The Board of Directors Here at Spo-Reflections sent me a terse note after my last entry, advising me to write something less self-indulgent and more cheerful or else. So here is a cheery book review about a memoir entitled A Round-Heeled Women, by Jane Juska. The name “Jane Juska” may not be familiar to you, but you might remember the (in)famous personals ad she posted to The New York Review of Books in 1999:
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.
Apparently this set off an avalanche of lascivious personal ads in the New York Review of Books. When I first heard this story the vision of dozens (hundreds?) of book nerds writing dirty notes to each other and engaging in orgiastic literary copulation both amused and comforted me, but this was years before Grindr. What I didn’t realize is that the writer in question had a story, and that she wrote this story down. So I sashayed to the local university library and signed the book out.
I think I was expecting John Rechy’s Numbers written by a straight woman. That’s not what I got. Jane Juska does document a number of sexual conquests, but through the course of her adventure she has fewer partners than certain unnamed bloggers on busy weekends. And in rereading her personals ad, it becomes clear that Juska is not in search of a lot of sexual partners. She wants a lot of sex, but she wants sex with a man she likes. That is a big difference.
Readers in search of salacious bedroom scenes won’t be entirely disappointed, but much of the book consists of memoir — how did Juska end up spending 30 years of her life celibate? How did she find the gumption to post the ad? — and the logistics of finding and meeting different men, most of whom were (duh) in New York. Given that Juska lived in California, this made for a lot of plane trips back and forth. She also includes some details about her life at the time, including an intriguing chapter on volunteering inside San Quentin Prison.
Juska’s adventures in dating will sound familiar to many who have ventured into the shark-infested waters of modern love. She triages responses into yes, maybe, and no, and even among the yeses she finds flakes and freaks. Some dates lie about their ages. Several behave in hilariously inappropriate ways. She falls for a few only to discover they do not reciprocate their feelings (after they have slept with her). Not many want to discuss Trollope, but one who does leads her on an adventure to view an original Trollope manuscript.
Juska is not shy about her apprehensions around this process. She had children from a previous marriage; what would they think? She had a job as a schoolteacher; could she book time off? Would her social standing (and possibly her employment standing) be harmed by her love life? And of course, she worries about her looks and her age. Does she look too old? Are her boobs too big? These are questions we all have to face when looking for men we like and want to have a lot of sex with.
The book is well written and quick to read. In reading it I learned many interesting things. For example, did you know that some women have sex drives independent of the desire to have babies or snag a man? Apparently this is true. Furthermore, I learned that some women are attracted to men visually:
Sometimes, as I lie on my futon reading, say, the Times or The American Scholar, I will feel the familiar tickle between my legs. But mostly, I am aroused by men, parts of men. I love men’s asses, even the ones that aren’t perfect. I am aroused by the sight of John’s neck, of Bill’s forearm, of Sidney’s voice, Robert’s hands, Graham’s legs. Men have fabulous legs, no fat, long muscles. Walking down the street in the summertime, all those men in shorts, is a thrill for me. And I adore penises. They are different from one another, straight and crooked, long and short, thick and thin, endlessly fascinating at rest or attention. They do wonderful things for me and I do wonderful things for them.
Now isn’t that the kind of book you would like to spend an afternoon with?
P.S. to Sixpence: I saw your blog post about my entry. You are very kind. That guy is hot and I look nothing like him. Also Blogger and I do not get along, and there are few Blogger blogs on which I can comment.