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A Round-Heeled Woman: My Late-Life Adventures In Sex And Romance (2004)

A Round-Heeled Woman: My Late-Life Adventures in Sex and Romance (2004)
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3.28 of 5 Votes: 4
ISBN
0812967879 (ISBN13: 9780812967876)
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English
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villard
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A Round-Heeled Woman: My Late-Life Ad...
A Round-Heeled Woman: My Late-Life Adventures In Sex And Romance (2004)

About book: The cover of Jane Juska’s book features a newspaper personal ad that reads: “Before I Turn 67—next March—I would like to have a lot of sex with a man I like. If you want to talk first, Trollope works for me.” This personal ad reveals much about what lies between the covers of A Round-Heeled Woman: My Late-Life Adventures in Sex and Romance: a sexual romp and an exploration of aging and womanhood, imbued with a literary sensibility and a boisterous sense of humor. Juska’s candid memoir is a lively read that draws you in for the sex and has you stay for the wisdom, charm, and poignancy—well, okay, you might be staying for the sex, too.As the ad that Berkeley-ite Juska places in The New York Review of Books implies, she may have retired from high school teaching, but she’s not ready to retire from life. “Retirement” to Juska means teaching at San Quentin State Prison and at U.C. Berkeley, volunteering for Planned Parenthood, and singing in a classical chorale. Indeed, retirement seems to have breathed new life into Juska: she loses a substantial amount of weight and clears out the psychic cobwebs through extensive therapy. Yet something is missing from the life of a woman who is “easily aroused,” one who “adores” penises. Through placing the ad, she gives herself permission, after years of celibacy, to have sex. More than that, though, she authorizes herself to be a sexual being.As a woman in her late 60’s, claiming her desire is an empowering move. After sending in the ad, prior to receiving a response, she feels buoyant, playful. She wonders about people who don’t know what she’s done; they see her as a short, elderly, graying, intellectual woman. In her mind, she speaks to them: “Could you even imagine what I have done? Do you know that I am not at all what you think I am? That I am more? . . . The world was fun. And so was I.” Sexuality and identity play are not just for adolescents.Of course we continue to read because we want to know how many men respond to her ad. And do any women? And we’re curious about how much sex, if any, she ends up having. And does she find love? Does she want to? The book answers these questions and does not skimp on the erotic details, offering a fascinating glimpse into a sexual world usually reserved in popular media for the under-40 set. But Juska’s writing offers other pleasures, as well: Berkeley and New York lovingly are depicted; and she explores how music and literature enrich her life. She paints complex portraits of her mother (an alternately angry and loving woman), her father (with whom the adult Jane attends strip clubs), and her ex-husband (who, when they are newly married, teaches her to check out football players’ back-sides to determine their field position, unintentionally providing her with an opportunity to be a sexual spectator, not just the object of a man’s gaze). The book also includes teaching scenes at the prison, high school, and university. Many writers teach, but not many write about the realities of the classroom. Juska provides a frank, humorous and, at times, complex examination of the vicissitudes of teaching and learning. With a series of stories about students and curriculum, Juska demonstrates how classrooms are drenched in sex, although we pretend they are not. And Juska does not shy away from the terrain of teachers as sexual people, such as when she writes about her enjoyment of a sixteen-year-old’s “ass.” Of course, the sixteen-year-old is a boy, and she’s a heterosexual woman. While certainly her desires are far from socially sanctioned, my one quibble with her book is that she fails to acknowledge the likely higher stakes for a gay or lesbian teacher.Nevertheless, Juska’s book does demonstrate that aging can beget a certain kind freedom: the freedom to speak out about one’s desires, to tell one’s “risky” stories. We root for her strengths, and empathize with her weaknesses. For she is not all humor-and-spunk. When she falls for (and stays too long with) a man who does not reciprocate, we wince at her vulnerabilities, hoping she’ll give him the what-for. If Juska teaches us anything, it’s that, as she says, we are not always the hero of our stories; sometimes we are the villain. Those are the rhythms of life. Indeed, other memoirs of women that explore sexuality, aging, and the literary life—such as works by May Sarton, Anais Nin, and Virginia Woolf—can be appealing because they help us see how others live life in all its permutations. These women are authors on two levels: authors of books, and authors of their lives. They don’t necessarily provide answers, just permission.

Don’t bother picturing a spry Red-Hatter in juicy lingerie tramping it up with urbane, sexy, oldsters. Jane Juska’s game plan to “have a lot of sex with a man I like” really meant “have some sex but lots more drama with a few mediocre men who often belittle me, and I’ll travel mindlessly and expensively around the country to do so”. Expecting the erotic quest of a normal woman celibate for thirty years now sowing her wild oats, I ended up questioning both her motives and her sanity. How many years did she spend in analysis? She ain’t normal, for starters. She does berate herself for being an awful mom (as well she should, she sucked). Then, she actually travels to the state of a man she has a phone relationship with who refuses to ever meet her in person, thinking to force a face-to-face. Thankfully, she stops short of driving to his town. STALKER. How naïve is she, wondering why he didn’t want to see her in person? Listen, clueless, because HE LIEEEDDDD. Maybe he’s married, maybe he weighs 760 pounds, maybe he lives in a tarpaper shack, maybe he’s a fucking homunculus. Then again maybe she would have dated a homunculus, if he read Trollope.Her basic dating model is flawed. First, advertising in the NYT Book Review personals (and mentioning Trollope, no less) for a vigorous sex partner? Might as well go to London for the weather. She shuns Regular Guys, a potential goldmine of sex partners. What about all those retired military? Police officers? Firefighters? Guys that get some once in a while? Probably not guys she could converse with, though.The selectively Liberal Ms. Juska teaches prison inmates but won't "date down". Second, for pity’s sake, woman, Think Globally, Act Locally! Surely there must be at least one Trollope loving, Viagra-chomping dirty old coot within 500 miles of Berkeley? Let’s face it, she wasn’t, in the end, choosy. In dating, the rubber meets the road, the plan succeeds or fails when you meet for the first time in person. All bets are then on or off. What could have been cheap coffee dates became exercises in masochism. How quickly would she have left most of them wheezing into their Starbucks if they’d been local?And is she really that inexperienced?Logging hours of time with one sex partner leads to a heck of a lot more fun and intimacy than was ever possible in her artificial long-distance relationships. She doesn’t even spend enough time with them to know if she likes them. Why she felt obligated, I don't know or care. But guess what? Old geezers with few offers will pretty much screw anything. And that Graham person, I just cannot go there without feeling sick. Was her need to find an "intellectual" match simply fear of rejection by said Regular Guys? I ask this because, most disturbing to me as a fifty-year-old newly single dating member of the American female species, she does nothing to prepare herself. By that I mean her body. No mention of any spa visits, bikini waxing, makeovers, hair styling, nothing except buying that red nightie. And the visuals of her over and over in NYC with static hair, bulky down coat, boots, and sweaty sloppy sweater were too much. Once I can accept. But fucking wear layers next time. It’s NYC. When it’s cold outdoors, it’s HOT indoors. And vice-versa. I pictured classic Bag Lady. Was she begging for rejection? Let’s face it, Jane, maybe YOU weren’t what THEY were expecting, either. Maybe they thought from your warm, intelligent, phone persona that you actually took some pride and care in your appearance. Like a Regular Gal.Please. At least tackle the hair. They make products for that. Or shit-can the boots and down coat, it’s NYC for Christ’s sake. If it were Milan they’d stone you to death. And I would join them. Here, give me a nice round one. I’m kidding. I wouldn’t hurl rocks at a senior citizen, at least not that one. But I swear to God if I see that sweater lying around I’ll take it and burn it. Twice.
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Reviews
Paula
I read this book right after my (second) divorce... was a perfect time to read about an intelligent older (older than me!) woman taking risks to seek pleasure, joy and even love. While I agree with those who have issues with her approach and degree of risk-taking: I found many gems of wisdom. "Therapy costs money, but so does lying flat on your own bed, able to live a life only dimly lit." "I knew when I decided to fill my life fully, I could not choose only the good parts. And I did it anyway. "She quotes Edna St. Vincent Millay: It well may be that in a difficult hour; I might be driven to sell your love for peace, Or trade the memory of this night for food. It well may be. I do not think I would. Being with a younger man: SO far nothing seems to have discouraged him: not my tears, not my wine-swilling, not the lines in my face, spots on my hands, yellow on my teeth, bifocals on my eyes. If not, never fear. I remain in possession of my secret and most powerful deterrent: my body.Over the short time we had been together, Graham had gotten older and I had gotten younger. By the time he returned to his skyscraper we were just about the same age. Life just keeps coming at you. Make no mistake, its out to get you, and in the end it will. But every so often, you can catch a piece of it and make it do what you want it to, at least for a little while
Judith
i had heard about this book some time ago and then i kept seeing references to it in other things i read, so i decided to read it. what a delightful book. i am not sure men would enjoy it as much as women, but i could be wrong. the author put an ad in the personal section of the NY Times Review of Books, stating essentially that she wanted to have a lot of sex with a man she liked before she turned 67 on her next birthday. The book is a report of her adventures and it was both sadder and funnier than i expected. she is really brutally honest about herself and gives much more detail than i would in her place. she is also very humorous, mostly at her own expense. sometimes you get the feeling in a book that you are being set-up for a laugh. that never happens in this book. it all feels real and she writes so well that the humor sneaks up on you. i also found myself feeling protective of her, and wanting to warn her away from some of these callous jerks. although she's obviously very independent, she is also touchingly vulnerable.
Lara
"Before I turn 67 - next March - I would like to have a lot of sex with a man I like. If you want to talk first, Trollope does it for me". So reads the eye-catching & intriguing personal ad Jane Juska put in the New York Times.This is a memoir, not only of those dates, some good, most absolutely dire. But Jane intersperses her search for a man who will stimulate her mind as well as body (and offer accommodation while she falls for New York culture) with recall of her childhood, years as an inspired teacher, in school and prison, and her lousy mothering skills.She is a talented, funny, self-deprecating writer, brutally honest and rather vulnerable, and seemingly a glutton for punishment flying from California to her New York dates and pursuing terrier-like some very odd guys.I would be interested to find out what her analyst makes of her (and yes, she'd like a date with him too).
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