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1

Candace Bushnell, author of Is there Still Sex in the City?, will be in conversation with Pem McNerney on Thursday, Aug. 15 at 7 p.m. at R.J. Julia Booksellers, 768 Boston Post Road, Madison. Photo courtesy of Grove Atlantic

Candace Bushnell, author of Is there Still Sex in the City?, will be in conversation with Pem McNerney on Thursday, Aug. 15 at 7 p.m. at R.J. Julia Booksellers, 768 Boston Post Road, Madison. (Photo courtesy of Grove Atlantic )

2

Candace Bushnell, author of Is there Still Sex in the City?, will be in conversation with Pem McNerney on Thursday, Aug. 15 at 7 p.m. at R.J. Julia Booksellers, 768 Boston Post Road, Madison. Photo courtesy of Grove Atlantic

Candace Bushnell, author of Is there Still Sex in the City?, will be in conversation with Pem McNerney on Thursday, Aug. 15 at 7 p.m. at R.J. Julia Booksellers, 768 Boston Post Road, Madison. (Photo courtesy of Grove Atlantic )

3

Candace Bushnell, author of Is there Still Sex in the City?, will be in conversation with Pem McNerney on Thursday, Aug. 15 at 7 p.m. at R.J. Julia Booksellers, 768 Boston Post Road, Madison. Photo courtesy of Grove Atlantic

Candace Bushnell, author of Is there Still Sex in the City?, will be in conversation with Pem McNerney on Thursday, Aug. 15 at 7 p.m. at R.J. Julia Booksellers, 768 Boston Post Road, Madison. (Photo courtesy of Grove Atlantic )

4

Candace Bushnell, author of Is there Still Sex in the City?, will be in conversation with Pem McNerney on Thursday, Aug. 15 at 7 p.m. at R.J. Julia Booksellers, 768 Boston Post Road, Madison. Photo courtesy of Grove Atlantic

Candace Bushnell, author of Is there Still Sex in the City?, will be in conversation with Pem McNerney on Thursday, Aug. 15 at 7 p.m. at R.J. Julia Booksellers, 768 Boston Post Road, Madison. (Photo courtesy of Grove Atlantic )

5

Sex and the City (1996)

Sex and the City (1996) )

6

Four Blondes (2000)

Four Blondes (2000) )

7

Trading Up (2003)

Trading Up (2003) )

8

Lipstick Jungle (2005)

Lipstick Jungle (2005) )

9

One Fifth Avenue (2008)

One Fifth Avenue (2008) )

10

The Carrie Diaries (2010)

The Carrie Diaries (2010) )

11

Summer and the City (2011)

Summer and the City (2011) )

12

Killing Monica (2015)

Killing Monica (2015) )

13

Candace Bushnell, author of Is there Still Sex in the City?, will be in conversation with Pem McNerney on Thursday, Aug. 15 at 7 p.m. at R.J. Julia Booksellers, 768 Boston Post Road, Madison. Photo courtesy of Grove Atlantic

Candace Bushnell, author of Is there Still Sex in the City?, will be in conversation with Pem McNerney on Thursday, Aug. 15 at 7 p.m. at R.J. Julia Booksellers, 768 Boston Post Road, Madison. (Photo courtesy of Grove Atlantic )

14

Candace Bushnell, author of Is there Still Sex in the City?, will be in conversation with Pem McNerney on Thursday, Aug. 15 at 7 p.m. at R.J. Julia Booksellers, 768 Boston Post Road, Madison. Photo courtesy of Grove Atlantic

Candace Bushnell, author of Is there Still Sex in the City?, will be in conversation with Pem McNerney on Thursday, Aug. 15 at 7 p.m. at R.J. Julia Booksellers, 768 Boston Post Road, Madison. (Photo courtesy of Grove Atlantic )

15

Candace Bushnell, author of Is there Still Sex in the City?, will be in conversation with Pem McNerney on Thursday, Aug. 15 at 7 p.m. at R.J. Julia Booksellers, 768 Boston Post Road, Madison. Photo courtesy of Grove Atlantic

Candace Bushnell, author of Is there Still Sex in the City?, will be in conversation with Pem McNerney on Thursday, Aug. 15 at 7 p.m. at R.J. Julia Booksellers, 768 Boston Post Road, Madison. (Photo courtesy of Grove Atlantic )

16

Candace Bushnell.  Photo courtesy of Grove Atlantic

Candace Bushnell. (Photo courtesy of Grove Atlantic )

17

Candace Bushnell, author of Is there Still Sex in the City?, will be in conversation with Pem McNerney on Thursday, Aug. 15 at 7 p.m. at R.J. Julia Booksellers, 768 Boston Post Road, Madison. Photo courtesy of Grove Atlantic

Candace Bushnell, author of Is there Still Sex in the City?, will be in conversation with Pem McNerney on Thursday, Aug. 15 at 7 p.m. at R.J. Julia Booksellers, 768 Boston Post Road, Madison. (Photo courtesy of Grove Atlantic )

We Get By with a Little Help from our Friends

Published Aug 07, 2019 • Last Updated 12:19 pm, August 08, 2019

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Quite a long time has passed since author Candace Bushnell penned the best seller Sex in the City, based in part on her experiences in New York City in the 1970s, which formed the basis for a wildly popular HBO series of the same name.

That book was released in 1996.

In 2002, Bushnell met a tall, handsome, and 10-years-younger ballet dancer. After their eight-week romance, it was platinum rings at Tiffany’s, a Prada suit for him, a Ralph Lauren dress for her, and a small ceremony attended by delighted family and friends on a windswept Nantucket beach, according to a Vows column in The New York Times.

In 2012, they divorced.

Earlier this week, Bushnell released her latest book, Is There Still Sex in the City?, based in part on her experiences as a single-again and dating-again woman in her late 50s, about to turn 60. It’s been described as auto-fiction, not quite autobiography, not quite fiction, and maybe a little bit of both. Set in both the Upper East Side and an enclave in the country that the protagonist, also named Candace, calls The Village, the book will serve as a jumping off point for a pilot TV series, now in the works with Paramount TV and Anonymous Content.

The book publishers say the TV pilot will provide “pull-no-punches commentary” and become an “indispensable companion to one of the most revolutionary dating books of the 20th century.”

The new book covers marriage, children, divorce, bereavement, mental health concerns, love, and life. It covers the very real and sometimes hilarious and sometimes toxic relationship middle aged women have chasing the fleeting illusion of youth, along with, yes, dating and sex. All of that will be the subject of our discussion when we talk about the book at an “in conversation” event at R.J. Julia Bookseller, 768 Boston Post Road, Madison on Thursday, Aug. 15 at 7 p.m.. More information about the event is available at www.rjjulia.com/event

During our first discussion, over the phone late last month, we spent most of our time talking about what gets us through all of the ups and downs and insanity of singlehood and dating as an older woman, and that is our deep connections with our friends.

Dating: The Same, and Very Different

In the new book, Sassy, Kitty, Queenie, Tilda Tia, and Marilyn are among the closest friends of Candace, the main character and narrator.

Candace? Is Candace in the new book the same as Candace Bushnell the author?

“Well, it’s not a memoir and its not non-fiction. It’s not really me. It’s me,” says Bushnell. “I’m taking bits and pieces and observations and patterns and creating a narrative to write about, I guess, things that are interesting to me. It’s really about patterns that define these particular lives, patterns that identify and define this new middle age.”

Bushnell notes that the number of us who are 50 years old and older is “growing and getting bigger and bigger. The old beliefs about middle age and old age are changing. People used to feel like the 50s were the beginning of old age. And now your 50s and 60s and 70s can be the new middle age.”

In the book Sassy, Kitty, Queenie, Tilda Tia, Marilyn, and Candace struggle with dating and mating games, and in that fraught and complicated state of “being in a relationship.” Some of it feels exactly like grade school and high school. And much of it is very, very different.

“Well, I mean, the biggest thing that is different about dating now is that you’re a prime minister of your own life...you are not looking to create a family and reproduce. Men do it. For men, creating a new family can be a really easy way to rejuvenate themselves and keep going.”

She notes that she has a friend who is 67, with a wife who is 20 years younger and pregnant again.

“It seemed to cheer him up greatly. He said, ‘It just means I have to go back to work,’” she says. “As for women, we’re looking for different things now. We might be looking for a partner, but we’re not looking for a partner to make our lives complete. We already have our lives.”

Those lives can be both immensely rewarding, but also intensely confusing and maddening, she says.

We’re Not Having It

“Well, I mean there really is a struggle that passes as middle-aged madness where you realize you don’t have the same kind of agency in the world when you get older,” she says, recalling a review that dismissed her.

To her, it sounded like part of the reviewer’s issue was that Bushnell is older and has been around for a while.

“Basically it said, ‘You’re over.’”

As for that attitude, that “we’re over” because we’re older, I say, “I’m not having that.”

“I’m not having that either,” she says. “But that’s part of what this book is about. You get all these slaps in the face. They can get you down. One of the hardest things about getting older is to figure out how not to absorb and believe all the negative messages about getting older.”

And that can mean fighting the ageism that we’ve internalized, and turn against ourselves and others our same age.

“Ageism. It’s big,” she says.

Then she adds that attitudes toward age are likely to continue to change and shift as our over-50 demographic continues to grow.

“This idea of that we’re over when we’re 50 or 60. I just feel like it’s something we don’t talk about a lot. We’re meant to disappear. But we can’t. We don’t feel like we’re over,” she says.

I tell her that one of the things I liked best about her new book is that it upends some of the assumptions that some other authors and society in general sometimes express about women. Bushnell’s new book does put front and center what many of us know, that marriage proved not to be the foundation upon which we could build our forever and ever happily-ever-afters.

To say the least.

“What happened to me is that I got divorced and went to my house in Connecticut, in Roxbury, for three years. I just had to get away. And then, when I came back to the city, I had all these friends who had gotten divorced. I was like everybody was going through the same thing at the same time.”

One of the Secrets

She says some of her friends jumped right back into dating, many of them with much younger men, and many of them turning to lotions and potions and procedures that came with a promise of youth and an expensive price tag. And then, there are all of the online dating services from Match to Tinder.

“You go online and you get all excited and you have some dates and some experiences and then nothing really sparks. And it all goes away, and you realize ‘I have to deal with my life, with me, and not with anybody else.’ There is a stage where you have to be alone.”

One of the secrets to being alone, and getting to know yourself, ironically, is to make sure you are not all alone all of the time. You have to build a group of friends upon which you can depend.

“You’ve got to build that core group. That’s very important. That’s one of the things I did with my friends who were single and also did not have children. We had made this core group that was kind of a family and did holidays together,” she says. “It’s a time when you need your girlfriends.”

She says being part of a core group requires commitment and digging deep. It means not only reaching out to your friends in your times of need, but also being there when they need you.

“Someone’s going to have some kind of scare. You might have a friend who will be broke for a couple of months. There will be friends who will need a couch,” she says. “So it’s a time when it’s really important to have that group.”

And, along with the good, good friends, sometimes there are relationships and sex in the city and sex in the country and, also, other creative and productive pursuits.

“If you really think about it, the brain goes from being reproductively oriented to being more self oriented. So you could look at that as a gift. It can be a time to be creative, and, as I said, the prime minister of your own life. It’s a time when a lot of women, out of necessity, start a business. It’s a time when, if you really look at it the right way, you could achieve a lot. From your 50s to your 60s? To your 70s? To your 80s? You can still achieve a lot of things. And so that’s what’s good about it.”

A Superpower?

She adds that we might to have get in there and fight to be heard and be relevant. And that’s OK.

“These women, in this cohort, we’re doers. I’m not saying other generations were not. But this generation went out into the world to do. And we’re not going to stop.”

As for that feeling that sometimes we’re invisible, Bushnell says “don’t give that more power than it deserves.”

Or, maybe, we should give it the power it does deserve.

“I was talking with this guy. It happens to men, too. He was joking. ‘Candace,’ he says, ‘I’m around all these younger people. And no one looks at me any more. No one recognizes me. It’s like I’m not there. And it’s really good. It’s like a super power. I can go around and hear different things and see different things that maybe I would not have before.’ So, that’s a point as well.”

With all the girl power elements celebrated in the new book, it’s clear our drive to find Mr. Right has not abated. The women in the book sometimes successfully acquire MNB (my new boyfriend). Sometimes it works out. Other times it doesn’t, and they’re back on the hunt for the next MNB.

Is this something we’ll never tire of?

“That’s a really good question. And it’s one I try to ask. One of the things I’ve learned is that there are people who really want to be in a relationship, and they’re really good at being in relationships, and they enjoy being in relationships. So, when they get out of a relationship, they look for another. They really do believe in true love. And, you know. I say, God bless those people. I feel like that’s not necessarily me,” she says. “On the other hand, one does hear stories. I know of one couple. They met at a funeral. They were both 70. And they are now more in love than ever. One thing that does not diminish with age is the ability to love, and love deeply.”

Candace Bushnell, author of Is there Still Sex in the City?, will be in conversation with Pem McNerney on Thursday, Aug. 15 at 7 p.m. at R.J. Julia Booksellers, 768 Boston Post Road, Madison. Find out more and make a reservation by visiting www.rjjulia.com/event/candace-bushnell-there-still-sex-city-conversation-pem-mcnerney.

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