Sex and the City as a whole changed the cultural landscape forever, but even certain episodes were culturally significant enough to sneak their way into the vernacular, so familiar and distinct they can be referred to as simply “the [x] one”: There was “the Rabbit one,” “the anal one,” and “the Hamptons one.” There was, of course, also “the Post-it one.”
If you’re unsure what I’m talking about, “the Post-it one” refers to a season-six episode in which Carrie is unceremoniously broken up with by wishy-washy man-child Berger on, yes, a Post-it, on which he had scrawled, “I’m sorry. I can’t. Don’t hate me.” In a rare moment of relatability, Carrie deals with the breakup by getting high, getting arrested, and getting ice cream, in that order.
Carrie quickly moves on from Berger, who was ultimately just a not-a-Big, not-yet-an-Aidan placeholder, but the legacy of the Post-it has remained. Berger’s Post-it represents a very specific circle of singles hell: the point at which you realize the person you’ve invested your time and energy in isn’t even capable of breaking your heart properly. Getting dumped isn’t even the worst part—it’s the sheer thoughtlessness of the method that confirms just how un-special you were to the person in question.
That was how the episode felt in 2003, anyway, back in the almost unimaginable era before iPhones—when phone cords weren’t an anachronism and people actually had to meet and spend time together face-to-face in order to determine whether their relationship was working out.
Now we live in the age of Tinder and Hinge, when it’s possible to exchange witty banter with a potential partner without ever leaving your room. Given the ever-increasing indignities of dating via apps and text, Berger’s sad Post-it note actually feels—dare I say it?—borderline romantic.
Hear me out: Berger actually took the time to write words on paper and leave them for his girlfriend (or, to be more accurate, ex-girlfriend) to find. Cowardly, sure, but compared to a “hey sry dont think i can do this :(” text received at 4 a.m., it’s practically a carefully composed love letter from John Adams to his wife Abigail.
It feels mildly pathetic to hold Berger’s Post-it—a symbol of society’s low expectations for straight men—up as a shining example of tact, but consider today’s alternative: ghosting. If Berger were breaking up with Carrie in 2019 rather than 2003, he would have been out the door without so much as a goodbye, maybe returning to orbit her Instagram Stories just enough to make her feel thoroughly confused. Isn’t it better to explain how you feel in simple, easy-to-read terms, even if you’re not mature enough to stick around for a full conversation?
Breaking up with someone via text is “frowned upon” among today’s teens, according to a Pew Research poll, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen; in an extremely informal survey of my friends, all of us had either broken up with someone or been broken up with via text.
As someone who’s been dumped via text not once but twice (brag), and another time via email, I can safely say I’d rather have a Post-it: something I can physically hold on to and tear up in frustration, then chuck into a box of keepsakes and forget about until I move apartments a few years later and chuckle about how melodramatic the breakup felt at the time. Concrete souvenirs of relationships, no matter how painful, give you some measure of proof that it wasn’t all in your head, that this thing between you and another person actually happened (and that what they did really was that callous). Somehow, screenshotting a text just doesn’t feel the same.
I know things wouldn’t necessarily be better without technology; Carrie Bradshaw was a famous Luddite during the tech boom of the early aughts, with a few notable exceptions (who can forget her brief foray into AOL instant messaging with the screen name “shoegal”?), and it didn’t save her from getting mistreated by a wide variety of men. Still, at least she had her Post-it: tangible evidence of her tryst with Berger, and his gutlessness. And perhaps, when the pain of the split faded, that little scrap of paper could always remind her of another significant event: the night she—in her own words—“got arrested for smoking a doobie.”
Originally Appeared on Vogue