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A Round-Heeled Woman

A woman my Mom’s age [in her sixties] decides she’s in need of a change and spends 130 dollars putting a brief personal ad in the New York Review of Books stating that before she turns 67 she would like to have a lot of sex with a man she likes. What is interesting about this late-stage coming of age book is that the narrator is at the same time quite sophisticated and quiet naive. She shares her thoughts and experiences with us in a way that borders almost on “too much information” and yet since the topic at hand -- old people and their sex lives -- is so mysterious, or even taboo, it’s gripping reading, even with the sometimes uneven writing.

Juska grew up in Ohio, moved to Berkeley, had an early failed marriage and teaches high school. She is in love with her analyst, a bit too hung up on “literature", and has had I believe three sexual partners in her lifetime before embarking on this adventure. She doubles that number in a year. Despite having -- as she tells us repeatedly "very little money” -- she manages to flit out to New York for long sexy weekends with erudite men who pique her interest. None of the interludes go quite right. One man is too old and does not desire her, one is in a long term long distance relationship already, one uses his fling with her to give him the momentum back into his primary relationship, one won’t kiss enough. All men with problems and Juska keeps a mostly stiff upper lip and slogs on. The books ends as you think it might with her meeting a man who is a good fit for her and seems to like her as much as she likes him. They do not walk off into the sunset together but seem to have worked a good thing out. He is younger than me.

What’s interesting for me in reading this book is realizing how much sex information and advice and assistance I had at my disposal during my teens and twenties. I never was confused over the difference between a vaginal and clitoral orgasm as Juska is [and values one over the other as women and men of her generation tended to] and I knew how to talk to men, how to negotiate in intimate relationships and how not to get in over my head. Juska must learn a lot of this stuff on the fly, with necessarily short-term relationships primarily, and not always from the best of teachers. It’s fascinating reading watching her go through all this, but sometimes you want to shake her and say “You seem like you’d like a longer term thing, this is not the way to go about it.” Required reading for people who are interested in staying sexually active into their senior years and worthwhile reading for most other people as well.