. . . And an Older Erica Jong Learns To Love Zippers

By Teresa Wiltz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 26, 2006

Back when Erica Jong was a lush literary Lolita penning the It novel, she had a certain somethin' somethin' going on. She had a way with words: "Fear of Flying," her feminist manifesto, sold 18 million copies worldwide. And she had a way with men: four husbands and dalliances with other women's husbands. (Martha Stewart is allegedly still ticked.) Back then, Jong has boasted, she smelled of sex. Pheromones-a-go-go. But with time comes both change and regrets, and, well, the Italians, they don't stalk her through the streets of Venice anymore, fingers grasping at ripe rump flesh.

As Jong, who turns 64 today, sees it, this is a blessing:

"There's something nice about the freedom of getting older," she says, doing a jaunt through Washington last week to plug her memoir, "Seducing the Demon: Writing for My Life."

Notwithstanding the spate of tucked and nipped celebs extolling the fabulousness of being 50-plus, "American society is very ageist. . . . But I don't care. My needs are different now."

"The zipless [romp] could not interest me less," says Jong, who coined the catchphrase back in 1973.

But mature sex, committed sex, with all its zippered encumbrances, interests her plenty. She's been married to husband No. 4, divorce lawyer Ken Burrows, for 17 years, and the days spent shagging married men, unmarried men, way older men, way younger men -- not to mention the occasional tryst with a girlfriend -- have given way to years of contented monogamy. She's here to tell you that open marriage is a crock, though she's still a big proponent of sexual freedom: Make love, not war in Iraq. Age brings with it experience, hopefully wisdom, and for Jong, at long last, she says, real intimacy. For her 10th wedding anniversary, she and her husband burned the prenup.

As she enthuses in "Seducing the Demon," a rambling, riotous confessional of one writer's life, sex in the sixties is delicious, karmic, a total melding of sense and spirit. Sure, certain body parts might not work as well, but a willing spirit makes up for weak flesh. She used to think the whole tantric sex thing was "utter bull . . . raising the kundalini, yoga poses in tandem, mysteries of the East and all that rot."

Then she tried it.

"It's really not about some technique," says Jong, who divides her time between Manhattan and Connecticut. "It's being so close to someone that you can feel what they feel. There are spiritual things that you can't describe."

This both thrills and horrifies Jong's 27-year-old daughter, writer Molly Jong-Fast, who chronicled her unconventional childhood with her mother, traipsing between New York and Venice, mom's young boyfriends in tow, in her second book, retitled "Girl (Maladjusted): True Stories From a Semi-Celebrity Childhood" for its paperback release this year.

With "Fear of Flying," "she was so sexy; that was her shtick," says Jong-Fast in an enthusiastic gush. "She's starting to come into her own again. Most people don't get to come into their own twice. She's sort of this sexy, older voice for octogenarian sex. Which is really disturbing to me."

It is pointed out that her mother's no octogenarian.


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