Um, Is It Just Me or Does ‘And Just Like That...’ Get the Reality of Grown-Up Friendship Right?

the women of and just like that wearing heart shaped sunglasses
Did ‘AJLT...’ Get Female Adult Friendship Right?Margie Rischiotto/Getty/And Just Like That

A year after moving back to my hometown to raise kids closer to my family, I did what any self-respecting 30something-millennial-finally-ready-to-crawl-out-of-her-pandemic-cave would do: I hit the apps in search of new friends.

About 20 minutes into my deep dive of Bumble BFF, I noticed a trend. Many (if not most) profiles included something along the lines of “all of my friends got married and had kids, so I desperately need new people to hang out with!” It was a sobering look at how ~*platonically undesirable*~ I had become…but it also made a lot of sense. In my 20s, I could befriend almost anyone. Now, I’m ISO a unicorn: someone who understands the logistical minefield that is attempting to make plans with a mom, who can meet up on weekdays (this freelancer would love an occasional lunch date, tbh) but gets that I can’t hang out all day, whose partner gets along with mine, who lives near my house, and who, nonnegotiably, is down to discuss the minute details of my favorite trashy TV shows.

My Bumble-scrolling clued me into a reality that so many women are navigating right now: struggling to hold onto friends whose lives look drastically different than our own. We’re not living in our parents’ plotline, after all. Thanks to technologies like egg freezing, the rise of unconventional career paths (see: digital nomads, gig workers, influencers), and shifting attitudes toward marriage, we’re operating with a more fluid set of societal expectations and timelines. It’s totally normal for one friend to move to the suburbs with a spouse and baby while the other goes on three Tinder dates a week. Or maybe one friend works a desk job while the other makes her living posting IG #sponcon, or one moves abroad while the other is a hometown lifer. That range of options is thrilling, but it makes friendships among adult women even more complex and challenging than they’ve ever been. It’s so hard when schedules don’t line up or when your bestie lives across the country or when you’re the only one who has to put a tiny human to bed during prime dining hours or when you feel like you’ll actually combust if one more person badgers you about finally #MeetingSomeone.

Pop culture hasn’t quite caught up though. We have few real representations of what friendships look like among women in their 30s, let alone in their 50s. And despite our reboot-heavy pop cultural landscape, we’ve almost never followed a group of female friends over decades to get a look at how their relationships evolve.

And then came And Just Like That.... Don’t get me wrong, the show is just as much of a cluttered and occasionally tone-deaf disaster as most people say it is, busting at the seams with head-scratching plot lines (Stanford becomes a Shinto monk???) and unfathomable levels of cringe. Critics complain that the friendships between its core characters take a backseat to all the other stuff. But…isn’t that what trying to maintain friendships in adulthood actually feels like these days?

It makes sense that this reboot, which aired its season 2 finale on Thursday, puts a fresh spin on the portrayal of adult female friendships—after all, Sex and the City was the blueprint. The original show revolved around the idea that a group of women who want vastly different things from their lives can still bond over leisurely brunches and long calls (on a landline, of course). The women’s conversations and confessions felt dishy and daring as they dissected 2000s dating culture from multiple perspectives. But here’s the thing: Maintaining a friendship isn’t that hard when you have divergent visions for your future. When you begin to actualize those visions though? That’s when it gets really tricky.

As our lives change (and spouses, kids, jobs, mortgages, weekly meal prep, crippling back pain, and zero free time enter the group chat), frequent, meandering catchups aren’t what sustain those relationships anymore. These days, friendships between women are about long-distance Facetimes and canceled plans and texts that read “let’s try to get dinner soon! Maybe like a month from next Saturday? I’ll put it on my calendar!”

And Just Like That... goes there by actually daring to put distance between the beloved main characters (so much so that Samantha is, for the most part, disappeared). As the remaining women navigate some truly wild transitions, they stay connected to one another (sometimes haphazardly, see: Miranda getting finger-banged while Carrie is in the other room recovering from hip surgery) while also forging new friendships with women who meet them at their current life stage. It’s a risky move that could jeopardize so much of what made Sex and the City magical…but it also delivers the most true-to-life, modern dimension of the reboot.

The show has rightly gotten plenty of flack for giving each core character an emotional support person of color, but in its latest season, it deepens and complicates those relationships in interesting, telling ways. Carrie bonds with Seema, another fabulously wealthy single woman over Birkin bags and blowouts. Miranda moves in with Nya, who is also going through a divorce. Charlotte gossips at PTA meetings with Lisa, who matches her Rich Mom Energy. These characters were clearly introduced to diversify the Sex and the City–verse (people of color live in New York City? who knew?!), but it’s the perfect example of how And Just Like That... stumbles into something real.

The scene where Carrie gushes about her rekindled romance with Aidan to Charlotte, Miranda, and Seema, for instance? It’s surprisingly layered. Because while Charlotte is likely imagining double dates, Seema is processing what it means for her friendship with Carrie to see the bond of singledom fall away. And haven’t we all experienced that?

That kind of savvy understanding of friendship is a real departure from the representation we’ve had so far. “Most depictions of female friendships, whether in novels or on screen, tend to be romanticized. It’s hard to capture the nuances of friendship in the media,” says Irene S. Levine, PhD, psychologist and coproducer of Friendship Rules. “Many shows, like Sex and the City, suggest that friends have unending time to be together, not alluding to the pulls of women in so many directions as they juggle work, caregiving, and friendship.”

And that can create impossible expectations around friendship. When we find ourselves struggling to hold onto old bonds, or craving new types of connection, it often feels like failure. Marisa G Franco, PhD, professor, speaker, and author of Platonic: How the Science of Attachment Can Help You Make—and Keep—Friends, refers to this as the “sitcoming of friendship.” “A lot of the shows I can think of, like Friends, Living Single, Seinfeld, How I Met Your Mother, try to put this positive, almost comedic spin on everything,” says Franco. “Some people just assume that friendships should be organically maintained and shouldn’t take any effort. They don’t know that they need to try.”

The truth is that friendships bend and change, and sometimes they snap. And Just Like That... reflects that bittersweet reality, albeit in its typically chaotic way: You hold on to old friends, but you can also rely just as much—maybe even more, depending on the day or season of life—on new ones.

And Just Like That... doesn’t explicitly state that its characters have less time to spend together or less insight into the inner workings of each other’s lives. It doesn’t have Miranda confront Carrie about why she’s spending so much time with Seema or show Carrie passive-aggressively hitting Charlotte with an “ArE yOu EvEn aLiVe?” text, and that’s kind of the beauty of it. Because in the real world, shifts in friendship don’t always become A Whole Thing. People are busy, and life just…goes on.

Friendship breakups have gotten a lot of PR recently (and yes, And Just Like That... includes one of those—miss you, Samantha!), but we don’t often explore the idea that friendships can shift without ending entirely. Those weekly brunch dates can morph into monthly FaceTime calls or a best friend can become someone you still love and root for but can’t fully relate to, now that they’re posting TikTok dances in Fiji while you sanitize baby bottles until 2 a.m.

While watching a typically unhinged episode, I *couldn’t help but wonder*…does the inexplicable hold this show has on us have something to do with its fresh take on how female friendships age? And Just Like That... doesn’t seem to be intentional about anything (except maybe the fashion), but I’ll say it: It still manages to get this one thing very right. Serendipitous or not, that matters. Women deserve better, more authentic stories about friendship than the flat “best friends forever” plots we’ve long been fed. And if you happen to be on Bumble BFF, find me so we can discuss.

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