Are you a Carrie? Miranda? Charlotte? Samantha? Or the OG? We recently went to a special performance of Candace Bushnell’s hit one-woman show, Is There Still Sex in the City?, at Hamptons Canoe Place Inn. And just like that, we wanted to be a Candace.
Tina Brown, Fern Mallis, Nicole Miller, Kim Taipale, Peggy Siegal, and Stan Herman were among those who showed up. Many had seen it before. It’s a fun, fast paced, no holds barred and profound look at Bushnell’s own life, emblematic of strong women in a world favoring men, told wearing designer clothes and $2,000 shoes.
Candace is a voice for a generation of women who came of age in the go go ’80s, influenced by the feminist movement, liberated by the pill, lubricated by drugs, unthreatened by AIDs. In short, the good ol’ days!
She came to New York with Pulitzer Prize ambition, lived large on little, and made big dreams happen. She created the groundbreaking Sex in the City column for the Observer, and as a novelist, continued to mine her milieu as a modern day Austin, Wharton, and Fitzgerald.
“I always had this inner drive to change how the world looks at women,” Bushnell told me of the franchise she inspired. “I think part of it comes from growing up in the ’60s when the world was very, very sexist. There were all kinds of rules about what women could do and should think. That made me crazy.”
“I’m all about women being independent entities in the world, of both mind and body. It’s pretty hard. Our society is still geared for women to access an income stream through a man. In the top 1% of people in the world, less than 5% of that 1% are women who made it on their own. In a place like the Hamptons, most of the women you see in those big houses married the money or inherited it. I find that a bit depressing.”
“Still, young women today are more independent, more successful. They work. They have big careers. They make money. And it’s exciting.
“I’m single. I don’t have children and I’m grateful,” she says on stage. Count me among the increasing number of childless women who toast that decision and trade photos of our dogs at all the dinners out we get to have with our extra incomes and free time.
“I always thought I had a bigger purpose in life than having kids, even when I was young,” she told me. “But, for most women, society tells us the most important thing you will do is to have children. 80% of women are mothers. So, it’s very brave not to be one. Children tend to give meaning to many women’s lives. But, I get meaning from other things. I always had a very strong sense of my self, that I needed to do something in the world about women and independence.”
“Besides, having kids is not what people think. It’s a lot of tasks: taking them to the doctors, taking them to school, cleaning up after them, blah blah blah.”
Writing drives Bushnell. “I’m always continually doing something creative,” she said. “The stage show is something new that I’ve been doing the last couple of years. I’ve always got a lot of things on the burners and irons in the fire.”
This is probably it.
Bushnell echoed the theme of women empowering women that we’ve been hearing a lot these days. At a recent luncheon at Doppo La Spiaggia to kick off the Antigua & Barbuda Hamptons Regatta, Theresa Roden — who co-founded the event with her late husband, Rob, and Antigua & Barbuda Tourism Authority CEO Colin James — told me about the charity it benefitted.
A triathlon enthusiast herself, Theresa said she started I Tri to “empower middle school girls through the sport of triathlon to train the mind, body and spirit, go beyond their limitations and do something that just blows them away.”
It was the Rodens’ routine that inspired twinning Sag Harbor and Antigua/Barbuda for this Regatta. “My late husband and I were boaters and yachters in Block Island and the Caribbean,” Theresa continued. “We founded a yachting destination guide and fell in love with Antigua. Fourteen years ago, Colin and my husband Rob brainstormed the Antigua & Barbuda Hamptons Challenge Regatta.”
The prize? Arguably the best in the Hamptons: an all expense sailing trip to A & B.
Rob died five years ago, right before the Regatta. Theresa continues their work. She mentors I Tri girls and in some cases, even brings them in to live with her. “Early on, when a young girl’s mother was going through chemo for cervical cancer,” Theresa told me, “we took the girl into our home. In another case, a young woman was subjected to very horrible domestic violence, so we took her in as well. She taught her mother what she learned in our program, and transformed her mother’s life.”
Now Colin James and Antigua and Barbuda’s Minister of Tourism, the Hon. Charles “Max” Fernandez,” were celebrating another mother/daughter duo, Keisha Schahaff and Anastatia Mayers, the first Caribbeans and the youngest girl to travel to space, in the Virgin Galactic 02.
Back on earth, Colin told me, “Antigua and Barbuda, with their perfect conditions, are known as the Mecca of Caribbean sailing.” They’re also known for pink sand, super yachts, and every imaginable water sport. And celebrities who wish to be anonymous. But we do know this: Oprah owns a Barbuda retreat. Tory Burch has an Antigua home. P Diddy often parks his yacht and Robert De Niro sails on the Island.
And Princess Diana often took Princes William and Harry to Barbuda, population 2,000, 27 miles north of Antigua. She found real privacy on their 17 mile long beach, “in the middle of nowhere,” Colin said, “really remote yet still accessible.”
There are no high rises. But there are nude beaches.