More than two decades after the publication of her landmark novel “Sex and the City,” Candace Bushnell has written a follow-up. Like its predecessor, “Is There Still Sex in the City?” (Grove Press, $26) examines the private lives of a group of female friends…only now they’re in their 50s, not their 30s. And there are other differences.
Bushnell, 60, recently spoke with Newsday about her latest.
Q. Unlike “Sex and the City,” this book is not about Carrie Bradshaw … the narrator is Candace. That’s you, right? So why isn’t the book a memoir?
A. In a memoir you want people, places and events to be real… here they are representational. It’s auto-fiction. All the stories are true, but some of the details are changed.
One thing that’s similar about the two books is their inspiration. When I wrote “Sex and the City,” I had reached a part of my life there was no road map for… women in their 30s weren’t supposed to be single. But there we were. Then it happened all over again when I hit my 50s. Divorced, single, and again there was no road map. “Over 50” is not a demographic people have paid much attention to. But I looked around and saw that there were a lot of people like me.
Q. You coin the term Middle-Aged Madness, MAM, to describe what you and your friends went through.
A. Going from a lifestyle oriented around raising children to the nonreproductive, postmenopausal world, women are finding themselves in a life they never expected or even thought much about. In addition to the real physical changes, there are huge emotional disruptions. Everybody has to deal with loss. So many kinds of loss. Including the loss of your value to society. You’re a woman over 50? You’re not important, that’s the message you get.
Q. Though some of the MAM stories are funny, there’s sadness in this book, sprinkled in among the moisturizing treatments and the Tinder dates. Your dog dies on page 1, and by the end there have been both suicide attempts and funerals.
A. This is why friendships are so important, in the book and in real life. When you marry and have children, you’re in a circle with other parents. But then the kids grow up, you get divorced – many of those people disappear. And friends with teenage children you never see, they’re always driving around to sports events. I found myself reconnecting with the girlfriends I had in my thirties, the ones in the same boat as me. We were all having to learn how to be alone, but we also found we could be there for each other.
Q. And this is happening in a place you call The Village … will Long Island readers recognize this place?
A. The Village is a place in the Hamptons. I live in Sag Harbor so it’s a Sag Harbor-type place. I moved there to be with my friends, a couple of whom had soured on the busyness of the city. After I showed up, we had a few more friends become single and we convinced them to move out, too. We all look after each other. We do holidays together.
Q. One of the chapters in the book talks about older women dating younger men. Isn’t the stereotype that men want to date women younger than themselves?
A. That’s true of men in their 50s and 60s – not all of them, but it’s definitely a type. The guys in their 20s and 30s are in a different situation. Women younger than them, or even women their own age, want things these men may not want to give … marriage, children, real estate. Many of these younger women want to be taken care of. Women over 50 have already had that life. They just want a boyfriend, someone to have adventures with. If you go online to one of those over-50 sites, you’ll find a lot of young guys on there who are looking for women like us. And physically, aging is not what it used to be… lots of women in their 50s and 60s are looking pretty good these days.
Q. What’s your position on plastic surgery?
A. I don’t judge people for doing it, though I haven’t yet myself. I probably will eventually, but it’s really expensive and risky. Some people sort of lose their personality. They lose their special look. And to be honest, I don’t really think it makes you look younger… it may make you look more attractive, but not younger.