Fear of Flying

Erica Jong


When I got back to the hotel at five-thirty Bennett was waiting. He didn’t ask me where I’d been, but he put his arms around me and started undressing me. He made love to me, to Adrian’s slime, to our triangle in all senses of the word. He had never been as passionate and tender, and I had rarely been so excited. That he was a much better lover than Adrian was clear. It was also clear that Adrian had made a difference in our lovemaking, had made us appreciate each other in a new way. We touched each other completely. Suddenly I was as valuable to Bennett as if he had fallen in love with me for the very first time.

We took a bath together and splashed water at each other. We soaped each other’s backs. I was a little appalled at my own promiscuity, that I could go from one man to another and feel so glowing and intoxicated. I knew I would have to pay for it later with the guilt and misery which I alone know how to give myself in such good measure. But right now I was happy. I felt properly appreciated for the first time. Do two men perhaps add up to one whole person? […]

At times I was defiant and thought I had every right to snatch whatever pleasure was offered to me for the duration of my short time on earth. Why shouldn’t I be happy and hedonistic? What was wrong with it? I knew that the women who got most out of life (and out of men) were the ones who demanded most, that if you acted as if you were valuable and desirable, men found you valuable and desirable, that if you refused to be a doormat, nobody could tread on you. I knew that servile women got walked on and women who acted like queens got treated that way. But no sooner had my defiant mood passed than I would be seized with desolation and despair, I would feel terrified of losing both men and being left all alone, I would feel sorry for Bennett, curse myself for my disloyalty, despise myself utterly for everything. Then I wanted to run to Bennett and plead forgiveness, throw myself at his feet, offer to bear him twelve children immediately (mainly to cement my bondage), promise to serve him like a good slave in exchange for any bargain as long as it included security. I would become servile, cloying, saccharinely sweet: the whole package of lies that passes in the world as femininity.

The fact was that neither one of these attitudes made any sense and I knew it. Neither dominating nor being dominated. Neither bitchiness nor servility. Both were traps. Both led nowhere except toward the loneliness both were designed to avoid. But what could I do? The more I hated myself, the more I hated myself for hating myself. It was hopeless.


Erica Jong, excerpts from Fear of Flying (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1973, pp. 138-140. Copyright © 1973, 1999, 2013 by Erica Mann Jong. Reprinted by permission of the author. You have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferrable right to access and read the text of these excerpts on screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, de-compiled, reverse-engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereafter invented, without the express written permission of Erica Mann Jong.

Published in: The Posen Library of Jewish Culture and Civilization, vol. 10.

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