Maybe it’s because I’m a weird hyper-emotional-writer-freak — but for whatever reason — I find nothing more compelling than a woman in the thick of a meltdown.
It’s not that I’m some sort of sociopath who gets off on watching people suffer; it’s that I think humankind is at its most beautiful when stripped raw.
I mean, don’t we connect to our fellow humans on the deepest level through shared pain over shared triumph? When I see someone weep over their toxic relationship with food, I feel far more seen and less alone than when I watch someone gloat over their latest achievement at work.
I first fell in love with Carrie during the season premiere when she and Tina had a tense run-in with Bette and Gigi at some chic LA eatery. Sweet, Staten Island Carrie confesses to detesting scallops and is met with snark and eye-rolls from the frou-frou crew (Gigi and Bette, obviously). Suddenly it becomes blazingly evident that Carrie doesn’t ~fit in~ with the West Hollywood babes. When she finally sits down with Tina at their private table and nervously rambles on and on about how she’ll get the scallops if that’s what Tina wants — my heart shattered like glass.
Because I know how it feels to be a tri-state dyke suddenly thrust into Sapphic Southern California. The land of the beautiful and the bone-thin. The bleached teeth and sun-kissed skin. The seafood girls. Tri-state girls are steakhouse girls. Or chicken parm girls.
I lived in Los Angeles for years and what I learned in my tenure is that LA is the antithesis of the Tri-State. Not just because New Yorkers eat bagels instead of green juice in the morning. We’re neurotic, we have loud, aggressively nasal voices and obvious accents and we’re just not….golden.
And though people outside of our bubble tend to assume we’re all just blunt, hardened jackasses, we’re actually just unflinchingly honest. As a culture, we tend to overshare (we’re always talking in graphic detail about our bathroom habits and waxing poetic over what foods skeeve us out). We don’t know how to act cool or simply smile and “look pretty.” And when our sweaty tri-state neurosis brushes up against the cool California chill, the wild juxtaposition between the two worlds is glaring.
Like Carrie, I’ve definitely felt like my cacklin’-un-graceful, tightly-wound-dinner-roll-coveting self is “too much” for the SoCal raw bar jet-set.
But everything that Gigi and Bette mock about Carrie after she’s seated is everything I love about Carrie.
I love an anxious person. People who teem with anxiety have the biggest hearts! They’re terrified of trying new things not because they’re assholes but because they love life to such an elevated degree they’re worried that ONE WRONG MOVE will screw up this gorgeous ride.
And I love an anxious person who rambles when they’re uncomfortable — it’s so transparent. Watching someone word vomit into the torturous gaps of discomfort makes it very evident that they’re nervous. And I like to know what’s really going on with people — it makes me feel safe when I can get a good read on their emotional temperature. When people shut down or get icy and bitchy when awkward, I find that jarring. Maybe they don’t like me? Maybe they’re just rude? Maybe they’re too cool? Maybe they’re nervous? Maybe I said something offensive? I’d rather skip over the mind-f*ckery and have someone shakily rant about something obsolete while having a panic-induced hot-flash. (I spend most of my time enduring panic-induced hot flashes).
My love for Carrie swelled to new heights when she slugged back a few too many and couldn’t even attempt to fake it till she makes it.
You know how I opened this piece by declaring my passion for women in the thick of a meltdown?
Do you know what I love even more than a mere meltdown? A booze-induced meltdown.
I know, I know. That’s not “politically correct” of me to admit. I know, I know that we should all be healthy human beings who would never dare drink too much when lonely, vulnerable, sad, or anxious. Those should precisely be the moments we seek clarity and balanced brain chemistry and not turn to substances (or food) to soften the gut-wrenching pain we’re experiencing.
I know, babe, I f*cking know.
But there’s something gorgeously honest about a booze-induced meltdown (so long as it’s not violent or abusive. That’s a very different animal than a public cry-out). To begin with, When you’re buzzed, your reaction time is slowed down, which renders you vulnerable. Throw some inner emotional turmoil into the mix and voilà: The Walls Come Tumbling Down! We now know why there are so many bullet holes in that perforated heart of yours. And when you know about the bullet holes of a perforated heart, you have the honor of really knowing the person ~housing~ that heart.
And can you even have an honest, real, deep relationship with someone unless you really, really know them? Personally, I can’t. This is why I celebrate breakdowns in my friend group. Every breakdown brings us closer.
Let’s deep dive for a moment into the nuances of Carrie’s breakdown in episode 207.
BREAKDOWN 1: ALICE THE FAMOUS PERSON
You can sense the breakdown is boiling inside of Carrie when Alice approaches her at the poker event.
“Yeah, you’re paving the way for everybody, it means a lot to a lot of people. It means a lot to a lot to me,” Carrie gushes to Alice, complimenting her on her talk show. Despite the inside joke (Rosie O’Donnell was actually the first mainstream lesbian talk-show host), it’s a very sweet, earnest thing to say. And while Alice is kind and appreciative in her reaction and offers Carrie tickets to her show, she has a guard up. “Getting tickets” is different than “getting drinks.” Alice’s offer makes her view on Carrie crystal clear: Alice is the celebrity and Carrie is the fan who is going to be blessed with tickets to said celebrity’s taping.
Alice would never treat Carrie’s partner Tina as a fan, which further validates Carrie’s fear that she’s a misfit in LA LA Land. You can see lingering in Carrie’s eyes a heavy sadness as Alice sparkles in her stardom.
Carrie is too “East Coast” to know that in Hollywood it’s not cool to blather on about how much you love someone’s work. People in the celebrity-studded scene prefer an aloof approach. They often pretend to have “no idea” who a famous person even is when introduced (and then gossip about them cattily the minute the star struts away). And I know how putz-y it feels to express your appreciation for someone in the entertainment industry and then suddenly be viewed as the overzealous, nerdy fangirl who will always be on the outside. I’ve made this mistake in LA a million times. I complimented a former reality star at The Abbey (who’d been out of work for a decade and was sitting with my friends at our table, but whatever) and was met with an initial “oh, you’re so cute, you want to take a selfie?” and then was promptly ignored because I was clearly too rabid of a fan for her to be chummy with.
Oh Carrie, you’re perfect! Take tickets to that taping and toss ‘em in the trash! Tapings are a snoooooozeee anyway.
BREAKDOWN #2: SHANE THE HERO
Next, we get the Shane portion of Carrie’s night of meltdowns. Shane confronts Carrie who is slurping back her cocktail a little *too* enthusiastically (I so get it, honey). Shane tells her she saw her at an AA meeting and presses her about her addiction.
I’m just going to say it: I think this was a savage move on Shane’s part.
First of all, anonymity is sacred in AA. It’s the most revered tradition in the world of twelve-step! And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that confronting someone about something so deeply personal at a party isn’t exactly a sensitive move. And turns out Shane, you were wrong! Carrie goes to Over Eaters Anonymous — okay? Which isn’t exactly “fun” to admit to a tall drink of water who has likely never been overweight a day in her life.
Carrie proceeds to spill her guts to Shane, anyway. “I would’ve thought the same thing. I mean come on, I’m a 60-year-old woman who’s been on antidepressants all her life. It’s gotta be booze or food. It’s not gonna be sex, you know? Although I’ve seen that bunch and they are not what you would expect.”
Shane appears wildly uncomfortable that Carrie is so quick to reveal that she takes antidepressants (GASP, 37 million Americans are prescribed psychotropic medications, get over it) and binge eats as a means of self-soothing.
And while I love Shane, I’ve got to say, I was so, so disappointed with her during this scene.
First of all; Carrie is funny. What she says is so self-deprecating and just straight-up witty how could a person *not* be charmed? (I don’t know if I’ve ever heard Shane crack such a delightful joke, you know?!)
Secondly, Shane. Really? You’re uncomfortable with someone telling you about their mental health struggles? You used to turn tricks on Santa Monica BLVD! You’ve had threesomes. You’ve gone on drug benders. You made the spectacle of the century leaving Carmen at the altar! And now you’re going to act prim over a little Lexapro confession? I don’t buy it, babe. I think your discomfort says more about where you are than Carrie’s “oversharing” says about where she is.
And maybe Carrie didn’t need to tell her that she’s “struggling” with “Bette Porter” because Bette is Shane’s best friend, and it’s a violation of “boundaries” and whatnot — but you know what? People aren’t perfect. And if Shane can break a boundary by inquiring about her sobriety, Carrie can certainly bring up how she feels about Bette. I think Shane should’ve comforted her — but then again swaggy Shane doesn’t know how it feels to be the squat New Yorker in a room full of California gazelles. Shane doesn’t have empathy for Carrie because not being one of the “beautiful people” is something she doesn’t experience.
BREAKDOWN #3: BETTE BITES
And then we have Carrie’s moment with Bette.
This was painful to watch.
Bette clearly still has endless ~love~ for Tina so understandably behaves like an ice queen around Carrie. And after a refreshingly vulnerable exchange between the two women (they discuss not fitting in at school and feeling like outcasts) the lights go out. Shit gets dark.
Bette hisses that she doesn’t want to bond with Carrie. She flashes her glowy, condescending smile and sneers: “If you think what you have with Tina is working and you feel really good about it then I don’t see why you would care what I think about you.”
What she really means is: It kills me to see my ex-wife with another woman — but Bette would never be that vulnerable to someone she doesn’t know intimately. (She has trouble being vulnerable with her lifelong friends!). And when Bette is in pain she gets all cool and removed and cutting: the opposite of Carrie’s warm fumbling.
And while I felt for them both, it was clear that at this moment, Bette, with her fabulous style and jaw-dropping artist date, is going to have a way easier time fitting in at the poker party than Carrie. And the biting rejection Carrie feels speaks to the biting rejection she’s felt her entire life. You can see that she’s been catapulted back to the schoolyard and is now the teary-girl picked last in gym class. And aren’t we all just walking around pretending to be grownups when we’re really just taller versions of our feverishly bullied, middle-school selves?
BREAKDOWN #4: I’M NOT LIKE YOU GUYS!
Carrie’s final meltdown happens when she’s hammered, hammered, hammered.
Look: She’s been treated like a sniveling little fan by Alice, accused of being an addict by Shane, And dismissed by Bette. That’s a lot for anyone. Plus, we’ve learned that she struggles with severe depression and takes medication for it. And Carrie, like all soulful people, is laden with issues. Issues that have been kicked up by the events of the evening. Of course, she’s going to drink too much. She’s a human, not a robot.
Tess and Shane decide to drive drunk, emotional Carrie home. Carrie blubbers over her love of Angie before breaking out the line that broke me: “Everyone else is, I don’t know, you people are so beautiful and I’m not like you guys.” Those words broke me because they’re so real. She’s not like them. She never will be. Like I mentioned earlier, people born into the societal standards of beauty have a very different life experience than those who were not. Pretty privilege exists and for whatever reason, it’s something we shy away from discussing honestly as a culture. Carrie will never be treated like she’s “cool” or “relevant” in a town that runs on the hierarchy of hipness and aesthetics. And she’s about to be marrying someone who is immersed in that world. Who fits into that world. She’ll never be able to escape the crippling insecurity it triggers in her.
And what was the most devastating part of the scene wasn’t Carrie’s plight, but how Tess and Shane completely deny her plight. They assure her she’s “just drunk.” They exchange unconvincing “concerned” reactions — as if they’ve never seen someone lose their shit before (give me a break!). They even make out, horny and pleased with themselves for heroically driving messy old Carrie home.
This scene highlights another big difference in New York vs. LA Culture.
Let me tell you a little something about New York girls.
We don’t just drive you home when you’re snot-crying. We come into your home and snot-cry with you (that or we take you back to our mom’s house in Jersey and snot-cry with you there). Even if you’re drunk and not making sense, we listen to your story of pain and validate your feelings. We share stories of feeling “the same fucking way!” and then order a pizza. We’ll watch a sad movie with you as tears stream down our faces into pizza-grease-adorned hands, even if we hardly know you. Because New York girls aren’t afraid of vulnerability or messiness. Because we aren’t obsessed with glossy appearances.I guess when you live on top of each other like you do in our city, you get used to being seen by the masses when you’re crying, ugly, drunk, and heartbroken. Living here is like having constant exposure therapy to meltdowns.
And my girls and I? We would’ve never left Carrie after she says she doesn’t think she can marry Tina. We would’ve crawled into bed with her and saw her through the breakdown.
So, Carrie, I think it’s time you get back to your roots. Come to the city. We’ll eat pasta and cry and laugh and wax poetic over our love of antidepressants. You might not belong in LA, but you certainly belong in the Tri-State.