I was never a Sex and the City fan. I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen more than two full episodes, and those were at other people’s homes. Aside from a host of other cultural criticisms I no doubt would have agreed with at the time, I was too much of four R-words I just coughed up – Reclusive, Remote, Rural, and Ruminative – to relate much at all to those characters, to that context. But for me, as for others who came of age in the late 1990s and early 2000s, SATC was a fixture that was very much there. People I knew were into it, and I gathered fundamental things about it essentially by osmosis.
Of course, one thing I picked up on was that the main protagonist, a writer, was somehow bound to a character everyone called “Mr. Big,” who drifted in and out of her life but still managed to dominate it even in his physical absence. Or, probably more accurately: this charismatic, playful, slightly paternal, but also cruelly mercurial character was DEFINED BY his absence.
THAT was the one thing about SATC I wordlessly understood and empathized with (other less-than-flattering impressions about the show notwithstanding).
I remember years ago stumbling on an online conversation where people were weighing in on whether they had a “Mr. Big.” Without hesitation, I made a mental check-mark.
I am thinking about this lately because, just as there is no way I could have missed hearing about Mr. Big the first time around, I have recently been unable to avoid the knowledge that he is now “dead”. The series reboot has killed him off, because the actor who played him (yes, I know his name, but I am trying to keep a consistent tone of near-perfect ignorance here) did not wish to return.
In the wake of this fictional death, I hear different opinions. There are tearful, nostalgic tributes to a beloved character and to what folks remember as a great romance. But there are also reflections on what an a-hole the guy was all the time. Emotionally unavailable, evasive, impossible to be with, less person than construct.
Those of us with a Mr. Big know there must be a real person under there. A real person who looks all squinty when switching from contacts to glasses, who sleeps beside loopy wallpaper that says “Home Tweet Home,” who has a soft spot for stray cats and whose family quotes Shawshank Redemption at the dinner table. We might’ve had glimpses of that person – glimpses that made us feel strange – though we only ever got but so close.
What we might not realize is that the distance, with its comforting, familiar ache, is really what we want. It’s what intoxicates us, what keeps us hooked for decades. Not only do we not want to know too much about Big, we also don’t want him to know too much about us. Nothing is sexier than mystery, and intimacy, of course, is mystery’s murderer.
The real person beneath my Mr. Big was once a peculiar waif of a child. I am older than he, and when we met, I was physically bigger to boot. But he was something my brain, in its roiling chemical stew, was unwittingly thirsty for right at the moment he arrived. He had sloppily painted nails and a wart on his thumb. He was what I didn’t know then was “gender non-conforming” – which struck me as scrappy and subversive and devastatingly beautiful. My mind exploded. I became an addict. The chemicals swarmed and congealed into a myth, a legend beyond all reason. I can discern now that the complete and utter fusion I desired was not carnal, but (dare I say it?) spiritual. I have experienced some amazing things in the years since, but never THAT again.
These days it’s only The Concept that remains. But he’s a hell of a literary device, with bottomless metaphorical utility, and he stirs when I start to worry that feeling too secure and at peace is a sign of getting old. If I’m honest, though I can’t abide real-life drama anymore, the showrunner in me might wait a while longer to write off the character completely.
I feel like this belongs here: