Good genes

The 85-year-old Harvard prof with punk-blue hair and a profile

Great-grandmother Anne Bernays, 85, is the author of 10 novels and teaches writing at Harvard University. She also has bright blue hair. “Not a wussy “blue-rinse” blue,” she tells NPR, “but eye-stabbing, punk-kid blue.”

Her story is part of a series on The Changing Lives of Women. Bernays, who also holds weekly cocktail parties at her Boston apartment, overlooking the Charles River, says the style change had a marked effect on the way people related to her. “Grouchy people smiled at me. An older woman stopped me on the street to shake my hand. I was sort of like the dog who stands up at the piano and plays ‘Melancholy Baby.'” (A reference to “an ancient smutty joke.”)

She says people look at her differently in old age, and can behave patronizingly, whereas she feels as if she’s still a teenager inside. She is blessed with good genes, walks every day for 30 minutes, runs if she has to and is very independent. “I have to say I’m extremely fortunate — my mother lived to 88, my father lived to 103.”

In the forthcoming six-minute interview, Bernays reminisces about her husband of 60 years, Joe, and the emotions she continues to struggle with a year after his death and the things she misses in his absence — conversation, someone to cook for and sex.

“I like sex,” she says, and laughs. “The thing is people think ‘Oh my god – people over 50 having intercourse? Uh uh! It seems obscene.” So she joined “Boy there are a lot of screwballs on there.”

Bernays, a born storyteller, seemed to revel in sharing a few secrets with the radio interviewer.

To hear Bernays in her own voice, go to NPR.

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