At age 76, Susan Faludi's father underwent sex reassignment surgery. When Stephen became Stefanie, the feminist writer sets out on a journey to better understand her father -- an exploration that becomes an inquiry into the meaning of identity.
No one looking at Jane Fonda today would consider her “over the hill.” The seventy-three-year-old author, actress, and workout pioneer looks to be in the prime of her life. In her best-selling memoir, My Life So Far, Fonda focused on the first half of her life – which she calls Acts I and II — with an eye toward preparing for a vibrant Act III. Now, she has written a new book that explores how this third act can be an opportunity to become the people we were always meant to be. She explores how re-thinking exercise, diet, and relationships can transform the so-called golden years. Jane Fonda talks with Diane about her life today and why she is the happiest she’s ever been.
- Jane Fonda actress, producer, activist, philanthropist, and author.
Jane Fonda responds to a caller, a self-identified Vietnam veteran, who thanked her for her protests against the war:
Diane asks actress and author Jane Fonda about her decision to have plastic surgery:
Read an Excerpt
Excerpted from “Prime Time” by Jane Fonda. Copyright 2011 by Jane Fonda. Excerpted here by kind permission of Random House:
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Jane Fonda says she's the happiest she's ever been. The actress, workout pioneer and political activist calls life at age 73 and a half her third act. In a new book, she offers a blueprint for living well in our later years, making the most of everything from fitness to friendship to sex.
MS. DIANE REHMThe book is titled "Prime Time" and Jane Fonda joins me in the studio. You're welcome to join us as well, 800-433-8850. Send us your e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to join us on Facebook or send us a tweet. How nice to see you.
MS. JANE FONDAI'm just thrilled to be sitting opposite you and looking at your beautiful face.
FONDAI love your show so much.
REHMYou look wonderful.
FONDAThank you, I feel great.
REHMYou do feel great.
FONDAWho would have thought, you know. I did not expect -- First of all, I never expected to live this long and I never expected to be happier than ever. You know, and that's so. I thought to myself, well, am I unique or is this common to a lot of people? And if so, why aren't we talking about it?
REHMBut, you know, I think, in a way, you planned for it. I think when you were in your 40s, you saw your father aging, you saw him die. But prior to that, you worked with him on "On Golden Pond." I think that's when you kind of started making your plans to live a good, long life.
FONDAWell, I mean, I don't know whether -- it wasn't conscious at any rate, although, yes, when I was watching him die, that was when I realized that it wasn't death that scares me. It's getting to the end of life with regrets when it's too late to do anything about it. And the regrets are almost always what you didn't do.
FONDAYou know, why didn't I tell her I loved her? Why didn't I do this? Why didn't I do that? And so if you realize that, then it informs how you're going to live the last act of your life. You want to live it in such a way that you won't get to the end with too many regrets.
REHMBut it does seem to me that for a great many people, getting older is tough. There are illnesses. There are problems with family. There is loss of a job. There's lack of money. People have tons of problems to get through. But you have lots of advantages. You're healthy. You're athletic. You've kept your body strong. You've kept your mind going and you've got plenty of money.
FONDALet me say two things about that, Diane. That is all true and yet there's been studies done. There was one, a very large study done of 350,000 Americans from very young age to very old age and what it showed is that most people over 50 tend to be happier, less hostile, less stressed, less anxious. The scientists don't entirely understand why, but they postulate certain things that make sense to me.
FONDAAnd this includes, it doesn't matter if you're a man, a woman, married, single, rich or poor, life tends to get easier, not for everyone, but for the majority. Why? You have a long backward perspective. You can see. You've been there. You've done that. It didn't kill you.
REHMYou don't have to go there again.
FONDAYou don't have to go there again, you know. You know where the tiger is lurking in the bush. You don't have to keep hyper-vigilant, you know. You know what you don't really need. You can let go of so much. And I know that that's true for me. You know, I suffered from depression for a certain part of my life and both my mother and father had depression. And when I was in my 40s, I would wake up every morning and my first dozen thoughts would be negative.
FONDAThen, I began to find that wasn't true anymore. And I don't want to romanticize aging, but the other thing that I've noticed, however, is that even people who are sick and I've met a number of them. I interviewed a number of them. I did a lot of research for my book. Many people are sick, but they don't feel sick. Do you know, they have things wrong with them, all the way to Stephen Hawking, the great physicist, you know, who's had Lou Gehrig's disease for 50 years and yet he has a sense of humor. He's writing a new book.
FONDAThere are a number of, many, many people like that who, although they're not physically in top shape, they don't feel sick because other things come into their lives, including wisdom, including consciousness, spirituality, ease, all kinds of things. So I'm not just, you know, me, this privileged person who is, you know, just because I'm happy or -- it means everyone is. No, the science shows, the research shows, that it's true for most people.
REHMYou know, it's interesting, you talk about two modes of thinking about what the aging process is going to be. You've drawn diagrams, an arch on the one hand, a stairway upward on the other. Talk about those two.
FONDAWell, this was a concept that Dr. Rudolf Arnheim, the late professor at Harvard he set up. The arch is the old paradigm for aging. You're born. You peak at midlife and then you decline into decrepitude. But there's another way of looking at it, which is mounting a staircase. And he would talk to his students about Beethoven, about -- you know. Beethoven, I just did a play that Beethoven was a character in. Beethoven did his best work when he was dying and after death.
FONDAMonet suffered from macular degeneration. He was almost blind when he did his greatest works. That even though you may have physical infirmities, you see, maybe that, even that slowing down allows you to go deeper conceptually, to see things differently. You know, he used Monet as an example of how when you get older you don't see differences, you see essences.
FONDAYou see commonalities. Perhaps that's what the Impressionists were capturing. You know the street lights became like angels and I quote -- there's a great poem in my book that I quote about Monet. Anyway, I think our goal needs to be mounting the staircase and it's particularly important now because we live so long.
FONDAOn average, Americans live 34 years longer than our grandparents and great grandparents so what to do with this second adult lifetime that we've been granted? Why not do all we can to make the best of it?
REHMYou're in a particularly unique position now because, as you said, you didn't even expect to live this long, nor did I. You watched your father as you made that last movie with him "On Golden Pond." Katherine Hepburn was also in that movie and you and she began to really share a bond.
FONDAI write about her in my book "Prime Time." One of the things that gerontologists say is important to successful aging is generativity. This is a term coined by Erik Erikson and it means nurturing and paying attention to younger people, taking seriously your role as elder. People who do this tend to have a more successful third act. Viktor Frankl in a book called "Man's Search for Meaning" says architects, if they want to strengthen an old arch, what do they do? They add weight to it.
FONDAKatherine Hepburn had weight to her old arch because she shouldered the burden and responsibility and joy of being an elder. She took me under her wing and passed on to me so much wisdom. And she is a perfect example to me of someone who used generativity to age well.
REHMI should tell our listeners that this hour is being video-recorded and will be available later this afternoon so they can see for themselves just how wonderful you are at this moment.
FONDAAnd you, too, I might add.
REHMJane Fonda is here, her new book titled "Prime Time" and the subtitle "Luck, health, sex, fitness, friendship, spirit - making the most of all of your life". Join us 800-433-8850. Send us your e-mail to email@example.com One of the things that Katherine Hepburn took time to do each day was to keep a journal.
FONDAYes. And you know what she told me? She said one of the things that I write the most about are my failures. She said, I've discovered you learn much more from your failures and your pains than you do from your successes. And I found that...
REHMDo you feel the same way?
FONDAAbsolutely, absolutely. It's in the moments of tremendous pain and crisis that I have found I begin to deepen and grow as a human being, if you allow it to happen.
REHMWhat would you argue is your greatest failure from which you have learned the most?
FONDAWell, I think my -- I've been married and divorced three times. My last two marriages -- the ending of those marriages were extremely painful to me and I allowed myself -- you know, everyone said, well, you've got to stay busy because I had a nervous breakdown. Stay busy, you know. I said, no. I have to be very still. I have to try to understand what I'm supposed to learn here. And it was in the midst of the pain, tendrils of a new consciousness, awareness, being -- began to be born.
REHMJane Fonda, her book "Prime Time." Do join us, 800-433-8850. Short break and we'll be right back.
REHMWe're talking about marriage and Jane asked me how long John and I have been married, which is 52 years.
FONDAOh, I'm so jealous.
REHMAre you really?
FONDAOh, I am. It's something that I'll never have. And I interviewed a lot of people -- or a number of people who've been married for a long time like you.
REHMAnd what did you learn from them?
FONDAWell, I learned what it is that can hold people together. I mean, these are people who are in good relationships. They didn't just stay together, you know, just because why not. Physical attraction, humor, liking to talk to each other, it can grow deeper. And I could feel -- talking to these people, I could feel what it must be like to have been with someone that long and to have that love grow deeper. I'll never know that.
REHMYou've been with someone now for a number of years.
FONDACouple of years.
REHMAnd you're never gonna get married again.
FONDAWell, why, you know? I've done it three times. There's no reason to get married. It makes me -- the thought of it even makes me claustrophobic.
FONDABut it's fun to have a companion.
REHMYou are still very much in touch with your last husband, Ted Turner.
REHMDo you see him often?
FONDAI see him about five, six times a year. I'm close to his children. I just took his daughter and grandchildren -- or my grandchildren out to lunch recently in Atlanta. No, we stay close.
REHMAnd you have your own children and grandchildren. There are photographs in "Prime Time" of you, one I especially love, dressed up like an Easter bunny.
FONDAYeah, that's the family ritual. I have a full suit of Easter bunny and I like to do Easter egg hunts and I like rituals and that's one of them.
REHMAbsolutely. How about your body image? Do you still struggle with that?
FONDANot as much as I used to. But one of the things that surprised me when I was doing research for my book "Prime Time" was how important it is later in life to stay physically active. I mean, I've exercised all my life, but I didn't realize the extent to which the age-related changes that happen in your body, the loss of muscle, the thinning of bones, the shrinkage of the brain, especially the frontal cortex, which is the seat of executive planning, the hardening of arteries and things like that. All of that can be mitigated or lessened by staying physically active.
FONDASo the activity is less the kind of thing I used to do that, you know, how am I gonna look and I want to be thin. It's more about function, staying independent, being able to carry your own bag, being able to lift your grandchildren, being able to look over your shoulder so you can back down the driveway. You know, that's a biggie. So you have to stay flexible, you have to maintain balance. You have to try to maintain some degree of muscle mass, which, you know, you don't want to lose 'cause if you lose muscle, your metabolism drops and then you gain even more weight.
FONDAEating is another thing. You know, I've always tried to eat healthily, but it's way more important when you're older, and I talk about that in the book. You have to eat fewer calories and every calorie has to count. They can't be empty calories.
REHMWhat kinds of exercise are you doing now...
FONDAWell, I do...
REHM...that's different from what you did at one point?
FONDAWell, it's very different. I have a fake hip and a fake knee so I can't run. I can't do anything that has impact. I do everything slower, but I embrace the slowing down. I feel it's quite beautiful. Your body forces you to slow down, but then you can go deeper into things. I like not being able to rush anymore. I do cardiovascular work. I do -- I lift weights and do resistance work. I work on my balance. I have terrible balance. I fall over...
REHMSo do I.
FONDASo I have to really increase -- you can improve your balance through practice and I -- and flexibility, all those things.
REHMDo you use that (word?) to try to keep your...
FONDAI do, yes.
REHMThat's the thing I have the hardest time with...
REHM...is that silly (word?) .
FONDAYou know, I do -- I made some -- I got back into the exercise business because when I realized the importance of exercising and staying active when you're older, I thought, well, who better than me? I'm old . I can't do everything I used to do so I'm going to be able to do programs for people, some of whom maybe have never worked out in their lives. One of the things that I do is practice balance. And you can see very clearly that it's all I can do to keep from falling over.
REHMWhat about returning to both stage and film to keep your head sharp?
FONDAWell, a year ago, I did a movie in French and part of it was 'cause I wanted to keep my brain sharp. I hadn't done a movie in French for 40 years. And it was a lot of fun. The brain part is really interesting because it's not just -- if you've always done crossword puzzles or quilting or whatever, that's great, but to keep your brain plastic and healthy you have to do new things.
FONDAYou know, learn a new language, learn a musical instrument. You know, I'm going to start -- I was going to learn Tai Chi, but I think I'm going to do tap. I'm going to try taking tap.
FONDAYeah. I saw a play, "Anything Goes" recently and I was so impressed I want to get into tap. I'm taking tennis lessons. I've never played tennis before.
REHMHow wonderful for you to do that. But you've got to be easy on that hip and that knee.
FONDAYeah, can't run around a lot.
FONDASo the teacher has to hit the balls right to me.
REHMAll right. Now, I'm going to ask a very personal question. The last time you were here in 2005, I said to you that I was never going to get a facelift because I wanted my children to grow old -- see me grow old.
REHMYou were noncommittal. What did you decide?
FONDAWell, last year, I had plastic surgery and I have been very public about it. I had bags removed from under my eyes and, you know, some waddles taken out from under my chin. And I'll tell you why I did it. I -- you know, I feel so good and I would walk by a store window and catch a sight of myself and it was like, oh, who's that?
REHMYou were surprised.
FONDAYeah, I don't feel like that person in that reflection looks like. And I decided that I wanted to look more like how I feel. And, you know, if I wasn't an actress, maybe I wouldn't do it, but I wanted to get back into the business. You know, I quit the business for 15 years, 10 to be with Ted Turner and 5 to write my memoirs. And now I'm getting back into movies and I want to buy myself a little time. So I did it and I'm not proud of it. You know, I really admire Vanessa Redgrave, my dear friend who has this great face who also is...
FONDA...you know, gives -- wants to bring the face of aging into the culture and she does it so beautifully. I'm not quite that brave. And I grew up -- I was really -- the messages I received growing up was if you're not perfect, you won't be loved. And while I've overcome that maybe 85 percent, I still -- that lingers, you know. I do worry about how I look too much, I think.
REHMIt was your dad who said that to you.
FONDAWell, he didn't say it, but he communicated it to me.
FONDAWell, he would complain if I wore a belt that was too tight or a bathing suit that was too small or a shirt that was too -- you know, too short. He -- you know, I will never forget. Gary Cooper and his wife Rocky were friends of my father's. And their daughter Maria was a close friend of mine, Maria Cooper. And she reminded me -- I interviewed her for my book and she said, you know, one day we went to the beach and she said, my mother told me that your father said Maria's -- Jane's got the body, but Maria's got the face. And it really stunned -- first of all...
FONDA... it stunned me that Rocky told her that, but also it made me realize how objectified I was. He objectified me. He didn't mean to. He wasn't a bad person. That was -- it was just the way he was brought up, I guess.
REHMDid he do the same with your brother?
FONDAIt wasn't -- I don't think he thought it was as important for men to look a certain way. However, he did feel that men were supposed to be a certain way. They were supposed to be -- you know, never cry, don't be a sissy...
FONDA...don't be a mama's boy, be heroic. And that was very hard on my brother. You know, women were supposed to be this way, men were supposed to be that way. And, you know, it made it hard for both of us. But I -- you know, I write -- one of the most important things that I did and I write about this in "Prime Time" -- one of the reasons that I feel this sense of wellbeing now is that I did -- what I came to discover is called a life review. I went back and really researched myself as a young child and growing up.
FONDAI researched my parents. Who were they? They were both dead so I had to find people who knew them. And what that does is it shows you it really had nothing to do with you. It wasn't me. They had their own issues. And then you can forgive them and you can forgive yourself, you know.
REHMI think it's such an important thing to do.
REHMIt frees you...
FONDAIt frees you.
REHM...from the sense that everything that happened was your fault.
REHMAnd you are now your own person.
FONDAI'm my own person. You know, the great writer Viktor Francl, he wrote a book called "Man's Search for Meaning." And in it, he said, everything in life can be taken from you except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to a situation. The feelings that you choose to cling to about certain events and realities in your life. Now then, scientists -- cognitive scientists say that when you have certain responses over and over again, negative responses to events or realities or people, it creates neuropath ways in your brain. Chemical and electrical signals are sent to your brain.
REHMAnd it's habit.
FONDAAnd it becomes hardwired...
FONDA...and it can cause a lot of stress. And stress is really bad when you're older. If you can, through a life review -- and I talk in the book about how to do a life review -- or through meditation or cognitive therapy, you can alter the way you respond to things in your past. New circuits are created in your brain that are healthier for you. And that becomes hardwired. You have a new way of looking at life.
REHMI went through cognitive therapy. What kind of therapy did you have?
FONDAWell, it was a type of cognitive therapy that also it was a lot of work with the body, with breathing. And it was -- I did it so that I could try to save my marriage to Ted, but it ended up saving me. It was very, very helpful.
FONDABut on top of that -- thank you. And on top of that, I've learned to meditate, which was very hard for me to do. It took me a long time. But one of my favorite chapters in my book is called the "Work In." You know, everybody associates me with the workout, but what is really good to do when you get older is a work in. You go inward and I learned to meditate and that's made all the difference in the world to me.
REHMSo how much time do you spend each day meditating?
FONDAI don't do it every day.
FONDABut I do it for anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes maybe three, four times a week. I do it when I need it, which is a lot of the time.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Jane Fonda is here. Her new book is titled "Prime Time." And in it she talks about love, health, sex, fitness, friendship, spirit in all -- making the most of all of your life." Let's open the phones now, 800-433-8850. Let's go to Lakewood, Ohio. Good morning, Joan, you're on the air.
JOANGood morning, Diane. Ms. Fonda, back in the mid '70s, I worked on Capitol Hill for Congressman J. Edward Roush. He was from Indiana. You used to come in to -- make an appointment to come in and talk to him. And I have to admit we were a little nervous because we thought we were expecting this formidable woman walking in, and got a warm and gracious Jane Fonda instead.
JOANAnd the one thing I remember is you once told Mr. Roush that he reminded you of Jimmy Stewart. And he was -- he floated for about a week after that. And he gave standing orders that whenever you called you got put through. I just turned 59 and I haven't read your book -- I turned 59 last Monday, so I'm looking forward to it because my goal right now is to match my mom. When she was 80, she could do 75 full blown pushups.
JOANAnd at the gym, her trainer used to hold her up to the guys in the gym and say, if she can do it, you can do it. My goal is to at least do 50 full pushups to match my mom.
REHMI'm sure you'll make it, Joan. And happy birthday, too.
FONDAHappy birthday. You're about to begin your third act.
REHMDo you remember those visits with Congressman Roush?
FONDAI remember Congressman Roush. I remember all of the people that I met with. And I -- it was an incredibly wonderful experience for me. I remember Senator Fulbright. I remember, you know, lots of them. And I was glad I had the experience of lobbying. That was to end the war in Vietnam.
REHMWhole different group of members of Congress.
FONDAYes. And, you know, the biggest difference, as far as I can see, is there was civility. Republicans and Democrats talked to each other, they worked together, they compromised together. I pray to God that we get that back.
REHMIndeed. Thanks for calling, Joan. Now to Syracuse, Ind. Good morning, Christine.
CHRISTINEGood morning, Diane. Fifty-seven years old. My question to Jane is -- I know she's a born-again Christian and I'm not interested in her personal point of view, because that's kind of singular and quite personal, but how has becoming a born-again Christian altered or changed your perspective about what used to be -- you know, you were a political opponent, and I'm curious as to how your perspective has changed as far as your Christianity.
CHRISTINEAnd then my comment is I'm curious how your father never saw how much you and your brother looked just exactly like him. You know, see photographs of your mother, but boy, oh boy, you two both look like dad. So was he saying that he wasn't enamored with his own looks?
FONDAOh, I don't know about that, but I'm interested when you said I was a political opponent. Opponent of what?
CHRISTINEYou were an opponent of the war back then.
CHRISTINEYou were more of a political advocate. I remember you in your second husband's campaign. And how has become a born-again Christian changed your attitude...
FONDAWell, I worry about the word born-again because it's associated with a type of fundamentalism that I do not identify with. I am a Christian. Becoming a Christian, which happened to me when I was 58 years old -- and a lot of it had to do with the fact that I moved from Hollywood to Georgia, thanks to Ted Turner, and began to meet people that I loved and admired a lot, like Andy Young, like Jimmy Carter and others who I would talk to incessantly about their faith, what it meant to them, what it looked like, what it felt like. And I became a Christian in 1958 -- when I was 58 and it made all the difference in my life.
REHMJane Fonda. Her new book is titled "Prime Time."
REHMAnd we're back. Jane Fonda is here in the studio. She's looking as glamorous and into it as ever. And, of course, she writes about much of her life now that she is 73 and a half and into what she calls her third act, which she titles, "Prime Time." That's the name of her book. We're going to take as many calls, as many of your e-mail as possible.
REHMHere's one from Steve who says, "You have the most political movie star in the history of movies in the studio and you haven't asked her whether she's still opposed to war."
FONDAOf course, I'm opposed to war. I mean, who wouldn't be opposed to war. Yes, I'm opposed to war. I'm opposed to violence. I -- one of the things that I focus on now in this third act is trying to address the question and stop violence against women and girls, which happens worldwide. I work with the young girls and boys in Georgia still. My nonprofits are there and I, you know, I try to do what I can, you know.
REHMWar is very much with us. You had your own experience as you protested the war in Vietnam. Why do you believe there have been so few protests regarding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, in Libya?
FONDAYeah. I think it's complicated now. You know, we were attacked, huh. It's very, very different than Vietnam where, you know, this was a people far, far away. They never attacked us or threatened us. There was a draft and so we were more viscerally involved across the board. I think that starting with the -- after 911 the government -- it was the Bush Administration then was very clever at manipulating public opinion in such a way that we supported going into Iraq, even though it was the wrong place to be.
FONDAI think it's complicated now. And I also think that, well, people don't know quite what to do now about it. It's hard. I think the economy is one of the things, more than anything, that's going to force us to stop going to war. We just can't afford it anymore.
REHMI think you're right. Let's go back to the phones to Cape Cod, Mass., good morning, Tom, you're on the air.
TOMGood morning, Jane and Diane, it's a privilege. I'm 54. And when I was 25, I had a cancer experience and it's -- and what you talked about in accepting all these issues, it's kind of resolved learning to live with wisdom. And I came across an expression that I just wanted to get your comment on. Where does -- wisdom is where powerlessness ends and responsibility begins.
TOMAnd, I think, and -- as I've aged, through cancer and other decisions in my life, learning where I can have effect and where I can let things go has been really a critical thing. And I'd just like to hear how that has affected Jane's life. Thank you.
FONDAOh, what you said, I think, is so true. A great part of wisdom is knowing what to let go, what you don't need, what you can overlook. And that's why when you get older, you can become so much lighter. It's -- I'm touched by what you say because, I think, through adversity, emotional or physical types of adversity, you can become somebody who is truly, truly wise.
REHMYou, too, experienced cancer of the breast.
FONDALast October, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was noninvasive. It was a lump. It was taken out. I'm lucky.
REHMSo you know...
FONDAI totally relate to what he says, yes. I thank you.
REHMAll right. And to Terry in Gainesville, Fla., good morning.
TERRYGood morning. It's such a privilege to talk to both of you.
TERRYYou're both my heroes. I'm 64, also, and I've been married 44 years in November.
REHMGood for you.
TERRYAnd my wife is my best friend as well as...
TERRY...all the other things. I love her and...
TERRY(unintelligible) it really helps to add different outlooks on the world. It gives you something to talk about and argue about and...
TERRY...and come to different understandings about.
TERRYAnd the only thing I worry about as I age is I hate the thought of us going separately.
FONDAYeah. Do you have other intimate friends besides your wife? You know, one of the reasons, I think, that aging is easier for women is that we tend to have broader intimate social networks than men do. And so it's -- it's very hard when men lose their significant other, their spouse, and they don't have a backup system. And I write in my book about how we -- how important a social network is and how important it is to have friends that will be there with you after your partner goes.
TERRYWell, you know, it's tough for me. I'm a Vietnam veteran. I was a rifle squad leader in 1968 and '69.
FONDAUm-hum. Oh, those were difficult years there.
TERRYYou're not wrong with that. I wanted to say thank you because it didn't take me long being on the ground in Vietnam before I was against the war, as well.
FONDAThank you for saying that. I -- I've heard that from many, many vets.
TERRY(unintelligible) You and Mohammad Ali will always be in my heart for...
FONDAOh, thank you.
TERRY(unintelligible) when it was so difficult to do it.
FONDAThank you, thank you so much for that.
REHMAnd Andrew posts this message on Facebook, "How does Jane deal with all the negativity that's heaped on her even after so many years about her visit to North Vietnam during the war?"
FONDAIt makes me sad because I take responsibility for the mistake that I made. The photograph that was taken of me sitting on a gun, it was a terrible, terrible thing that -- that took place in just a second. And the minute it happened, I realized this is terrible. The other things that are said about me, they're lies. And so they don't really -- you know, I -- they're not -- I don't carry those because they're just lies. So it makes me...
REHMGive me an example.
FONDAWell, I mean, there are these terrible lies that are spread that I did things to POWs, that I caused them to be tortured, that I turned them in, betrayed -- all these things that go on. It's gone on since the end of the '90s. No one quite knows who's behind it, but it keeps hate alive. And that makes me very sad because one of the most important things in getting older is forgiveness.
FONDALetting go of hate. You can't really be a fully realized, happy person if you're harboring hate, especially hate that's based on lies, but even hate that's based on truth. You've got to let it go. I think some people have a hard time letting go of hate because then they'll be left with pain.
FONDAAnd they don't know how to handle the pain. There's so much misunderstanding about the war in Vietnam. It's still a deep scar in our country's psyche and so it makes me sad when this manifests the way it does. And I -- the people who keep it going are very sad people. I feel sorry for them.
REHMDo you think that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will leave that kind of sadness, anger, disappointment?
FONDAI think it's different. I don't think it will be quite the same, but what it will leave is tens of thousands of young people with PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder, and brain injuries. I mean, it's enormous, the damage that's being done to these young lives, maybe even more than in Vietnam. And, you know, that will live on. It will live on and it's our responsibility.
REHMJane Fonda in this book, "Prime Time," you talk about sex in the third act. Tell us about your views on sex in the third act.
FONDAWell, I do -- I devote several chapters to it, but I say at the beginning, look, there's no one way to do your third act. For a lot of people, they've closed up shop down there. You know, they've done it, they -- maybe they had a wonderful marriage and they don't feel like starting over again with somebody else, maybe they never had a very, you know, large libido.
FONDAAnd, you know, a lot of women are relieved that it's over and then, suddenly, along comes Viagra and it's, like, no, I thought that I'd -- that had been put to rest. But for those people who are interested in remaining sexually active, it's important to know what happens to the body and how we can deal with it so as to continue to have safe and pleasurable sex.
FONDAAnd it's very hard to find this out. A lot of people don't go to sex therapists or they don't ask their doctors about what to do when certain things happen. And so I decided that I was going to do a whole lot of research on it and I was going to write about it. And it's one of the things that makes my book unusual. You know, I write about things like spirit and wisdom and ascending the staircase, but I also write about, in a lot of detail, about how to have happy, pleasurable sex.
REHMAnd part of that, for a great many people, may be the warmth and touch of skin.
FONDAI remember I interviewed a woman 95 years old, a beautiful woman, an artist and she is still married. She's been married 60 years. And she said, my husband swims naked in the pool every morning. She's in California. And she said, every morning when he walks into the living room naked, it turns me on. And I said, what do you do about it? And she laughed and she said, well, not what we used to do. But she said it's about touch.
FONDAIt's about skin time. She said, I did not expect to be 95 years old and still turned on and still find the joy that we have holding each other and touching each other. I interviewed a man of 101 who decided he was going to try to have some intimacy with a -- a gal upstairs in the assisted living. He called her up one day and he said, I'm going to bring up some animal crackers and milk and a banana.
FONDACan I come see you? And he said he divided -- he gave her a third of the banana. He kept a third. They shared the animal crackers. He kept going up there and then after a while he said, Ethel, can we take it a step further? And I said, well, what happened? And he said, well, we -- we got in bed together.
REHMOh, how lovely.
FONDAAnd we just held each other.
FONDAAnd he said it was one of the most beautiful things, you know.
REHMJane Fonda, her book is titled, "Prime Time." And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And to Syracuse, N.Y., good morning, Tom, you're on the air.
TOMThanks for taking my call.
TOMAnd good morning to Ms. Fonda, too.
TOMI had a question going back to your film career.
TOM"On Golden Pond."
TOMAs I watched that movie, I was wondering if the awkwardness that you had with your dad in that movie, you know, of hugging and being close, was that reflective at all of what happened in real life?
FONDAVery, very much similar, yes. One of the reasons that I produced the movie for him, and I did do it for him, he was -- I knew he was about to die. I wanted to be able to be in a movie that so paralleled the relationship that he and I had in life. He was very much like Norman Thayer. And it was a -- it was a real blessing, a mitzvah, for me to be able to say to him in the movie words that I was never able to say to him in life. I want to be...
REHMI want to be...
FONDA...I want to be your friend. You know, even now, after all these years, it's hard for me to even say it without becoming emotional. But I feel I'm the luckiest girl in the world to be able to have had that experience with him.
REHMHe was distant.
FONDAHe was distant. It was extremely difficult for him to, in real life, express emotion, express need. It's partly generational, Diane, you know. He came from the Midwest and he was of a generation where you didn't do that. And, you know, you don't suddenly change, at least he didn't. Even on his deathbed, you know, he -- I was hoping he would say things to me. Then I realized that you can't expect, you know, that someone changes so much just at the edge of life.
FONDAAnd that's why I work so hard -- and it's one of the reason I wrote the book. I wanted to talk about how important it is to try to address those glitches in our personalities. Those things that have held us back from living a full, authentic life before we get to the end.
REHMDo you think that through your own children and your grandchildren, you are now able to, in a sense, make up for what you missed with him?
FONDAI've -- it took me longer than I would have liked to learn to do it differently, but, certainly, one of the things that I've learned is it's never too late. I was not the most wonderful parent, especially for my first born, for my daughter. I didn't know how to do it, but we have become closer as the years have grown and I've been -- her children broke my heart open. I've become a different person with my grandchildren. That's the great thing about grandchildren. You have a second chance.
REHMYou've had a second chance and now you're in the third phase.
REHMAnd you're doing beautifully.
FONDAI'm working at it.
REHMHow wonderful to see you again.
FONDAThank you, Diane. Thank you.
REHMJane Fonda, her book is titled "Prime Time," which she certainly is in now. Thanks for listening all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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