Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Book Review: Is There Still Sex in the City?

By Jami Deise

In the wake of my divorce last year, I comforted myself by climbing in bed and bingeing on old episodes of Sex and the City. Even though I was a good fifteen years older than Carrie and her crew – and the explosion in email, social media, and texting made many of the episodes seem woefully out of date – I was cheered up by their friendship and humor as they dated a series of losers. Staying at home watching TV seemed like the logical choice when there was no one out there who’d show me a better time.

Of course, Carrie and her friends all had happy endings, or what seemed like happy endings for women in their thirties (or in Samantha’s case, late forties). As much as I enjoyed the TV series (please don’t get me started on the movies!), they were in completely different places than I was.

Fifteen years later, does anyone think Carrie and Big are still together? I rooted for them at the time, and worried when SATC cast Mikhail Baryshnikov to play Carrie’s lover in the final season because the show’s creator, Candace Bushnell, had married a retired ballet dancer. It would be too poetic for Carrie to do the same thing. Fortunately for me, Carrie chose Big; unfortunately for Bushnell, she divorced her dancer in 2012.

Sex and the City began life as a book; a series of essays Bushnell wrote about thirtysomething women looking for love in New York City. Is There Still Sex in the City? is its natural follow-up; while I’m sorry Bushnell ended up divorced, reading this book made me feel less alone, and even hopeful. At their core, both books share the same message: Women can get through any relationship disaster as long as they have strong female friendships to hold them up.

Is There Still Sex in the City? kicks off with Bushnell getting denied a mortgage because of her newly divorced status, a symbol from the universe that as a 50-year-old divorcee, she doesn’t count. It follows her as she leaves the city, moves to Southampton Village with a group of girlfriends in similar straits, and tries to manage dating, friends, middle-aged madness, and more. Just like in the original book, she tells her story while sharing her friends’ adventures as well. (I particularly liked one acronym she came up with – MNB, short for My New Boyfriend, which definitely works for the serial monogamy I’ve also experienced.) Again, like an anthropologist, Bushnell introduces us to the type of men that women in their fifties end up dating: the Cub, the Hot Drop, the ubiquitous Bicycle Guy, and more.

Will any of these guys become as well-known as "Mr. Big?" Since Paramount Television and Anonymous Content have optioned the book for TV, it's possible. No word yet on which network or streaming service will host Is There Still Sex and the City? or on possible stars. But the series is an exciting sign that women over 50 are being seen as an important part of TV offerings, not just its audience. I can only hope that men on will start to see their value as well.

Thanks to Grove Press for the book in exchange for an honest review.

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