs neighbor comes upstairs to apologize, promising it won’t happen again, while Carrie trips all over herself to act as though it never really bothered her at all (huge mistake). The next night? It’s a full-on rager, with music so loud Carrie’s walls are shaking.
Watch 'And Just Like That' on HBO Max
Watch 'And Just Like That' on HBO Max
One night, when the music wouldn’t stop, I did what Carrie did: I got dressed, left my apartment, and walked to theirs — where I found the door ajar, and saw the people who lived there passed out inside, music still blasting from their speakers. It was surreal, to see these men I’d passed half a dozen times in the hallway, in this state, to look in on this moment. But signing a lease in NYC often means accepting more than just the roommates you sign on to: The people in your building can become an inescapable, intimate part of your lives.
This isn’t the first time Sex and the City has tackled street noise in NYC, but it’s safe to say I prefer this iteration to Samantha’s interactions with the sex workers outside her Meatpacking apartment in season 3, a plotline whose only purpose seemed to be mocking the women outside her window. In And Just Like That, Carrie’s relationship with her neighbor shows something unique and real about the city she calls her “one great love” in season 5, and also underscores a new vulnerability to Carrie’s life after Big’s death. Sure, she could have stayed sequestered in their old apartment and paid to never see a neighbor again in her life, but she’s drawn back to her old apartment, where she has to pass another person on the stairs up to her floor and where the outside world is coming in through her window.
Carrie seems to know that, if she wants a chance of moving on, she’ll have to let the world back in. Her infuriating neighbors are a perfect representation of the ass-kicking New York City tends to give you when you make a hard choice to move forward, but if Carrie truly loves NYC, you have to imagine she loves that about it too. In a post-Big world, NYC becoming a main character in Carrie’s life again makes perfect sense.
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