The thing about going on a Sex and the City bus tour in the middle of a pandemic—and during a surge of the disease that caused the pandemic in question, on a bitterly cold New York day, in an era that feels simultaneously mundane and lawless—is that it makes you feel absolutely insane. Sex and the City was supposed to be about flirting, fun, and froth, so why was I desperately searching for hand sanitizer in my bag as the tour guide pointed out the spot where Miranda told Carrie she was pregnant, “right there, beyond the COVID-19 testing van”?
I tried as hard as I could to succumb to the fantasy of the tour, but reality kept getting in the way. I found myself wondering about our eminently talented tour guide Christiana’s path from drama school to narrating Carrie’s hazy, crazy New York days, and I was shocked to learn that she gave this tour most days of the week. What is that job like? I wondered, something I’d so rarely asked myself about Carrie’s column or Miranda’s law office or Samantha’s P.R. firm. (I know what their jobs were like—star-studded and desultory enough that the girls could tear themselves away from work for round-the-clock omelets and cosmos without worrying about losing their health insurance.)
I don’t blame the tour venture for trying to offer New Yorkers—or tourists, as was the case for most of our fellow attendees—a dollop of fantasy, and as far as semi-indoor activities go, this one’s emphasis on mask wearing while boarding the bus felt relatively safe. Still, it was difficult to embody the light, giggly ethos of the show when my friends and I found ourselves rehashing the nearly three-year-old “do I have COVID-19 or extreme depression?” conversation while perched outside of Steve’s bar. (We all got tested pre-tour, by the way, and I am pleased to report that it’s depression.)
As Eliza and Natalie drank and I sat, I thought of how And Just Like That… had done its level best to work the pandemic into its scripted milieu but hadn’t done much with the concept beyond a few introductory mentions. Maybe that’s for a reason; maybe, at its heart, the New York of Sex and the City doesn’t exist anymore, if it ever did for anyone but the Carries of this world. But is there any harm in pretending? Nostalgia’s got to be worth something, even if all it does is remind us of a Manhattan before masks, when Mr. Big still seemed debonair and non-creepy, and when the mere promise of a pink drink and a Magnolia cupcake with the girls was enough to lure scores of young women to start their lives in the big city. After all, what’s the alternative? Do any of us really want to go on the Yellowjackets tour of the Canadian wilderness?