Who needs Mr Big when you can do it yourself? | Women's Agenda

Who needs Mr Big when you can do it yourself?

This post was updated Friday afternoon. See below for five key points raised by Candace Bushnell in Sydney.

Ever since my days filling in for the music reporter on The Daily Mirror when I got to meet and interview the likes of Suzi Quatro and David Bowie (it was the late eighties), I have been difficult to excite with a famous name.

But I was like a giddy school girl when Australian Writers Centre founder and director Valerie Khoo sent me an invitation to join her table for today’s Sydney Business Chicks lunch featuring author Candace Bushnell. The enormity of my excitement is completely irrational (read: emotional), as is anything tied to deep identification with literary characters.

Sex and The City creator Candace Bushnell has spent the past couple of weeks touring Australia as the keynote speaker for the lunch series, regaling the audience with her path to financial independence via her most famous book. She told the crowd of mostly women at the Brisbane lunch last week: “I decided that I wanted to pay with my own Black Amex not wait for a Mr Big to pay for me”. Indeed.

When I first stumbled upon the TV series adaptation of Bushnell’s book, I immediately identified with the main character Carrie and her obsession with beautiful shoes. Heels are my weakness. But it wasn’t just the shoes that grabbed my attention. Carrie was living my fantasy life. And as Carrie was based on Bushnell’s early days in New York when she was a columnist for The New York Observer, my fascination extends to this celebrated author.

When I completed my undergraduate Arts degree in Mass Communication in 1987, my dream was to head to New York and continue my journalism studies at Columbia University, as Women’s Agenda sister publication Crikey journalist Amber Jamieson is signing off today to do. But life got in my way and I have been able to satisfy some of that regret by living vicariously through Carrie, with her perfect shoes and glamorous job.

Great writers can do that for you. They put you right there in the moment. My husband Graeme has paid attention to my Carrie fantasy. Years ago when Carrie was writing her column through the night in her tiny New York apartment overflowing with shoes she couldn’t possible have bought on her salary, I got a bit excited about the laptop she was using. Apple had released a handbag-shaped ‘Clamshell’ iBook G3 and Carrie had one. Graeme tracked one down for me. It no longer works but I can never throw it out. Irrational? Absolutely.

Equally irrational is my obsession with beautiful heels. I spent quite a lot of time last night rummaging through my shoe collection. Which pair to wear to a lunch in a room full of business women who will undoubtedly have chosen their footwear extra carefully today? I have narrowed it down to the four pairs below. Which would you choose?

Five key take-outs from the Sydney Business Chicks lunch with Candace Bushnell

  1. Bushnell would have preferred Carrie to have pursued a senior leadership position in New York rather than love. But executive producer Darren Star went for the love angle.
  2. Bushnell believes society puts too much pressure on women to become something that’s acceptable. But as women get older, they start to care less and get on with it.
  3. Like her character Carrie, Bushnell found that needing her own ‘Mr Big’ for confidence was a flaw. When she was dumped by her own version, she found the inspiration to get on with her career.
  4. Men didn’t take Bushnell seriously while she was writing for women’s magazines. It was only when she landed a gig at the New York Observer – which had male readers – that they started to take notice.
  5. Bushnell was told by publishers no one would want to read a novel about a young woman’s experiences in New York city. She proved them wrong.

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