EVERYTHING I know about dating in your sixties… by the woman who created Sex And The City

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Candace Bushnell, 65, depicted the Nineties New York dating scene in her Sex And The City newspaper column, spawning the book which produced the TV series, which led to two hit movies and a spin-off show, And Just Like That ¿

Of all the dating stories that Candace Bushnell has accumulated over the years — and as the author and creator of Sex And The City, she has a few — one of the most intriguing is how she came to be dating a 21-year-old and a 91-year-old in the same week.

‘It’s a bit like the story of Goldilocks And The Three Bears,’ she tells me. ‘One was too young, one was too old — and I’m looking for the one that’s just right!’ 

The age-gap dating happened a year ago: ‘I’d actually met the 91-year-old out and about a few times. He used to be in finance and he’s what you’d call a super-ager, still with all his faculties and still active and dating.

‘We went to lunch and he knows all the groovy restaurants in New York, like the Casa Cipriani.’

The same week, Candace went out with the 21-year-old — a model she’d met at a party during New York Fashion Week. ‘He was very tall, 6ft 7in, and I actually took him out for hamburgers as I was worried he was so thin. I thought maybe he couldn’t afford to eat!

Candace Bushnell, 65, depicted the Nineties New York dating scene in her Sex And The City newspaper column, spawning the book which produced the TV series, which led to two hit movies and a spin-off show, And Just Like That …

‘I went out with him a couple of times but was thinking to myself: “Is this a date? I’m not sure. I’m old enough to be his granny.”’

At 65 that might technically be true, but there can’t be too many grannies like Candace Bushnell, a one-woman dynamo who has explored the dating terrain of the past 40 years and mapped out her findings in almost forensic detail.

Her iconic depiction of the Nineties New York dating scene in her Sex And The City newspaper column spawned the book which produced the TV series (starring Sarah Jessica Parker as Bushnell’s alter ego, Carrie Bradshaw), which led to two hit movies and a spin-off show, And Just Like That …

Though she insists she is not an expert on dating — ‘I just love gathering other people’s dating stories,’ she tells me — her own stories aren’t too shabby either.

She once went out with actor John Corbett — who plays Carrie’s love interest, Aidan Shaw, in the show — only for him to start dating his now wife, Bo Derek, almost immediately afterwards. (‘You cannot compete with Bo Derek. Forget it.’) Currently single, she is also on Raya — the private dating app beloved of actors and reality TV stars alike.

‘Not a lot of celebs come up on my feed because I’m probably not famous enough,’ she says. ‘But I have a couple of friends who are on TV who do get all the famous guys. Even an app somehow knows where you are in the celebrity food chain.’

Certainly, Candace knows how to tell a yarn, as audiences will discover when she brings her U.S. stage show, Candace Bushnell: True Tales Of Sex, Success And Sex And The City, to the UK in February.

I believe there are second, third and even fourth acts – life isn’t an arrow going in one direction 

As well as detailing her exploits in the romantic world, ‘it’s about how I wrote Sex And The City, how hard I worked to get there, why I invented Carrie Bradshaw and what happened to me after.’

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Along the way, she answers her fans’ burning questions, such as does she own as many shoes as Carrie (she has ‘more than 20, but fewer than Imelda Marcos’)?

‘And we also play a game called Real Or Not Real, because a lot of things that happened in the show were better or worse than things that happened in my real life.’

One of the most frequently asked questions involves the episode starring John Slattery (Mad Men’s resident silver fox, Roger Sterling), who in Sex And The City played a politician boyfriend of Carrie with a penchant for watersports — and we don’t mean snorkelling.

While Candace did once date a politician, ‘the actor who played him was much better looking, which is pretty much always the case in life,’ she says. 

‘But the part where he says, “I want to get you all nice and clean and let you pee on me” did not happen,’ she adds hastily. ‘When I first saw the episode I thought: “Oh no! I hope he doesn’t get angry about this.”’

On the East Coast, where Candace is speaking over Zoom from her home in Sag Harbor on Long Island, New York, it’s barely 9am. If she’s this much of a hoot on a grey Monday morning, one can only imagine what she’s like at night on stage with a cocktail in her hand.

In her stage show, Candace Bushnell: True Tales Of Sex, Success And Sex And The City, Candace answers fans' burning questions, such as does she own as many shoes as Carrie

In her stage show, Candace Bushnell: True Tales Of Sex, Success And Sex And The City, Candace answers fans’ burning questions, such as does she own as many shoes as Carrie

‘Women from their 20s to their 70s come to the show, and I also give out some lessons I’ve learned about dating which are very cheeky,’ she says. ‘Let’s face it, dating is utterly ridiculous. You have to laugh about it.’

She’s particularly chuffed to be bringing her show to Britain.

‘I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the UK and I found the men to be charming and quite verbal and witty. Compared to New York men, they were much more likely to do cosy things on dates, such as having Sunday lunch or going to the country, and I feel they’re not as judgy about looks. I’ve had a couple of lovely British boyfriends.

‘I have such a great time doing this show. Getting on stage is something I never imagined I’d be doing, and it’s nice to be doing something in your 60s that you never thought you would.’

In her semi-fictionalised memoir, Is There Still Sex In The City?, published four years ago, Candace offered readers a similarly hopeful message, charting the landscape for women in middle-age and beyond.

And while she wrote that it could be a time of profound loss (Candace herself experienced the death of her father, the suicide of a close friend and divorce from her husband, Charles Askegard), as well as wholly unpredictable developments (post-separation she went through an involuntary five-year period of celibacy), it could also be a time for reinvention.

Younger guys with older women is no longer taboo 

‘I found that for a lot of women it’s a creative time, and one where they explored aspects of themselves that they’d previously suppressed,’ she says. ‘A lot of my friends’ mothers took up painting or exercise or went back to school and got a law degree.

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‘I even started writing music, and I actually put some of it up on SoundCloud under a different name.

‘I believe, in life, there are second, third and even fourth acts. Life isn’t like an arrow going in one direction — it’s more like a hula hoop.’

Menopause is another topic she covers during her show, ‘and I was probably around 50 or 51 when I went through it,’ she says. ‘I had some symptoms but I just kept going and kept super busy.

‘It’s interesting because there’s a self-possession to me now that I didn’t feel when I was younger, and an inner confidence where I realise the little things don’t matter as much as I once thought.’

Are younger men unfazed these days about dating women who have gone through the menopause? ‘I honestly don’t think they think about it,’ she replies. ‘Some of these younger guys want to learn about the world, and they’re happy to be with someone who has some experience of it.

‘Younger guys being with older women used to be taboo but that’s no longer the case. I mean, you go on a dating app and there are so many 25-year-old guys who are interested!’ she yelps. 

Sex and the City stars Cynthia Nixon (Miranda), Sarah Jessica Parker (Carrie), Kim Cattrall (Samantha) and Kristin Davis (Charlotte)

Sex and the City stars Cynthia Nixon (Miranda), Sarah Jessica Parker (Carrie), Kim Cattrall (Samantha) and Kristin Davis (Charlotte)

‘I have this theory that it’s a lot to do with porn. I mean, in the porn world, older women are hot and women in their 50s and 60s are now young and look younger, too.’

It’s certainly true of Candace — all endless legs, honey-blonde hair and slim physique. 

She recently admitted that she wished she’d had plastic surgery when she was younger, but now says with a laugh: ‘Did I say that? Well, I probably would get a nose job because I’ve always wanted one, even as a kid. But I still haven’t gotten one, so who knows!

‘I don’t have anything against plastic surgery, though, and I think people should do whatever makes them feel good.

‘I do Botox but I don’t do filler. Nobody tells you that filler actually lasts for 20 years.’

She exercises more now than she did when younger (walking and doing Pilates) and tries not to drink a lot, save for the odd cocktail. For the past decade, she’s used a standing desk for work.

Incredibly, she doesn’t eat anything until 4pm.

‘Number one, it’s because I don’t like breakfast and I don’t want to put a whole lot of bread and carbohydrates in my stomach,’ she explains. ‘And number two, as a writer, 11am to 2pm are the most productive hours of the day for me, so going to lunch would interfere with the flow.

‘By 3pm I’ll have finished working and I’ll do some exercise before I eat.’

It’s a discipline that has served Candace well throughout a career that includes ten bestselling books, as well as Sex And The City. 

While many assume she made a fortune from the TV adaptation, she sold the rights for ‘a little bit more’ than a reported fee of $60,000 (£47,000) and additionally makes ‘a little bit of money’ from And Just Like That…

If she regrets anything professionally, she says, it’s that she didn’t pursue further an initial desire to get into acting, ‘but I did have a TV show in 1997 called Sex, Lies And Video Clips,’ she says.

While she is currently single, Candace admits it would be nice to meet someone ¿age-appropriate¿ ¿ mid-50s to 70

While she is currently single, Candace admits it would be nice to meet someone ‘age-appropriate’ — mid-50s to 70 

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‘We explored all these different sex things, like a dominatrix place, and we went to Colorado and interviewed these people who were polyamorous. It was really interesting, but I was getting my hair and make-up done every morning for two hours to do the show and I just thought: this is probably a bad way to start the day, just staring in the mirror.

‘You become obsessed with how you look, which I thought was probably not healthy. Anyway,’ she adds, ‘I was just so passionate about writing.’

Having grown up in Connecticut as the eldest of three girls — her mother, Camille, was a travel agent, and her father, Calvin, a rocket scientist (he invented the fuel cell used in the first Apollo missions) — at 19 Candace moved to New York to pursue a writing career.

Top-shelf magazine Penthouse once asked her to sleep with a woman and write about the experience (she declined), but when she began penning her Sex And The City column for The New York Observer in the mid-90s, her life changed completely.

It became required reading for all Manhattanites as Candace dished on the romantic exploits of her and her friends.

It included mentions of her relationship with the handsome, successful Mr Big, played in the series by Chris Noth and said to be based on Candace’s former squeeze, publisher Ron Galotti.

Unlike Carrie, she didn’t marry her Mr Big but in 2002 she wed Charles Askegard, a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet and a decade her junior. They divorced ten years later following his affair with a younger dancer, though today Candace seems remarkably sanguine about the pain it inevitably caused.

‘I ran into him a couple of years ago and we were super friendly. You know, my feeling is that if two people are really in love, then God bless them,’ she says.

That’s pretty generous of her. ‘Well, I’m very practical when it comes to relationships,’ she says.

Candace with actress Sarah Jessica Parker who plays her alter ego, Carrie Bradshaw, in Sex and the City, the films and And Just Like That...

Candace with actress Sarah Jessica Parker who plays her alter ego, Carrie Bradshaw, in Sex and the City, the films and And Just Like That…

Candace never had children and she tells me emphatically that she does not regret that. ‘It’s just not the right path for me.’

While certain men may have let her down over the years, her work never has. As well as her tour, she’s working on a dating reality show for the over-50s.

Last year she appeared on Meghan Markle’s Archetypes podcast and was one of the lucky ones to be interviewed by the Duchess herself. Recently it was claimed that Meghan’s staff conducted some of the interviews, with Meghan’s voice added later.

‘I enjoyed the experience and I thought that her team were really well prepared,’ says Candace. ‘We did it on Zoom and I didn’t really see her that closely — you know what Zoom is like. But she asked interesting questions.’

As for romance, she admits it would be nice to meet someone ‘age-appropriate’ — mid-50s to 70.

‘If somebody comes along that’s the icing on the cake. But I’m happy with my life.’ Or as Candace prefers to put it: ‘I’m all about being your own Mr Big.’

  • Candace Bushnell: True Tales Of Sex, Success And Sex And The City tours the UK from February 2 (candacebushnell.entertainers.co.uk)

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