Jane Juska Is A Well Rounded Woman
As round heeled women go Jane Juska is not what you’d expect. The term comes from Victorian England and the prostitutes whose heels were rounded by street walking on cobblestones. And, indeed, Jane is no paid performer all her “adventures” came just for the joy of it and started in her late sixties.
Her popular memoir ‘A Round-Heeled Woman’ tells of the men she met and made merry or not so merry with as a semi retired teacher after they answered her personal ad in the New York Review of Books.
Her own best-selling book has been adapted for the stage and, having played in San Francisco and Miami, has now arrived in London’s Riverside Studios.
Sharon Gless of Cagney and Lacey fame plays Jane Juska who laughs as she tells me, “There’s no doubting the play’s accuracy and Sharon certainly gives it her all. But not having had an orgasm with a man for 30 years, imagine watching Sharon as me having one on stage every night!”
Jane was living in California when she placed her ad which read: “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.”
She was finishing several years of analysis and recalls, “Trollope was my analyst’s favourite writer and I loved Trollope too. I thought maybe he’ll call me and when I told him I’d put an ad in personals I heard him laugh for the first time in five years. He said ‘I thought that must have been you!’ But he didn’t call and I’m glad he passed me over.”
Maybe his lovemaking wouldn’t have matched up to his therapy. The famous orgasm came courtesy of a young man 30 years Jane’s junior. “It was just terrific, made me feel good about myself. He was so patient, kind and skilled and there’s certainly something to be said for that.”
After years with a husband she describes wryly as “reluctant” it was a revelation. Of the ex she laughs, “His favourite sexual partner was himself. He spent more time in the bathroom than I did!”
And now? Now she has a boyfriend, partner, close friend, call him what you will, and she’s not about to name him. He’s a retired lawyer, a species she warns we should all “watch out for!”
“They are trained to think in a very rational way and they never give up, never say ‘Ok, you’re right.’ I have been with this man for several years but lawyers disparage the irrational, the emotional and it’s tough to express myself emotionally. Crying certainly doesn’t do it!”
And does she love him? Despite the fact that they don’t live together, Jane believing that “separate cages” work, she says, “I adore him. It’s for life.”
Being a lawyer and single minded, the unnamed suitor was given a copy of Jane’s book, decided what she needed was him and kept turning up at her book readings until he had persuaded her of his desirability. “Strong willed, huge male ego,” she smiles. “But he’s also funny, well read, loves that I’m a writer – and I do consider myself a writer now. He’s still delighted with me, loves to say ‘Who is really going to London with you?’, although he knows it’s a woman friend.”
We are sitting in a Gloucester Road coffee shop and Jane, looking much younger than her 78 years, is fresh from a talk in Hammersmith and about to embark on a series of Q & A sessions after the stage play. There were women of all ages at her talk the night before, many asking what they should do to find a man. “I think ‘Take some risks’” says Jane. “But I’m not going to tell them to do that.”
Was it a risk to write so honestly, so explicitly about her own late life sexual odyssey, particularly when she has a son, Andy, a daughter-in-law, two cherished grandchildren?
“I told Andy I was placing an ad and he said ‘Go get him, Mum. It’s your turn! He hasn’t read the book and I think that’s well and good. He’s a forester up in the mountains and was in his truck one day with a colleague when there I was on the radio. He reached to turn it off and the colleague said no, let’s hear what your mum’s been up to. His wife loves the book and the play although I was really nervous about what she would think.”
Jane’s sexual adventures did, however, have their boundaries “Never sleep with a married man or a Republican and no kinky sex. I think I broke all except the kinky sex,” she says.
And what does she call kinky? “I think sex that comes with equipment,” she grins. “I have never done equipment!”
Finding out about life, about men, she believes you have to ask questions. As a teacher for 34 years she helped young people to “ask questions without attitude. I thought if they could present grief or arguments in a way that didn’t infuriate, parents, police, who ever, that would be a tremendous help. If you can ask a question free of emotion you are well on your way to a worthwhile conversation,” she says. Her favourite and most revealing question to ask a man is about his relationship with his mother.
But what, at 78, is her biggest question now? “Who’s going to publish my book ‘40 Years in the Trenches – the Liberation of an American Teacher.’ My publisher turned it down and although others liked it because it’s not talking about sex they say ‘We don’t think it will make the numbers we are looking for.”
And there’s another book bubbling ‘Mrs Bennett Has Her Say’. “I’m off to Jane Austen’s house to get a feel for Mrs Bennett. I think the mother has been poorly served by Austen,” says Jane. “The question is was she really an air head, is this a defence and if she is why? It will open when she’s 15 on her wedding night.”
Will there be sex? We’ll have to wait and see and in the meantime if we haven’t already, catch up with ‘A Round Heeled Woman’ in the memoir or on stage.
“I didn’t expect to write a book, to get it published, to get more than one or two answers to my ad or for anyone to turn it all into a play,” says Jane. “It is bawdy, it is good but to see myself having an orgasm on stage portrayed by a star – Mr God!”
Isn’t she a star herself now? “I was for a while,” she says. “But 15 minutes is enough.” Just like a long-awaited orgasm!