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Being Charlotte Adjacent: The Modern Ideals of a Kinda Old-Fashioned Woman

Posted on February 14 2015

illustration

By Marjon Carlos

It was one of those inane, banal games that legions of young women my age and younger have played with their girlfriends time and time again, the depths of it’s “basicness” only rivaled by the actual Buzzfeed quiz that was inspired by it: the “Which ‘Sex and the City’ character are you?” (drinking) game.

Yes, that insipid shit. Well, about a year ago I was playing with a relatively new group of friends, when it was my turn. All eyes were on me and I matter-of-factly replied “Miranda”, because I think dry wit is sexy on a woman and I have zero patience for men’s antics about 100% of the time, which I believe were the red-head’s most charming trademarks.

I heard a snort ring out and one girlfriend shook her head, “No, no, no, no! You’re so Charlotte!” she laughed. I peered up from my wine glass, baffled.

The idea was pretty ridiculous and the intention, condescending. No one shoots for the prim, naive, devastatingly Episcopalian, but no less hilarious, Charlotte York. She can barely muster the strength to utter “vagina” let alone look at her own without a sense of repulsion (an anxiety she later overcomes, but still). Charlotte is lovable and wonderful and a loyal friend, but she’s the foil: she represents the tradition in male and female relationships many of her friends are so desperately trying to avoid and mock at every turn. She’s a tireless romantic, so much so she’s almost delusional in her quest for love. When she does find “Prince Charming” she convinces herself she can become a virgin again by waiting to have sex with him, only to discover that he has an impotency problem and Oedipal complex; divorce is inevitable. She doesn’t seem quite modern in comparison to her cohort; she doesn’t seem quite “complex” (which is shorthand for “fun but messy”). She was…old-fashioned.

Besides Charlotte’s many Prada ensembles, I didn’t see the connection. I’m a sex positive ambitious feminist writer, who would never think of completely leaving her job to have a baby (at least not without some major Maternity Leave benefits), as the Connecticut blue blood eventually does. What was this girl really getting at? Was she judging me because I also, then 31, had tired on short-lived affairs with unremarkable randoms I had just met in passing? Was I a prude for believing men should call you instead of conducting all communication via insoluble texts? Was I repressed to love sex but not be completely motivated by it in all of my interactions with men? Was I asking too much to simply be adored by my next boyfriend, rather than mitigate apathy or indifference in my relationship? Did eschewing the typical traps and pitfalls of “millennial dating” qualify me as “out of touch”? 

No, I was not repressed or prudish or demanding for believing those things, but dammit…maybe, just maybe (sigh) I was Charlotte adjacent. I took another sip of wine, silently bristling at this epiphany.

With the exchange burned into my mind weeks later I began rolling over why that charge was meant to be an insult in the first place and why it bothered me so. To be sure, aligning my aforementioned take on dating with Charlotte’s exasperation with dating was to correlate a certain sense of rigidity. Advising a friend to wait, y’know, a week before sleeping with a man she barely knew communicated to others I was perhaps too mathematical, too measured, too “by the book”. That by pausing to consider the compatibility with a man, I was somehow cutting myself off from pleasure or this ineffable thing called “the moment”. I guess what ultimately bothered me about all these assumptions was that they had never been lodged at me before – because how could they been?!

My twenties were a cautionary tale, after all: I had mad, wild love affairs that were all-consuming and torrid and devastating and reckless and fun and alarming and character-defining. I had lived in New York pre-Tinder, pre-OK Cupid, and lived quite hard: I had never once shied away from taking a chance when it came to love or sex, because I was certain it would help me discover what I was looking for. I had surmised that any breakup, any failed relationship, any errant make out session in the corner of a dive bar was a teachable moment; I was learning to communicate and feel and rebuild. It just seemed baffling, though, to consider all my insatiable restlessness in my personal life for years had me finally craving stability.

It was funny to accept that all my entanglements were bringing me to this impasse in my perspective on relationships. I was much more certain about what I wanted from them and wasn’t so afraid to talk about those desires, which for me, are true partnership and solid ground to actually build something upon. These two things had always seemed to elude me before, perhaps for the very reason why the girl chortled at the idea of Charlotte before: there was something too obvious, too old-fashioned about her willingness to make those demands out of life and men. But was there, I thought, when they were all answered? 

As women we’ll share different ideals and ideas of what we portend life to be – they all distinct and particular to our definition of happiness – but I think there is something to demand for those things to come to pass. I think there is something so particularly unprecious, unretrograde about verbalizing and being relentless in your life’s pursuits. In fact, I find that wildly refreshing and well, modern.

charlotte york

The post Being Charlotte Adjacent: The Modern Ideals of a Kinda Old-Fashioned Woman appeared first on All the pretty birds.

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