From Our Readers

My Presence Is a Present

I know that the modern, sophisticated girl isn’t supposed to like – let alone watch – Sex and the City but I do, because amidst the froth and frivolousness are hidden gems of bona fide truth. In the not too distant past, I was dealing very poorly with a complicated relationship (if I may call it that) and had started to wonder whether I was, in fact, my own worst enemy. Was I being too sassy, too opinionated, too bookish? Was I swearing too much? In other words, was I being too much like myself?

With these questions in mind, I curled up on the sofa in the hope of completely anaesthetising them via television. Instead, I got the Season 2 finale, ‘Ex and the City’. Carrie, musing on her inability to stay friends with her exes (a skill I also possess), arranges to have lunch with a significant ex – Mr. Big – to help her figure out exactly why this keeps happening to her. Unable to commit to Carrie over a period of two years, Mr. Big announces at lunch that he is engaged to his new girlfriend of five months. This prompts Carrie to launch into a scathing tirade against him, but also causes her to subsequently ask the big question we sometimes find ourselves asking: why her and not me?

Over drinks later in the episode, Carrie is still asking this question out loud. Miranda suggests that the only explanation for her situation is “Hubbell”, explaining how the Robert Redford character from The Way We Were is in love with Barbara Streisand’s wild, complicated character Katie but eventually leaves her and marries a simple, uncomplicated girl. They recount the closing scene where the couple meet in front of the Plaza Hotel in New York: Katie smooths Hubbell’s hair from his face and says, “Your girl is lovely, Hubbell.” Carrie realises that “the world is made up of two types of women: the simple girls and the Katie girls” and that she is a Katie girl. She then decides to confront Mr. Big at his engagement party, coincidentally also at the Plaza Hotel.

Carrie arrives late and finds Mr. Big on the sidewalk, ready to leave with his new fiance. She re-enacts the movie scene and is met with a bemused response from Big. Realising that it was herself and not him who couldn’t be tamed, Carrie walks off wearing a self-satisfied pout and looking sexy in a slinky white dress. To be honest, I can’t say I’d have done the same. Punching him in the face would have made me feel much better, and might possibly have left his nose irreparably wonky. But Carrie had a point and although it’s never as easy to be so magnanimous in real life, the realisation that one cannot be tamed can be liberating. Let me try and explain why.

I’ve always had a very laissez-faire attitude towards dating and relationships. Maybe it’s because I’m lazy and maybe it’s because, like everyone else, I find it daunting: rejection is like getting thrown under a bus and who willingly chooses to do that? I just figure that attraction is attraction and you can’t force it, no matter how hard you try. You just end up looking sad and tragic by trying to chase it.

A couple of years ago, I was complaining about my lack of romantic attention from men and my friends told me that I should be more pro-active about it and “put myself out there” instead of just hanging around doing nothing… so I did. Suffice it to say, it was, for me, the unhappiest time in recent memory. My confidence and self-esteem took a dive, I was constantly second guessing myself, dressing only for the attention of others and never allowing myself relax lest I lapse into actually being myself. It took me 6 months to realise why I was feeling so terrible: I was trying to be something I wasn’t, looking for the approval of others instead of being confident in who I was. I’m not blaming my friends – they care for me and meant well with their advice, but it just wasn’t for me.

Truth be told, I’m happy being independent and self-sufficient. I prefer my books and literary journals over a huge night out (I’m too old for them now anyway, that’s what my early twenties were for) and no matter how hard I try, I’ll always love jeans more than dresses. I can’t quell my interest in politics and gender issues, I’m never going to grow my hair out or stop making wisecracks or stop getting tattoos. And why would I want to? They’re all part of what makes me exactly who I am. Sylvia Plath once said “I think that a workable union should heighten the potentialities in both individuals,” and I’m inclined to agree with her. So for now I’m going to celebrate my potentialities instead of apologising for them, and I’m going to hone them until that right partner happens along.

I’ll let Carrie have the last word on the subject: “Maybe I didn’t break Big. Maybe the problem was he couldn’t break me. Maybe some women aren’t meant to be tamed. Maybe they need to run free, until they find someone just as wild to run with.”

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Fiona Lyons lives in Australia’s national capital (not Sydney). She’s addicted to British forensic crime dramas and has quit smoking twice this year. By day she drinks choc-chip chai tea, and by night she dons hoodies while pretending to be Kanye West. You can follow her Twitter at @fionahelen or tumblr at