Stella McCartney

Anne Philippi meets Erica Jong

©Collage / Julia Zierer

There she sits in front of a glass of water and a plate with biscuits, wearing a blouse in ocher-blue. Her eyes stand out just like new diamonds, the gaze is focused. Her aura is that of a real “No kidding” New Yorker. Probably she’s always been that way.

Erica Jong, 73, does not at all seem like one of those sweet, elderly ladies, who answers all kinds of pointless questions. Thus, only one for starters: “Which marriage is the best? The fourth marriage is the best, says Erica Jong while making the perfect pout. The woman is a writer and has sorted out the most important things in her life. But first things first: a, her husband, the one from the fourth marriage, informed her in writing her on a table napkin, that she could write about anything in their life and he would be “ok” with it. Forever. He was serious about the napkin. The two have been married for 20 years. Secondly, Erica’s daughter Molly does not read her mother’s work, however she’s been addressed to Jong’s books since her early youth and now describes how she lives it. This has made her a writer herself. For example in “Lenny“, the Newsletter by Lena Dunham.

In 1973 Jong becomes an icon, as an author who seemed to speak for many women, developing a new sense of self at this time. Her novel Fear of Flying tells of such a woman, who breaks out of a marriage. In the novel Erica invents and coins the term “Zipless Fuck”, a technique practiced by her heroine. Sex without commitment, without wedding ring. Back then, this was not casual Tinder-sex, but a scandal. The book is a bestseller: women leave their husbands, leaving loveless marriages behind. “Many said to me then, I no longer feel like a freak. You understand me.”

Erica’s new book is called Fear of Dying and by that she tries to be “her very own Philip Roth”. This means: She wants to write about a woman in her sixties, just like she does in the new book: outright and with a good sense of humor. “My concern is to describe each stage in a woman’s life.” This stage is certainly the riskiest. How do you describe sex and fear of death, if you’re no longer 30 and everyone thinks you’re cool? By laughing about it! The facial features of the main character are different than in Fear of Flying, but her heart, and her mind are the same. You don’t get older in that respect, says Jong and we believe her.

The nice thing about Erica is: you don’t really think about the question of aging in her presence. Erica decided to stay nice and smooth for as long as possible. “Today we do not need plastic surgery anymore, there are other means that we can apply. Filler and Botox, there are many new techniques. However, we also do not need women to make fun of cosmetic operations of other women. For me, that is a new form of sexism. And actually the worst of all.” But Erica does not want to talk about all of that so much, because there is still a trip to the Berlin concept store “The Corner” ahead and Erica decidedly doesn’t look for German fashion. “The fashion here is kind of unchic. I do not like that. After all, we do not want to fall apart.”

Portrait Anne Philippi

Anne Philippi contributed to the Berlin pages of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Vogue and the German issue of Vanity Fair until 2009. She moved to Los Angeles, with a focus on interviewing Hollywood personalities. Today she partly lives in Berlin and published a book called “Giraffen”, a story that deals with the consequences of a so called existence of glamour.