"I wasn't ready to start dating. But most of all, I didn't want to," the Sex and the City author writes about the period after her divorce
“I do not pick the wrong guys. They pick me,” Candace Bushnell famously wrote in her “Sex and the City” column, which ran in the New York Observer in the ’90s and inspired the eponymous hit book and show.
Now more than 20 years later, the author is revisiting sex and romance with her ninth book, Is There Still Sex in the City? — a frank exploration of dating, death, divorce and other conundrums faced by middle-aged women. Though marketed as fiction, Bushnell’s book was partly inspired by her own life and her friends.
Is There Still Sex in the City? opens with the death of Bushnell’s dog. The tragedy was quickly followed by her divorce from ballet dancer Charles Askegard in 2012. Bushnell then learned she could no longer qualify for her apartment as a single woman—though she had the funds.
“The city was telling me to leave,” Bushnell tells PEOPLE of her decision to move back to her home state of Connecticut after nearly three decades in New York City. “Part of it was because I didn’t want to be living in my old apartment where I lived with my husband and the dog.”
But facing a new life alone for the first time didn’t shake Bushnell. In fact, she truly embraced being single for the first time.
“I wasn’t ready to start dating. But most of all, I didn’t want to,” Bushnell writes in her book. “I’d been in relationships for nearly thirty-five years. I’d even experienced the full relationship cycle— fall in love, get married, and get divorced.”
She continues: “It was time to put an end to the cycle. And so I decided for the first time in thirty-four years to be man-free. This also meant being sex-free. At this point in my life, I’m not a casual sex person.”
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After five years of writing and riding horses in the suburbs, Bushnell decided to move back to Manhattan. Once again surrounded by her friends (who were also newly single), Bushnell was ready to pursue romance in the new dating-app-driven world.
In Is There Still Sex in the City?, Bushnell explores dilemmas like the “Unintended Cub Situation,” which is when men in their 20s go after older women, and the “Mona Lisa” surgery, which promises to restore a woman’s vagina.
“I wanted to call the book Middle-Aged Madness,” Bushnell told PEOPLE last year for the book’s cover reveal. “You have to understand that in the past nobody thought that 50-something people would need to go on dating apps and take their clothes off in front of strangers. Nobody ever thinks that that’s what their 50s are going to look like.”
Besides dating, Bushnell also reflects on larger life questions. She ponders her identity as a childless woman in a society that expects procreation. In her book, Bushnell writes about babysitting a friend’s son and wonders if she “missed out” by not having children.
“People who have kids, they have the luxury of always being able to say, ‘Well, I’m here for my kids.'” Bushnell explains. “Whereas, if you don’t have kids, you’ve got to work a little bit harder.”
But make no mistake, the author’s life is full on a personal and professional level. Is There Still Sex in the City? is being adapted to a TV series, with Bushnell serving as executive producer.
And Bushnell’s boyfriend of two years, Jim Coleman, is happy to join her as she explores the possibilities of her sixties.
“I actually met [Jim] through Chris Noth,” Bushnell says. (Noth famously starred as Carrie Bradshaw’s love interest, Mr. Big, in Sex in the City.) “He always seemed like an interesting, intelligent man. And I always thought, ‘I’d like to get to know this guy better.'”
Bushnell describes Coleman as kind and romantic. He always brings her fruit in the morning to make sure she has breakfast. When they aren’t spend time together in New York City or in their respective houses in the Hamptons, they’re traveling the globe.
Even though she’s in a happy relationship, Bushnell doesn’t want her readers to wait for love. She didn’t.
“Don’t wait. If you want to buy an apartment or something like that, don’t put those things off until you find the perfect person,” Bushnell advises. “The important thing is to have a life.”
Is There Still Sex in the City? is on sale now.