“The happily ever after doesn’t always work out,” says Candace Bushnell, author of Sex and the City, who found herself divorced and dating again in her 50s. Her experiences are the inspiration for her latest book, Is There Still Sex in the City? ($26, Grove Press), which dissects the realities of being single after menopause, taking on subjects such as vaginal restorative surgery, the temptation of $15,000 miracle creams and navigating Tinder.
Billed as autofiction, the story follows a woman named Candace and her single friends as they take another shot at finding love in the big city. “It’s really an exploration of this passage that I went through in my 50s that I call ‘middle-aged madness,’” she says about the book, which is already in the works to become a TV series.
“It’s when it feels like things are turned upside down, and there are a lot of stressors—there’s menopause, there’s the death of a parent. There are a lot of women who have to start over again and reassess their lives.”
To make matters worse, she says, is the new realization that men don’t turn their heads the way they used to. “You feel invisible,” she says. “You go into a drugstore to buy something, and the clerk doesn’t even look at you.” It’s all enough to make a Carrie Bradshaw fan want to trade in her Manolos for a pair of sensible shoes.
But Bushnell says middle-aged women today who are still enjoying their careers or even looking to start new ones want more from their age than their mothers did. “I think one of the tricky things about this time is that you have to fight against your own negative ideas that you’ve absorbed about aging,” she says. “That’s what’s hard to do.”
One thing she does remain old-fashioned about, however, is finding a date—it shouldn’t be done with an app. “It was really easy to meet people when you left your home,” she says about dating in the ’90s, “because, remember, people were not distracted by their phones.” Now, with dating apps like Tinder, she says, “it sets up a whole series of steps that you have to take to meet someone, whereas before—you know what?—people were pretty good at figuring it out on their own.” Oct. 4, Warwick’s, 7812 Girard Ave., La Jolla
Photography by: Patrick McMullan