Jane Fonda Talks Aging, Marriage, And Parenthood At 92nd Street Y

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Jane Fonda spoke at the 92nd street Y in New York City yesterday in promotion of her new book Prime Time: Love, Health, Sex, Fitness, Friendship, Spirit — Making the Most of All Your Life. The actress, feminist, and fitness guru addressed a packed auditorium of both long-time admirers and young fans as she shared meditations on her three marriages and motherhood.

Fonda admitted to the crowd that she comes from a long line of depressives and has battled the condition herself most of her life. A big part of her coming into her 60s was developing an understanding for her parents: actor Henry Fonda and socialite Frances Ford Seymour Brokaw. She urged the crowd to understand their own parents not as parents — but as people. Jane said that she had long blamed herself for her own mother’s suicide when Jane was just 12 years old. Through researching her mother’s life, she learned that her mother was sexually abused as a child which she suggested greatly contributed to the suicide. “The Fonda men,” as she called them, were also long-time sufferers of undiagnosed depression.

She told the audience that much of what parents unintentionally inflict on their children has nothing specifically to do with them, despite that children generally assume blame for their parents’ behavior.

“Things that cause you to be a certain way [often] have nothing to do you with you,” Fonda sounded from the podium, affirming that parental hang-ups are likely to predate their children.

When discussing her marriages, Fonda confessed that she had never achieved true intimacy with her partners because she was always fearful to reveal her full self. In her romantic relationships, she always made sure to present the “parts” of herself that she deemed “perfect,” while hiding other components that she was ashamed of. Fonda attributed this type of behavior to all women and not just herself:

“A lot of women and girls leave themselves in puberty because they think they’re not perfect enough,” she said.

Fonda also spoke of how she stumbled upon the term “generativity” while researching her book, a word that means a concern for future generations regardless of choosing to parent or not. When taking questions from the audience, Fonda was asked whether one can have fulfilling life without having children. She laughed and said “absolutely,” before pointing out that there are so many kids who need guardianship and protection.

“Every child you see,” she said, “look at them like they’re yours.”