There’s a wonderful scene in the second to last episode of Sex and the City — where the camera zooms in and in slow motion Aleksandr Petrofsky lets go of Carrie Bradshaw’s hand, the one he had asked her for a few hours earlier in a moment of anxiety and doubt.
“Promise me you will not let go,” a nervous Petrofsky says, fiddling with his cufflinks as he dresses for his art show opening.
Carrie nods, forgoing the party held in her honor — perhaps the first and only experience of and for herself in the City of Light.
Upon entering the gallery, Petrofsky’s fear is quickly assuaged by applause. Forgetting his words, he releases Carrie’s hand, ultimately releasing her.
I am telling this story to the man lying next to me on the futon.
We are making out like teenagers. Except that I never did this when I was a teenager. It is sweet. Tender. New. My whole body is humming.
I feel his weight on top of me and suddenly feel small, pressed down, vulnerable. My body is no longer humming. In fact, I am slipping out of it. “He will move soon and do something else,” I think. “It is fine.”
But it is not fine.
There is nothing aggressive or threatening about this gesture. He is not too heavy on top of me. In fact, I crave his nearness, and yet I am triggered by it.
I don’t know why. I don’t really care. I only know that I desperately want to return to the place where my body hums.
And I intuitively know the only way back is through — through my mouth, my voice, my truth.
I ask him to move. Kindly. Gently. Assuring him he has done nothing wrong, because he hasn’t. Assuring him that this is “my stuff.”
He rolls on to his side, kisses my forehead and strokes my cheek, and asks me what I need from him.
“Nothing,” I say. And it is true. I have exactly what I need. I have myself.
And in this seemingly insignificant moment I see the hundreds of times I have told myself everything was “fine” when it was not — saying nothing. Enduring, hoping, praying something would change, but not recognizing my role in changing it. In sex. In love. In work. In friendship. In family.
I get teary with the realization that I have never advocated for myself in this way before. I tell him this and the Carrie-Petrofsky story.
“I feel like I have held on to my own hand,” I say.
A few nights later we are again lying on the futon, under the front window that faces a church.
I am wearing decidedly less clothing than I was the previous time we were together. I feel myself slipping out of my body again.
“I want my pants back on,” I blurt out.
“Too fast?” He asks. “Too fast,” I reply.
“Yes, for me too,” he says, helping me slip back into my skinny corduroys. Zipping them, I almost immediately slip back into my body — reveling in all of the sensations created by my new partner.
I think of all of the times I have had sex when I didn’t want to. Because I thought I should. Because I thought it was expected. Because I had wanted it but changed my mind and didn’t really believe I was allowed to, that I could. Turns out — I can.
“I held on to my own hand again,” I tell him, grinning.
He smiles back, his hands tracing the seams of my corduroy jeans, kissing me like the teenager I never was.
And I feel my body humming again.