For the 20th anniversary of Sex and the City—which premiered on HBO on June 6, 1998 and went on to become iconic prestige television—Jezebel is doing a week of posts dedicated to our favorite band of sexual women friends.
When looking to HBO’s Sex and the City for dating advice, a reasonable person’s main takeaway should largely be to watch what these women do and then do the opposite. For example, do NOT marry a man only because you like the idea of him (see: Charlotte and Trey), do NOT have an affair with an ex who’s married, but if you must, do NOT have it in the apartment he shares with his brittle-toothed wife (a mistake made by Carrie and Big), and do NOT set up two incompatible characters because they both happen to be gay (Anthony and Stanford is a sham—MARCUS FOR LIFE).
A true gem of romantic advice, however, comes from an unlikely source: Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall), the fearsome, sex-positive PR exec who proudly wears her vagina on her sleeve (or her vagina is her sleeve? It’s a messy metaphor). Not one to be carried away by matters of the heart and reluctant to be corralled into a relationship, it’s rare that we see Samantha lose control of her life with one notable exception: her love affair with hotelier and scumbag Richard Wright (James Remar).
Samantha’s relationship with Richard was one fraught with distrust and dishonesty. Initially scorning his more sentimental advances, she eventually falls hard into a somewhat unrequited love that results in her blackmailing the assistant who buys gifts for Richard’s partners into signing a card with “Love, Richard.” (He only says “I love you” when faced with admitting he didn’t write the card himself.)
Later, she discovers him going down on another woman, they breakup, and after much cajoling, the typically self-possessed Samantha returns to the relationship where she’s constantly wracked with anxiety that he might cheat again. Things come to a head in “Luck Be an Old Lady,” episode 3 in Season 5, when she is drawn to the brink of madness by her paranoia and she realizes she must end things. Richard, trying to get her to reconsider, says, “I love you, Samantha.” Samantha then says one of the wisest things ever uttered on this mostly silly and fantastical show:
“I love you, too, Richard. But I love me more.”
“I love you, too, but I love me more” provides a blueprint for what I consider to be most healthy relationships. What “I love you, too, but I love me more” means is that you will love a person to the best of your ability while still making self care a priority. From Greek myths to Romeo and Juliet to Twilight, we’re told stories of how worth it peril and anguish can be, so long as what you get in return is our very rigid definition of love—heteronormative nonsense that at best results in co-dependence and at worst, outright controlling abuse.
As a childless adult, there is no one I should love and care for more than I do myself—though that doesn’t diminish the intense love I have for my partner, family, and...fine...cats. If anything, taking care of myself allows me to love them better because as RuPaul often says in another iteration of Samantha’s quote: “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?” What most will find is that loving one’s self (the beginning of a lifelong romance, according to
Carrie Bradshaw Oscar Wilde) and taking care of your own needs will allow you to care for others in ways that absolute devotion/“stand by your man” shit cannot because it makes you strong enough to support another person and independent enough to walk away when you need to.
Samantha’s “I love you, too, Richard, but I love me more” pops into my mind with strange frequency, considering that the episode it’s featured in aired 16 years ago, probably because it’s one of the most helpful and surprising lessons to be included in media aimed at women. So please forgive me if I do not read the feedback to this piece. I love you all, but I love me more.