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An American Beauty Savors Singlehood

November 13, 2000|BOOTH MOORE

Candace Bushnell knows a lot about being single. In fact, she's written the book on it . . . and the column . . . and has inspired a hit TV show.

Her Sex and the City column in the New York Observer spawned a book with the same name and the HBO sitcom and, well, a whole career dedicated to the commitment-challenged. Her second book, "Four Blondes" (Atlantic Monthly), is a collection of novellas about the mating habits of four Prada-obsessed women in New York City. Sound familiar?

Bushnell lives in New York but she was here recently to meet with producers at Universal Studios, which optioned a story from her new book. At 41, she is annoyingly beautiful--frankly, Sarah Jessica Parker, whose "Sex and the City" character is based on Bushnell, has nothing on her.

I caught up with her at Chateau Marmont to pick her brain about flying solo in a coupled-up world. "First of all," Bushnell said, lighting a Merit, "when you are in your 20s, being single doesn't count. You don't know single until you are 30, because when you are in your 20s, everyone is supposed to be single."

Save for a couple of brief engagements, Bushnell, who wore Dolce & Gabbana geometric-print pants and a silk wrap blouse, has never seriously considered marriage. These days, she's dating Stephen Morris, a British venture capitalist. But she insists she's nowhere near tying the knot. (She'll probably end up like Gloria Steinem, she said, marrying for love in her 60s.)

Still, she recognizes that what's right for her isn't right for everyone. After two months of meeting women on her book tour, she said, it's safe to say that the state of singlehood is rotten. Part of it, like everything else, is the media's fault. "Men have sex crammed down their throats nonstop. They have a particular kind of It Woman put in front of them again and again, and their standards are too high. It's the supermodel syndrome. Images of beautiful women with impossible figures cause a general amount of dissatisfaction all around, with both men and women."

The female version of supermodel syndrome is bad timing. "A lot of single women don't want to marry the kinds of men who want to get married," Bushnell said. "They feel like the kinds of guys who want to get married are lower in status or lower in ambition. And the kind of men whom women do want to marry, don't want to get married now."

Even when a woman finally does find a guy, often she has to cajole him into an engagement, Bushnell said. And take it from her, being engaged isn't all champagne and roses. "All of a sudden you feel like your relationship isn't your own anymore. The last time I was engaged, this guy and I had picked out an apartment and furniture, and I felt like I was suffocating." So she called it off.

Hey, wait a minute, according to her theory, wouldn't the guy do that?

"Women feel like it's the guys, guys feel like it's the women. . . . If I didn't have a boyfriend right now, I wouldn't even bother to look for one," Bushnell said, bringing an overgrown martini glass to her lips and adding with a smile, "Maybe it's something in the water."

Or the vodka.

*

InStyle magazine and America Online hosted a party Thursday at Track 16 Gallery in Santa Monica to kick off Helping.org's online charity auction of celebrity handprints. Guests included Gabrielle Reece, who has taken a break from modeling and volleyball to learn how to play golf. The 30-year-old Malibu resident has been training six hours a day in L.A. for more than nine months now and hopes to go pro soon, she said. "It could extend my athletic life for 20 years or so."

The crowd sipped cocktails and admired the exhibit of handprints, before Jewel performed an acoustic set. "You gotta love Hollywood," one guest remarked. "The future of the free world is at stake, and we're here bidding on celebrity hands and eating mini-pizzas."

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