Carrie Bradshaw, I hardly knew you
I’ve spent more than a week working in New York City, staying in a hotel so painfully trendy that it hurts. Hurts the eardrums at least. It is the first hotel I have stayed in which has a DJ in the lobby. The lights are set so low that even my skin looks young. At 1am, there are large amounts of glamorous young things in the lobby, each sure that a guileless camera pose is a route to success – spiritual and otherwise.
And then there was my hotel bedroom. Rarely has decor been so committed to sphere and steel. The window a round porthole; the lighting varying takes on spheres; the fittings metallic; and everywhere, glass and metal vied for minimalist attention.
Room problems emerged within 30 minutes. The metallic sink was constructed in such a nouveau manner that one could not wash one’s hands; the phone messaging system was so refined that I could not figure out how to retrieve messages (its light was flashing for a week solid); the lighting, of the push-button variety, defied control. On two occasions I ended up sleeping with a spherical glowing bulb beaming in my face.
All in all I came to a sorry conclusion – my hotel had bettered me. I was not fully able to cope. I simply could not live up to its ambitious expectation. Oscar Wilde once commented that he spent three years at Trinity College attempting to live up to his blue china. On 16th Street and 9th, I felt his anguish.
The question is this: will the Dream Hotel Downtown actually endure? Was I staring through the portals of the future, as its guest?
I am inclined to think not – and Carrie Bradshaw is the reason why.
When I first encountered Sex and the City, in 1999, it bristled with freshness, with abject excitement, with rule-breaking fizz. It was a dream-like glimpse into the future. These successful, beautiful, thoughtful, emancipated women were doing their fabulous in the streets of New York, men traipsing after them. It was the new way to live.
Until, suddenly, it was not.
Ah yes, Sex and the City was simply fashion, and like all fashions, it became the victim of last season. I am struck as I walk and talk about this town how women see their lives so wholly differently from the HBO idyll.
Young women come and live in New York to work hard, layer experience, grow, and mature. Their evolution is not one of sexual achievement and exceptional shoes. Rather, it is a journey towards the authentic, the raw, the real.
Of course they will dress up and be fabulous, but it is with a certain knowingness about the social contract – those heels must be paid for; those late nights must be recovered in extended sleep; those crappy poseur boyfriends must eventually be weeded. The women I see in New York City are aware of their talent and beauty and success, but also of the essential ephemerality of these qualities. Lena Dunham in her TV series Girls has caught the zeitgeist, and captured a certain realness and gritty ambition which marks this new era.
I am now unclear which dream will live longest – Dunham’s Girls or the fantastical lobby and rooms of the Dream Hotel. Within all fashion resides an underbelly, its seed of destruction.
When I think wistfully of Carrie, or woefully on the Dream hotel, I arrive to a simple, cautionary truth: if Gotham is to be eternal, nothing in it can last forever.
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2013 Copyright. Brian McIntyre, Orchard Brand Agency.