It turns out that mother really does know best. That’s apparently Candace Bushnell’s theory anyway. The author of Sex and the City recently revealed to US Weekly that when she was writing the story of Carrie Bradshaw’s romantic fate, Bushnell’s mother played a big role. “My mother always hated Aidan, for some reason, so I could never really be team Aidan,” Bushnell explained. “Whenever I would go home and visit my parents, my mother would say, ‘Why is Carrie with Aidan and not Mr. Big? You’ve got to get rid of Aidan.” My mother never felt that Aidan was the right person for Carrie,” the author added “So I felt obligated to take her side.”
Bushnell’s column—which eventually became a book, then a television show and then two movies—was based on her own experiences dating in New York City. So perhaps it’s not surprising that her mother formed strong opinions about the different candidates available, even if they were fictional. But it’s even more surprising that Bushnell decided to heed her advice.
How many women in their twenties and thirties still take dating advice from their mothers?
We don’t live in a world where arranged marriages are all that common. And yet, experts say that parents can have a strong influence on the type of marriage that their children have and the type of people that they date. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal discussed how parents should react to their teens’ romantic partners, explaining that a good relationship between parents and children actually has strong implications for kids’ future relationships. “The quality of teens’ one-on-one bond with parents throughout adolescence, however, also shapes their romantic relationships well into adulthood. Warm, close parent-teen relationships predict high-quality romantic relationships as long as 15 years later, according to a 2014 study of 2,970 teenagers in the Journal of Marriage and Family.”
But maybe there is a reason for parents to do more than stay close to their children or model what a good romantic relationship looks like. A chart produced from data collected by sociologist Michael Rosenfeld of Stanford University offers information on the ways that heterosexual couples have met their romantic partners over the past eighty years. In the past two decades, the numbers who met in college, through work, through family, neighbors, church and friends have all declined, while the number who met online has skyrocketed (and the number who meet in a bar or at a restaurant has also increased).
Meeting people online is an entirely different prospect than meeting them through other connections. It’s not necessarily worse—as Mary Aiken describes in her recent book, The Cyber Effect, people are more likely to reveal personal information about themselves sooner online than in real life. By the time they meet in person many couples who connected online first feel as if they already know each other very well.
But it is also true that meeting people online is more difficult because we lack a context for understanding who they are and how they relate to others. There is a false sense of intimacy created by all of the information exchanged online. Which is why it’s even more important for us to get input from our friends and, yes, even our parents when we think we have found the right romantic partner.
In fact, the experience of meeting people online is not entirely dissimilar to what Carrie Bradshaw and her friends were experiencing in New York City. In many of the episodes of the TV series, the women were meeting men in a vacuum—they dated people whom they ran into at bars or restaurants, places which don’t give us much context for who someone is. Perhaps that’s why Bushnell’s mother took such an interest in the question of which men her daughter’s fictional alter ego should end up with. Only someone who knew her as well as her mother did could really know who was best.
Image: Facebook/Candace Bushnell