When Isadora Wing set off on a journey of self-discovery back in the 70s, she was attempting to remove herself from the stifling expectations imposed upon her gender.  She travelled from tryst to tryst, trying to mimic the voraciousness and emotional detachment of the men around her, thinking that their cavalier attitude was somehow better than her own. 

And didn’t we eat it up?  Fear of Flying was on everybody’s bookshelf, dog-eared, the juiciest pages highlighted or dirty with constant rereading.  Those passages were not the drippy accounts of love lost and found, but the reports of a clinician banging her way through the urban landscape, looking for that ultimate coupling which would somehow propel her into greater understanding of herself and the world. 

Strange, is it not, that despite her best efforts to minimize the effects of past conditioning, she expected sex to launch her into nirvana?  Instead, she got a string of variable encounters and ultimately was no closer to ‘flying’ than when she started. 

What was she if not another woman looking in on the lodge mentality of men and thinking that their secret lives were more exciting and liberated than her own?  Isadora grew up in the purdah of the 50s: women scrubbing dishes and making beds in one room, while the men smoked and exchanged ribaldries in another.  With the gender lines so rigidly drawn, it was only natural to speculate on what actually took place in the enemy camp. 

The speculations, as this heroine eventually discovered, were wildly off-mark.  It wasn’t her notion that men move, without remorse, from lover to lover that was wrong, but the reasons for such behavior were incorrect. They did not seek, as she did, to find themselves via intercourse with another; they already knew who they were.  Casual sex, sex without commitment, the zipless fuck, was just an expression of who they were, but not the definition.

In the thirty-plus years since Isadora took to the skies,  we have come full circle.  Young women are again eager to cross gender role lines by embracing the gangster ways of boys, making sport of sex and trivializing the relationship of parent to child.  As if the monikers ‘Baby Mama’ and ‘Baby Daddy’ weren’t anonymous enough….  

In some ways, they’re leaving behind the dowdy traditions of their mothers, neo-puritan women who screwed their way through the 70s and 80s only to reinvent themselves as virtuous housewives, shuttling the kids to soccer games.   Nobody wants to be associated with the excesses of those decades even though they enjoyed them.  But it doesn’t matter whether these newly sanctified matrons are living a lie; their daughters believe them.

If contemporary parents think their little girls are behaving, they’re even more deluded than the 1950s counterparts.  At least Ozzie and Harriet could actually claim ignorance.



  1. Caroline Says:

    I still have it on one of my shelves, although it may have been shoved to the back a bit. You were right to say that it made a big impact on a lot of us. I remember when I bought it, I felt a bit embarrassed. Thank God we have the Internet nowadays!

    I see you really got the hang of “blogdesign” now. It looks absolutely great. Very classy too! Keep up the good work!!

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