“Take the example of a woman who has consented to go out with a particular man for the first time. She knows very well the intentions which the man who is speaking to her cherishes regarding her. She knows also that it will be necessary sooner or later for her to make a decision. But she does not want to realize the urgency…This is because she does not quite know what she wants…But then suppose he takes her hand. This act of her companion risks changing the situation by calling for an immediate decision. To leave the hand there is to consent in herself to flirt, to engage herself. To withdraw it is to break the troubled and unstable harmony which gives the hour its charm. The aim is to postpone the moment of decision as long as possible…We shall say that this woman is in bad faith.” ~Jean-Paul Sartre, *Bad Faith *in* Being and Nothingness*
Jane, a thirty-something professional Asian woman, is voracious and casual in her sexual appetites.
Carrie in the delightful comedy “Sex and the City” is a good candidate to be called a woman in bad faith by Sartre. In the series, she displays her indecisive mechanism in various occasions such as in shopping for a pair of shoes and especially in choosing her partner from the multiple lovers like the Russian artist and Mr. Big. She deserves the title.
I know personally a real life Carrie. “Jane,” whom I am acquainted with through a second degree friend, resembles the protagonist. Juxtaposing Jane's story with Carrrie will expose the current pathologies of Sartrean bad faith in women, namely, the forever pending decision.
Jane, a thirty-something professional Asian woman, is voracious and casual in her sexual appetites. While in college, she met her first domestic partner, Garth, a *bon vivant* software engineer with mellow and gentle spirit. After cohabiting with Garth for several weeks, Jane has discovered that he is physically impotent. To quench her relentlessly burning desire, Jane started secret flings with Karl, a young and virile luxury car salesman. In him, her libido had a match. But after several trysts, Jane had to reluctantly suspend the hush-hush relationship upon reading his blackmails threatening to reveal her affair with him to Garth.
Ending the steamy footsies with Karl, Jane thought about going back to Garth. Still wondering about the decision, one day Jane bumped into a forty-something business executive, Howard, in the lobby of a hotel in which she was staying on her business trip. After spending several amorous months together, Howard proposed to Jane in a balmy evening on the cliff nearby Laguna Beach. Jane couldn't say anything because her mind was running through rapidly some unappreciative memories with him in the past. She murmured to herself, “Though you're financially successful and physically acceptable,something is missing. There is no sparking chemistry with you.” Standing motionlessly beside him, her eyes penetrated the dark sky as if she was looking for some sign, and she whispered. “I need a Mr. Right who fulfills my desire physically, financially, and emotionally.”
As time flies by, pending her decision on the two potential candidates, Jane encountered a recently divorced entrepreneur on the airplane to San Francisco. Tom, a good looking, outgoing, and fun-loving guy, had everything she ever wanted. But there was one thing that annoyed Jane, Tom's teenaged daughter from a previous marriage, Sophie. Jane hated the way Tom had to divide his attentions between his daughter and her. Not wanting to share the spotlight with her, Jane inevitability had to compete with Sophie for Tom's exclusive attention.
Meanwhile, thanks to the reluctant competition in which Jane found no win-win chance, the soured relationship with Howard came back to life. Howard even introduced her to his family last month. These days, however,Jane is suffering from the agony in the whole process of the pendulum swing between Tom and Howard. Jane is now playing a solo game of mental ping pong. She is entangled by both Tom and Howard and she just can't make up her mind. Some days she is attracted to Howard's stability, other days Tom's chemistry strokes her desire. At night, sometimes, Howard's reticence accompanies visions of Tom's daughter in nightmares of indecision.
Here is Jane's dilemma: Indecisiveness plus pressure from her parents excruciates Jane. She enjoys the company of Howard, who offers everything she needs, minus the physical and emotional dynamics. She also thrills to be with Tom because of his invigorating life style and his formidable confidence, but she resents Sophie's presence. When Jane spends time with Howard, she misses the dynamics of Tom. While with Tom, she longs for Howard's undivided attention on her. She wants to have them both mixed together into one person. The other pressing factor comes from her parents who want Jane to get married soon. But she doesn't want to give her final acquiescence to either one. Though immensely bewildered by the pendulum swings, she just wants to enjoy the moment. No decision is the decision for her.
Carrie and Jane are acute examples of women in bad faith. They represent insatiable consumers flirting with the plethora of options. Their question, “Is he the one?” is like, “Should I buy this pair of shoes or that one? I can't decide!” That's the sure sign of our time: Carrie and Jane would rather have the angst of choice than make a decision in the middle of limitless and endless possibilities. Attaching to one partner would be a bad choice since commitment means suspending the other options available for them. And they don't want to lose their core belief of indecision. Hence the present society is filled with countless Carries and Janes, frivolous thirty or forty-something who still think and behave like teenagers.
Sartre's woman in bad faith is none other than the one who is flirtatious and indecisive like Carrie and Jane. She treats her partner as a thing, a temporary commodity in passing, because she deliberately sees only what's on the surface and what benefits she can draw. She pretends also to be passive object, rather than who she really is. She knows that she is a conscious being who is free to make decisions. But she intentionally flees from the freedom to enjoy the transient suspense of indecision. In the final analysis, indecision is what causes her unreasonable demands from a partner prospect, such as chemistry, dynamics, and exclusive attention, all together in one person. Perhaps Carrie and Jane wouldn't mind to be at the meet-market forever, sustaining indecision perpetually to look for a Mr. Right who never exist.