When I left the high school classroom in 1993, my life became eminently easier. I slept through the night, stopped biting my nails, spent Sundays in front of the television set, and reduced the amount of scotch that had seen me through 33 years of teaching high school English. However, the other part of my life was that I no longer had anyone to play with, no one to blame, no one to drive me nuts, to make me laugh and sometimes cry. I tried to fill in the blanks left by the kids and my pension by teaching at St. Mary’s College and in San Quentin, yet while the students at both institutions were admirable and occasionally challenging, the excitement, the thrill, the desperation, the boredom, the heightened experience of the high school classroom was not there. In short, my life lacked drama. So I made some.
In 1999, I put an ad in The New York Review of Books of books that went like this: “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.” And it worked: I found men to play with, some to blame, some to drive me nuts, to make me laugh and sometimes cry. So I wrote a book about it called A Round-Heeled Woman: My Late-Life Adventures in Sex and Romance.
My life no longer lacked drama. When people asked me – and people did all the time – why I waited until I was 67 to venture into such a world, I gave all sorts of answers: 30 years of celibacy, a successful psychoanalysis, and – just what I said above – I missed the classroom, knew I was too worn out to handle it any longer, so I made a new one. Everybody nodded an understanding yes to the first two, 30 years of celibacy and a good psychoanalysis; but when I tried to explain the classroom in all its variety, its intensity, interest waned. So I wrote a book. It’s called The Way It Used to Be: Tales out of School. It is waiting for a publisher.
So then I wrote another book, a follow-up to A Round-Heeled Woman, called Unaccompanied Women, available at your local bookstore.
And then I wrote a novel – why not? It is called The Ladies and is about three women who get rid of an odious neighbor. It, too, awaits a publisher.
My latest is a collection of essays most of them having something (but not all) to do with aging. Some have appeared in Vogue, Self, Madison, and in anthologies Single Woman of a Certain Age, Mommy Wars, and Behind the Bedroom Door. It, too, rests with my agent.
Photo of Jane Juska (c) Jon Freeman