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Candace Bushnell holds up a copy of her newest book, which will be released in the fall.

Sex and the City author Candace Bushnell holds up her book while displaying her Manolo Blahnik pumps.

Sex and the City author brings her wit--and style--to campus

By Rick Moore

Published on April 28, 2005

She's older now--entrenched in her 40s, actually--and has given up the title of "single," which wound up being the linchpin of her fame. But that didn't hinder Candace Bushnell, author of the groundbreaking "chic lit" book Sex and the City, from regaling a crowd of about 300 mostly college-aged female students at the Coffman Union Theater Tuesday night as part of the 2005 Spring Jam festivities.

Bushnell spoke of the events that led to Sex and the City (which originated in 1994 as a column in the New York Observer and became a popular HBO show of the same name) and of the evolving view of single women in America. She also dispensed a few bits of advice for young women as they seek to balance successful careers with relationships.

And she spoke in style, the kind of style that isn't seen on the East Bank every day. Bushnell wore a pair of dazzling, Manolo Blahnik blue pumps--the kind that would be worn by her alter ego, Sex and the City's Carrie Bradshaw--and carried an equally gaudy handbag by Louis Vuitton. "The shoes get more applause than I do," she quipped.

Bushnell charmed the crowd with a series of one-liners, along with some impersonations of the friends and acquaintances who spawned the ideas for her stories. "I want to thank you all for coming," she opened. "I especially want to thank the, like, three brave men in the audience." In New York, she added, "Minneapolis is known for two things--good-looking people and places for rehab."

Bushnell knew at an early age that she wanted to write, partly from the joy she experienced while telling stories to her sisters before bed. ("I got this idea that I wanted to be a writer, or say mean things about people I know," she said.)

When she moved to New York after college, she discovered a scene in which women were beginning careers--rather than just obtaining their "Mrs. degree"--and discovering they could have sex before marriage. The problem was that no one really knew how to behave, she said, since they had no role models.

While writing her "Sex and the City" column, Bushnell would go out on the town virtually every night (there was one year where she figured she only stayed home 18 nights), jotting down impressions and snippets of conversation while sipping Cosmopolitans at places like the Bowery Bar and Studio 54.

Bushnell learned a lot while embedded in the Manhattan singles scene. "Everybody thought that single women in their 30s had something wrong with them," Bushnell said in an interview before her talk. "I think Sex and the City made that okay."

A woman doesn't need to "have it all" when she gets to be 40, she said, and women should avoid the pressure to get married. "I don't think you can do that until something inside of you clicks and you feel whole," she said. "I always think if you're single, it's for a reason."

Bushnell's bachelorette status brought her considerable fame, but she finally took the plunge herself, marrying a man from Minneapolis three years ago who is a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet. When they first met, "there was this flash of recognition," she said. "We got married really quickly; I think we had known each other for less than two months." That confession, from a formerly devout single person, drew a collective gasp from the crowd.

She had just a few bits of advice on relationships. Responding to a question about long-distance relationships, Bushnell said, "It's not where you are, it's commitment.... The only way a relationship can work is [with] commitment. And for some people that means marriage."

Her biggest regret was spending more time in her 20s worrying about relationships than on achieving success in other avenues. Success, she said, provides self-actualization and fulfillment. "Concentrate on yourself," she suggested. "Concentrate on becoming a whole person who makes a contribution, and everything else will follow, including a great relationship."