How is your relationship with your mother? Strained? Smooth sailing? Sometimes good, sometimes not so good?
Well, for Erica Jong and her daughter Molly Jong-Fast, it’s strained, and it’s strained publicly in all its painful glory in this interview at NYMag.com. In it, the two women have a brief but telling conversation about sex; specifically, Erica’s unending curiosity about it, and Molly’s resultant prudishness.
Jong-Fast starts off on the very wrong foot, by being not just prudish but ageist. Observe:
E.J.: What I find interesting [after editing the anthology] is that the younger women writers are very reticent about sex, while the older women are very raunchy.
M.J.F.: Basically, the people who you would never want to have sex with, want to write about sex.
I understand she wants to set herself apart from her mother but that’s just…not very nice.
Still, what bothered me about the interview was more than that. In rejecting her mother’s sexuality, Jong-Fast, 32, presumes to represent our generation. “Your generation wants to write about having sex and not wearing bras; my generation wants to pick their kids up at school,” she tells Jong.
And you know what? To a certain extent, that’s true. Some time in the near future, I certainly would like to have kids that I will then pick up from school. But guess what? I also want to fantasize about zipless fucks and write about sex, be curious, experiment, and not be afraid to explore questions surrounding sexuality as I get older. Wanting to have a family and wanting to have an exploratory, dirty, fuck-filled sex life are not mutually exclusive, and it’s dangerous to suggest that they are. (I’d add, too, that Jong probably did her fair share of picking her daughter up from school.)
And it wasn’t just Jong-Fast’s “daughters of the second wave are prudes” talking points that bothered me – it was her attitude. Case in point:
E.J.: I married my first lover.
M.J.F.:Ugghhh. Lover? Lover is a disgusting word. It makes me want to throw up. It’s a Plato’s Retreatword. This idea of commitment, that was something I had to learn. It was not something my mother’s generation was aware of.
So at 32, a) it still bothers Jong-Fast that her mother talks about sex, and b) she has nothing more insightful to say about marrying the first person you sleep with than to pull a Glenn Beck over the word “lover”? I might never know what it’s like to live under the shadow of a parent like Erica Jong, and snarkiness certainly has it’s place (for instance, it can be a fun tool when blogging). But Fear of Flying influenced millions of people because of its bravery and honesty. If our contribution as a generation is to act like 12-year-old boys when it comes to sex, we are not headed in the right direction.