A Round-Heeled Woman
My Late-Life Adventures
In Sex and Romance

Jane Juska
In Praise of Older Women came out in 1965, shocking some prudes who were still lodged in the Eisenhower do-it-in-the-dark routine. The book consisted of the recollections of a young Andras Vajda and his experiences with women who were supposed to be knitting snoods rather than doing a quick tumble in the hay.

His memories were more than amiable, and his main point, as I recall, was that you get a bushel-basket of love and a box-full of appreciation when you give your affections to the over-forty set. He also said they know a hell of a lot more ways of pleasuring a man than any Playboy Bunny.

I found out by looking though Google that In Praise of Older Women is still a hit and still in print. I also found out to my dismay that there are a plethora of sites devoted to "Nasty XXX Nannas," "Hot Nude Grannies," "Mature Mammas that Love to Do the Nasty: More content than you can shake a stick at." I also found for my etymological research a new synonym for "geezer," although I doubt that "Dufferdom" will turn up any time soon in the volume of the good Rev. W. W. Skeat.

Ms. Juska has chosen to write an extended tome on just this subject: not Skeat, god knows, but on one in the clutches of dufferdom who has the temerity to place an ad in the New York Review of Books:

    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.

Sixty-seven answers came in, and during this wonderful ramble with A Round-Heeled Woman, we get to meet seven of them, including noisy Danny, Jonah who steals, Dr. Robert who has too many aches and pains, John who wants her to stop being so pushy, and, at last, lovely Graham. Who turns out to be half her age, much to the disgust of some of her friends and family. All of which goes to show that Harold and Maude did not clear the air, nor the world of ageism/sexism prejudice.

§     §     §

This sex business is just part of the story; in fact as I read on, I realized that Ms. Juska is using this let-me-tell-you-about-my letch-side as a come-on so that we can read about her not so boring life. There are years of fat (she wore muumuus for several decades), growing up a proper doctor's child in Ohio, living a hippy's life in Berkeley, mixing amphetamines and scotch for years to get her through the days (and nights). There is also a career of championship teaching --- grade school, high school, teaching teachers, and in some of the most affecting passages, teaching writing to prisoners at San Quentin.

There is no little lust here, talk about G-spots and getting felt up in public by some of her would-bes and as always, her absolute non-stop, unrepentant, wild-eyed adoration of men's asses: one thing she learned from her first (and last) husband was appreciation for asses. They used to watch live football games from the end zone and discuss at length the various attributes of the glutes of the various players.

But Juska is just no simple foozle of a lust-bunny. As she says in her ad, she's nuts about Trollope. In fact, one of her orgasms (she claims) occurred in the rare book room of the very hard-to-get-into Berg Collection in New York City, where she is able to hold in her hands the manuscript of Trollope's novel Miss MacKenzie. She was afraid all the while that she would wet it (with her lachrymal glands, I should hasten to say), "for it would not do, would not do at all, for tears to stain these pages."

There, too, is Bach (she finally learns to love him by joining a chorale) and Shakespeare and Chaucer and Flaubert and Cheever and Eliot and Steinbeck and --- most of all, Philip Roth. In The Dying Animal, she reminds us, piano playing David Kepesh masturbates to

    Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn (Bach does not make this list), Schumann, and Schubert, which has got to be kind of hard if you think about it: playing music like that requires both hands.

Anyone who can bring off this silver-threads-among-the-gold high-passion throb act should have us hanging on her every word. The bonus is her mastery of simple, good, funny writing.

One of her loves eschews her kisses, which grieves her deeply. She goes off to recover at the very respectable Whitney Museum:

    There every piece of sculpture was phallic or vaginal or both. I had never seen so many sensual constructions in my life: what wasn't erect was cavernous; what didn't stick out sucked in.

And anyone who can contemplate the photograph of a potential lover noting that he resembles "someone in the witness protection program. Or Richard III" ---- and yet ends up driving up to his place in the woods ("Ted Kaczynski had a house in the woods" she observes) certainly deserves a gold fig-leaf cluster medal of bravery beyond the call of simple passion.

This seeking love business when you are part of the rocking-chair set is no bed of roses. There are as many tears and broken hearts as there are rollicking moments in the sack, and as we go through her life and her new career, we find ourselves rooting for her, wanting her to just cool it, stop pushing so hard, let it come on its own. Just show her age. If such is possible.

--- Lolita Lark

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