Jong did more than just inspire me to write. Infact, ‘How to save your own life’ (which is where the famous line from above is from), a paperback, much cello taped version that was lying in the vast library of books I had growing up, was the book in which I read my first ever sex scene. And it was the book in which I first even realized what sex was, what fit in where, my own 6th grade sex ed class, my own community hippie parents explaining it to me over supper, breaking the news to me in a fun, not grossly uncomfortable way, and mostly that it was a wonderful experience. The fact that sex lead to procreation was actually something I realized much, much later. I was eleven.
The book also therefore, inadvertently shaped much of my sex life. Subconsciously of course. It made me not put too much thought into losing my virginity, relieved me of that burdensome guilt. It taught me how to actually enjoy the act. To have sex for the sake of pleasure and not because I wanted to please someone. It made my early twenties seem almost sublime. I felt all the chutzpah a young girl should feel. I winged it like Jong.
What the book didn’t teach me was how to deal with my twenties in India, as an, at the heart of it all; love sick soul. I couldn’t wing it and walk away. I couldn’t pretend I had those hippie commune bred parents who’d throw flowers on my cosmic copulating bed, I couldn’t be constantly torn between serial monogamy and one true love. Especially since I realized slowly that I only wanted the latter.
I couldn’t be like Isadora Wing. I couldn’t be like Erica Jong. When I went back to say goodbye to my house before it got torn down a few months ago, I found the book and re-read it in one sitting. But this time, the book seemed lost and vapid. Not unlike the state it was physically in (it was about to die a silver fish eaten death). The Isadora who had overwhelmed me with her ziplessness, suddenly seemed depraved and deranged. Lonely and deluded.
I almost felt like what Jongs daughter Molly had articulated in her memoirs – ‘Girl, Maladjusted’ , of living under her mothers sexual shadow, ‘of the emptiness she encountered in trying to live out the sexual liberties lauded in her mothers work’.
It was a coming of age of some sort for me. I suddenly felt free of the book. Free of what it had subconsciously alluded to me in some way at that pliable age.
And then again I realized, it had done me just that…. I had something to blame.