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The outdated cultural obsession highlighted by HBO’s ‘Sex and the City’ reboot

Will Carrie and Big stay married?

The much-anticipated revival of the “Sex and The City” franchise, “And Just Like That…” brings 10 new episodes to HBO Max in December that may or may not answer the biggest outstanding questions about the series’ iconic on-again, off-again couple.

Through all the adventures, and misadventures, the overall goal stayed mostly the same: find a male soul mate and settle down.

There were many emotionally — and sexually — dangerous encounters over the original six seasons of “SATC” from 1998 to 2004; 10.6 million people tuned in for the finale, which was spun off into feature-length movies. But through all the adventures, and misadventures, the overall goal stayed mostly the same: find a male soul mate and settle down.

This mate hunt has always seemed like a strangely reductive life goal for confident women. But in 2021, it feels sorely outdated. As my late mother always said, being “boy crazy” is not a compliment; she assigned the description to my friends who obsessed over securing the perfect homecoming and prom partners. Decades later, Mom would have looked skeptically at an all-consuming chase for “Mr. Right,” even if that chase was fictional.

Now the women are back — minus Samantha (Kim Cattrall) — with Harry Goldenblatt (Evan Handler) and Charlotte York (Kristin Davis), Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Big (Chris Noth), and Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) and Steve Brady (David Eigenberg) all in long-term partnerships (although Miranda and Steve are not technically married).

Romance as a form of fantasy football remains a popular American pastime. And the televised pursuit of fictional and real-life dating partners is a cultural obsession.

Paris Hilton’s new series, “Paris In Love,” is all about her nuptials with Carter Reum. Reality shows like “Too Hot to Handle, “Love Island,” “90-Day Fiancé,” “Are You The One?” “Married at First Site” and “Love Is Blind” all ultimately come down to the pursuit of marital bliss.

I am including in this list the nearly 20-year-old network franchise of “The Bachelor,” “The Bachelorette” and “Bachelor in Paradise,” an incredibly popular set of series that have persevered despite accusations of racism, misogyny and misogynoir. (And soon I may have contestants who look like me “looking for love” and marriage as ABC is prepping for a Bachelor spinoff, “Golden Years.”)

On Christmas Day, “Bridgerton” is back for a second season, and so is its hunt for the right person to accompany a yearning lady into matrimony.

The Pew Research Center reports that 31 percent of U.S. adults are single or not in committed relationships. A plurality, 41 percent, are 18 to 29 years old, with 36 percent of those 65 and older reporting single status. Most of those older Americans are women, with 49 percent over 65, claiming they are alone.

I grew up in the 1960s playing Mystery Date with my sisters and friends, a pursuit that supported the randomness of dating. “Would your Mystery Date be a dream or a dud?” the game asked, a central question that reinforced an apparent lack of autonomy. You never know who might be on the other side of the door (although you could rest assured they would be white and cisgender).

The board game is still available, for $29.99 at Kohl’s.

I also watched the long-running “The Dating Game.” The questions from the date-seeking women on the show were pithy and absurd, such as “How did you get your muscles?” The female suitor-seeker had 60 seconds to select her male partner — sort of like choosing an option on a fast food menu.

I am married once and divorced once, and I watch absurd reality TV dating shows to see what to avoid.

I am married once and divorced once, and I watch absurd reality TV dating shows to see what to avoid. First impressions are often misleading, and love at first site is a comforting but problematic fiction for most people.

The World Population Review reinforces my skepticism with data. In the U.S., 50 percent of all married couples divorce, the sixth-highest divorce rate in the world. According to the same date, around 60 percent of all second marriages also end in divorce, as do 73 percent of all third marriages, undermining the old saying that the third time is the charm. Nevada is one of the divorciest states in the union. (Note to self: do not get married by an Elvis impersonator.) But it also has the highest marriage rate.

Advice on how to race to the altar has been plentiful since the fourth century B.C., when Socrates supposedly wrote something to the effect of “If you get a good wife, you’ll become happy; if you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.” Jane Austen opened her iconic “Pride and Prejudice” with the infamous line: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

Spouse-hunting is still a thing, as licensed marriage and family therapist Katherine Woodward Thomas offers a definitive time frame for nabbing your mate in “Calling in ‘The One:’ 7 Weeks to Attract the Love of Your Life.” The blurb promises, “At the end of the course, you will be in the ideal state of mind to go out into the world and find your ‘One.’”

Perhaps for nostalgia, perhaps for curiosity, this December I will greedily consume episodes of “And Just Like That…”. I will also be curious to see whom Michelle chooses on “The Bachelorette.”

The pandemic has many of us reconfiguring our days and, perhaps, our lives’ mission and purpose. Amid this shift, I find watching the smart, accomplished “Sex and the City” women focus so wholeheartedly on whom they sleep with at night unsatisfying, to say the least. There must be more than this.

Maybe Carrie will discover Big was the right one after all this time. Or not.

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