Saturday 18 November 2017

Review: Lifestyle: Prime Time by Jane Fonda

Vermillion, €13.99

First she was Sex Kitten Jane, then Hanoi Jane, then Keep Fit Jane, then I'm Married to a Media Tycoon Jane. Now, with the publication of her new memoir Prime Time, she's Sex in your Seventies Jane. Or maybe that should be Too Much Information Jane?

At 73, the award-winning actress has lived a thousand lives off the screen, with her incarnations including producer, political activist, philanthropist, exercise guru, author and trophy wife.

Even her own family has at times battled with the Oscar winner's infamous predilection to reinvent herself every few years.

When Fonda asked her daughter Vanessa to help her make an autobiographical video for her 60th birthday party, Vanessa helpfully suggested: "Why don't you just get a chameleon and let it crawl across the screen?"

Now, complete with a new hip, knee and face-lift, Fonda has found her latest calling: Help the Aged Jane.

Gushing that "I've never been happier", Fonda has written a how-to guide for American women on segueing from middle life to beyond, and how best to embrace life in the final "third act".

Fonda, who has already written one best-selling memoir, My Life so Far, interviews a host of gerontologists, sexologists, urologists, biologists, psychologists and sexually active older friends.

The book is part autobiographical -- we learn more about her distant father, her suicidal mother, her three divorces -- and part self-help. She dispenses advice on nutrition, exercise, health and friendship and gives the "lowdown on getting it up" in the twilight years.

Some of the advice on offer is rudimentary: Fonda's 11 "ingredients" to help successful ageing include some excessively basic tidbits about not abusing alcohol, getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet and remaining physically active.

Addressing an often awkward topic straight-on, Fonda offers advice for those readers in their 60s, 70s and beyond who are still sexually active, or who would like to be.

"Don't think for a minute that older folks aren't getting it on," Fonda writes. "Use it or lose it," she warns her readers about the danger of "shrinking vaginas", claiming that "vaginas that aren't being used have more problems with elasticity".

Fonda should know. "I was celibate for seven years after my marriage to Ted Turner and thought that was the end of it. I was wrong," she writes, before extolling the virtues of her current relationship with music producer Richard Perry (69), a man "who is not afraid of intimacy".

For septuagenarians and octogenarians without a partner, Fonda recommends masturbation -- preferably with a vibrator, lubricant and the help of a good book "so you are more relaxed".

"It will not only improve the health of your vagina but your general disposition, as well," she urges.

She includes a helpful list of popular vibrators and sex toys, and the best way to treat them.

"If cared for properly, good sex toys can last for many years," she says. (In some cases perhaps longer than their geriatric owners).

And then there are the practicalities of sex in your 70s and 80s when bodies may not be as limber as they once were.

Take "an anti-inflammatory ... 20 minutes before sex so you won't feel the aches and pains", Fonda says.

The cover of Prime Time is adorned with an age-defying photo of Fonda who looks whippet thin and appears to be a miracle of healthy eating, masterful airbrushing and crafty plastic surgery -- or perhaps all three.

"Yes, at 72 I had plastic surgery on my jaw line and under my eyes," she writes, before adding a tad defensively, "I don't think I look like someone else, but my face is less droopy, and that makes me feel better."

But even this paragon of plastic surgery and Hollywood reinvention confesses that age is finally catching up with her. "I choose shoes for comfort now, not style," she writes. "I don't rush across streets, I use railings and am careful to watch where I step."

Her writing can be pedestrian and her advice naive, as if everyone dwells in a world with plenty of time for self-improvement with few financial pressures. But fellow senior citizens may be willing to overlook all that, as she tries to strip away the taboo of talking about sex in the sunset years.

For men who suffer from erectile dysfunction, Fonda recommends drugs such as Viagra and Levitra to aid erections.

But she admits that sex in the third act of life can have its "senior moments".

"One night I took a sleeping pill just as my partner came in telling me he'd taken a Levitra," she writes. "We proceeded (lazily) down his chosen path and it was not uninteresting (hated to waste all that money), but we won't make that mistake again."

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