The answer to the titular question of Candace Bushnell’s new book is an emphatic no, not really.
There is divorce in the city. There are $4,000 facials in the city. There is still a tight-knit group of ride-or-die girlfriends in the city. But sex? Not so much.
In this amiable if slightly unfocused follow-up to Sex and the City, the iconic 1990s bible for single-girl life in Manhattan, we check in with Bushnell as she closes out her 50s. (How is this possible?) She is living on the Upper East Side, with a fixer-upper home in a Hamptons beach town she calls the Village. She has divorced, lost her mother and is settling into late middle age as a single woman with two large poodles. Even after a series of bestsellers, she struggles to pay the bills. It’s not what Bushnell planned for her life, and one can understand her occasional dip into melancholy.
“It didn’t used to be this way,” Bushnell writes. “At one time, fiftysomething meant the beginning of retirement—working less, slowing down, spending more time on hobbies and with your friends, who like you, were sliding into a more leisurely lifestyle. . . . They weren’t expected to exercise, start new business ventures, move to a different state, have casual sex with strangers, get arrested, and start all over again, except with one-tenth of the resources and in many cases going back to the same social and economic situation that they spent all of their thirties and forties trying to crawl out of.”
As Bushnell paints a picture of how women navigate aging, she can lapse into overgeneralized and sometimes contradictory statements. Her friends are all hormonal victims of what she calls middle-age madness, or MAM, fighting with each other and drinking too much. Yet they also are suddenly finding themselves “catnip for younger men.” She calls this phenomenon cubbing: younger men in pursuit of older women.
But the effervescent Bushnell still has the ability to make readers laugh with her casually dry one-liners. “MAM had moved on and I was in a good place,” she writes. “I was doing the stuff they always tell middle-aged people to do. I was ‘staying active,’ ‘eating healthy,’ and I wasn’t drinking ‘too much.’ I always made sure to fill up my rosé glass with ice.”
Toward the end of Is There Still Sex in the City?, Bushnell starts dating a dashing guy she refers to as My New Boyfriend (or MNB—girlfriend loves an acronym). It is a perfectly satisfying arc in this, the companion to a book that defined love and friendship for a generation of women. One can’t help but root for her.