Single-Minded: What Comes After the Happy Ending?

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The single woman is a lot like an only child. Sometimes she can be a selfish brat. Being "the head blankety-blank in charge" of herself, she rarely has to compromise, to share, or even question. And that life ain't half bad, nor is it a half life. It's a good one. One many women exercise their right to choose.

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But not Carrie Bradshaw, well not 2010's Carrie Bradshaw. The box-office elected president of the husbandless club for women once ran "around the city like a crazy person" (her words) looking for the one man she loved to love her back. Finally he did, they planned a crazy wedding, cancelled it, she dyed her hair, he sent some emails, and then they headed down to the courthouse. The ending was happy-or was it?

"Time is a funny thing," Carrie's all too familiar omniscient voice tells us in Sex and the City II, which opened Thursday. "A decade can fly by in an uneventful second." Thing is these four friends lives have been anything but uneventful-altar jilting, babies, cancer, divorce. So if the paradigm of perpetual eligibility is bandying about adjectives like "uneventful," my life must be humdrum as hell.

Really, that's the crux of this second installment of the "Sex and the City" franchise and the million-dollar question in most women's lives: What happens after the credits roll?

In SATCII's opening credits, the entire island of Manhattan has been attacked by a gigantic bedazzler. The city is shown blinged out as if glitter makes everything better. While being blinded by the lights, the lyrics of R.E.M.'s "Shiny Happy People" played in my head — "There's no time to cry, Happy happy, Put it in your heart." Because we learn pretty quickly that for Ms. Bradshaw, married life doesn't have enough "sparkle" and, Carrie being Carrie, she's got no qualms whining about it.

Mrs. Preston and Mr. Big are stuck somewhere between wild sex (Samantha) and a screaming baby (Charlotte). They're having take-out from"that new Japanese place" in the middle of an Elle Décor photo shoot with Erykah Badu wafting in from the back. The paradox is that it's the perennial heel, Big, who enjoys all of this. He's "seen the town" and now all he wants is to "lay in bed and watch old black and white movies together."

"Count your blessings," warns Carrie's best gay, Stanford. "Remember when you couldn't even get him to sleep over?" Sounds like something one of my besties would say-and she'd probably be right. But is Carrie being an ungrateful nag ("I just don't want us to become an old married couple") or is she saying what most recently attached women wish they could? After spending most of her life unattached, can we really expect Carrie (or anyone like her) to parachute into straightforward commitment without a bit of chaffing?

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Instead she gets to drop in on her old life every once in a while (they kept the apartment on East 73rd Street) — a luxury plenty of women don't ever get. Most of us are left wondering about what our lives could have been or how our old lives would look through more mature eyes. Actually some of us might still be living in them (those first apartments and lives).

"I guess I really missed who I used to be," explains Carrie at a pivotal moment in a film that has very few. She refers to New York City pre-1986 as the BC years-the before Carrie years-as if there was no Manhattan before she arrived. Now more than two decades later, maybe the town doesn't look so hot painted red over and over again.

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Carrie's big dilemma—just what happens after you get your happy ending?—reminded me of this great line in the season finale of "Grey's Anatomy." Meredith Grey (basically Carrie if Carrie traded in her Manolos for medical school) says of McDreamy, "It took me a long time to find him and even then it took me a long time to know I wanted him."

So the question remains-what exactly does a happy ending look like? And if you saw it would you recognize it? For 64-yar-old Liza Minelli, who opens SATCII with a played out pop number in black tights and an even tighter face, the credits never stop. Perhaps the point is that there should never be a "fin" to one's life, especially if you're still living it. What happens instead are sequels.

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Helena Andrews is a contributing editor at The Root and author of Bitch Is the New Black, a memoir in essays. Follow her on Twitter.

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