Candace Bushnell, celebrated author of “Sex and the City,” talked about her latest book, “Is There Still Sex in the City?” Friday night, Oct. 4 at Warwick’s bookstore. A crowd of about 100 (mostly women) showed up to listen to the pragmatic author talk about life in the dating lane for women in their 50s.
So, inquiring minds want to know: Is there still sex in the city for 50-somethings?
Bushnell answers, “Well, yes, but there’s less.”
Bushnell explained she wanted to call the book “Middle-aged Madness,” but her editor nixed it. “But,” she went on, “it’s really about what I call the ‘new middle age.’ It’s not your mother’s middle age.
“One of the things that inspired me to write the book is that middle age has changed so very much, and life has changed so much for women in the last 50 years.”
Bushnell wrote her “Sex and the City” novel, based on columns she wrote for The New York Observer (1994-96.) It became the basis for the HBO hit series, which catapulted Sara Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristen Davis and Cynthia Nixon to fame, and two subsequent blockbuster movies.
Bushnell’s other books include “Four Blondes,” “Lipstick Jungle,” “The Carrie Diaries,” “One Fifth Avenue,” “Trading Up,” “Summer and the City” and “Killing Monica.”
Her newest, she said, is based on her real life, just as “Sex and the City” was based on her life and the lives of her friends when she lived as a 30-something single woman in New York City.
The book is a collection of short, sharp, satirical commentaries written from real experiences of women after divorce.
She told the crowd: “It’s very common for a 50-something women to get divorced, which means she has to move, she probably has to start a career all over again, start an exercise routine, do online dating and take her clothes off in front of a stranger. Nobody said when you’re in your 50s, you’re going to have to do that dating thing all over again!”
Bushnell pointed out that women also often find themselves in dire financial straits after divorce, which exacerbates the situation.
“You get divorced, you’re in debt and what are you going to do? I’ve seen women who say, ‘It’s like I’m 22 again. But I’m 52 and I have the same amount of money that I did when I was 22 ... and I don’t have a place to live and I can’t afford a place to live because everything is so much more expensive.’ ”
In explaining the success of “Sex and the City,” Bushnell said the book and the show really changed perceptions of single women during the 1990s: “ ‘Sex and the City’ told you you could be single and not married, while still in your middle 30s. But back then, being single in your mid-30s, people thought there must be something seriously wrong with you. So, there was a lot of negativity toward 30-something single women, and I was certainly one of them. The other thing is, before ‘Sex and the City,’ no one thought women over the age of 35 were even sexy at all!”
In the show, as in her real life, Bushnell said most of her friends ended up partnering up, only to realize that “happily ever after” doesn’t necessarily last forever. Bushnell’s marriage ended in divorce, she said, so she moved to the country, spent a lot of time in her pajamas, rode horses, had two dogs and didn’t date for five years.
Then, she tried the dating app, Tinder, for a while, with a great lack of success. “It was actually very depressing to me,” she shared.
But as so many more of her friends were getting divorced, she got pulled into the middle-age dating scene.
“The first thing you feel is that no men your age are interested in you,” she found. “I really tried to analyze this. No one says to a guy, ‘Hey, a woman of 55 is really sexy and attractive and that’s what you should be looking for.’ At the same time, when I looked around, I thought guys my age seemed so shockingly old.”
So, as the same-aged men looked for younger women, and some younger men (whom Bushnell calls “cubs”) looked for older women (“catnips”), she noted there was only one category left.
“That kind of leaves you with the ‘he’s as old as your father’ guys,” whom she called “senior-aged players” or SAPs. “They’re older men of means, who are actually still employed in a lesser version of the high-powered career they once had.”
She went on to reveal how she came to date a man (uh, make that a SAP) named Arnold. Arnold said he was 68, but it turned out, he was actually 78. That made him closer in age to Bushnell’s father than to her. “The problem is these guys often lie about their age,” she explained. “They fudge, somehow forgetting about that truth-telling device called the Internet.”
Still, her friends encouraged her to date Arnold, saying “you just never know.” She countered: “Of course, the problem with ‘you never know’ is that so often you actually do know. I was convinced I was not going to date a 78-year-old man no matter how wonderful he was. What if he fell down and I had to take a strange, older person to the emergency room?
“But what if I did fall in love with him? Then, his age would not matter.”
It didn’t work out with Arnold. In fact, it went terribly bad. So terribly that “when I wrote about him, my editor made me take out a whole bunch of stuff. She said ‘I can’t spend any more time with him.’ ”
However, while writing “Is There Still Sex in the City?” Bushnell said she found a new boyfriend with whom she is quite happy. “We are still together,” she reported, “which is very nice.”
Bushnell did admit that finding someone at age 50 or older is easier in some ways because: “at this age, people aren’t looking to get a life. People pretty much already have a life. The great thing about this is that it can be more of a partnership. You’re not in the same place as you were when you were younger.”
Bushnell’s new book has already been bought by Paramount to be made into a TV series. No word yet on a debut date or who the cast will be.