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July 8, 2012

Love, Loss and Nora Ephron

ImageOne week before my first book came out on July 3rd, one of my main role models, Nora Ephron passed away. It was a bittersweet moment when I finally saw my memoir on the shelves in Barnes & Noble to think that one of the greatest influences on my writing was gone. I had even referred to her three times in the book.  I read her essays in magazines and in her collections. I read her novel, “Heartburn” and then saw the film for which she wrote the screenplay. I saw all of her films–the ones she wrote and the ones she wrote and directed. Many of them I have watched numerous times, and like a lot of my peers, I have quoted her– lines from her essays and from her movies.

I saw her plays and I listened to the woman herself when she did readings and appearances in New York City. At the last one I attended for  “I Remember Nothing,” when she was signing my copy, she asked if we had met before and said that something about me seemed familiar.  We had never met; but I smiled as I walked away. She did know me as she knew all women: our desires, our quirks, and our struggles with our handbags, beauty maintenance, aging and men. I often said to my therapist–“I wish Nora Ephron wrote my life–If she did, I’d get the man, witty repartee and a great Manhattan apartment.

Nora Ephron could write happily-ever -after more deftly, cleverly and with more heart and the  way I  wanted to experience it.

There are scenes and lines from “When Harry Met Sally” that I can quote from the top of my head and not all are the classic ones: I love when Meg Ryan’s “Sally” tells Billy Crystal’s “Harry”I am not your  consolation prize” and when she finds out her ex  gets married, she breaks down after saying she had been okay about the break up, and in a heartwrenching moment, says  “all the time I have been saying that he didn’t want to get married but the truth is he didn’t want to marry me.” I still get chills as I write that line. But my favorite scene is when Harry tells Sally. “I love that you get cold when it's seventy one degrees out, I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich, I love that you get a little crinkle above you nose when you're looking at me like I'm nuts,"  Because I do all of the things he is talking about and I am still waiting for some one to love me despite and because of all of it.

An actor/comedian friend of mine once said, “I can understand your attachment to “When Harry met Sally” but “Sleepless in Seattle”. C’mon. “C’mon what? Brilliant to use one of the most romantic movies of all time “An Affair to Remember to play off of.   Looking for signs and fantasizing about winding up with a man that live across the country or– for me, personally– in a different continent is, well,  another film to which I could completely relate.

I loved her Roman à clef, “Heartburn” about her marriage to Carl Bernstein for it’s comically tragic opening and for all the finely tuned details of her wit and wisdom.

My mom turned me on to ” A Few Words About Breasts ” Ephron’s essay about her small breasts when I was  twelve to get me to stop hunching over to hide mine almost C-cups. I read the collection “Wallflower at The Orgy” much later in life, when it was in it’s second or third printing and laughed my way through Ephron’s “Cosmopolitan” magazine makeover.  I was equally thrilled and went out bought eight copies for eight friends and female family members including my then 93 year-old grandmother, who laughed  with me, when I read the passages out loud to her  (and I am condensing here) “Every so often I read a book about age and whoever’s written it says it’s great to be old…I can’t stand people who say things like that.  Don’t they have necks?…Don’t they feel bad about having to buy chokers?”  In this collection she also delves into the deep recesses of handbags and she is talking to every woman when she riffs about how eventually you begin to carry around everything you own and can’t find a thing.    I felt as if I really did get to know Nora Ephron, the woman in “I Remember Nothing,” especially when she talks about her mom.  Her mother had told her, “Everything is copy” and what she made out of the copy, the material of her life was pitch perfect. Her adaptation for the stage of Ilene Beckerman’s book “Love, Loss and What I Wore” attracted some of the best stage and screen actresses in the business and was a huge hit. She knew about women’s dreams, heartaches, insecurities, relationships with mothers and family and clothes. She knew how to make the smallest detail universal.

In “My Charmed Life: Rocky Romances, Precious Family Connections and Searching For A Band Of Gold, I link together my own story of loves, loss and life lessons through the sentimental jewelry attached to each of my most important events.  And I talk about Ephron in three chapters.

When I speak of my new dilemma after a break-up of a long term relationship about wearing my antique pieces without looking dated and finding a suitable man my own age to date me, I wrote, ” I obviously missed obsessing over a body part. Unlike Nora Ephron, I had up until that moment, not “felt bad about my neck.” About my gluts, my abs, my eyes, and my forehead, yes, but my in my lighting at home, my neck was still graceful and swan-like and then I saw it had turned into chicken skin before properly baked. This has been my favorite area to be-jewel with pendants and necklaces, layered, long, short, vintage and new….

In another chapter when a man wants to share a taxi with me and then asks me on a date after I’d just walked into a plate glass door and my nose was triple the size it usually was, I wrote, ” Up until this particular moment, I never had a chance meeting that wound up in a potential date.  I was immediately taken by the suspension of disbelief that usually only happens in a Nora Ephron film with Louis Armstrong playing in the background.

And in my reference to an on again off again relationship that spanned 12 years, and started as a one night stand I wrote, ” This wasn’t in a “When Harry Met Sally” friends-but we-are-really-meant for-each-other way. It was more like a three-different- relationships -with-one-guy plot line, evoking feelings in me that ranged from confusing to conflicting to comforting.”

Whenever I need a little comfort or to be understood, I will reread one of her essays or put on one of her films and will remember what a incredible guiding force she was for me and for all women in writing, film and life.

One Response

  1. Hello! Also a fan of Nora Ephron’s unique way of stating emotions, I had to react to our post. My favorite line is “I love New York in the Fall, it makes me wanna buy school supplies”. From “You’ve got mail”, a film I must have seen more that 100 times.

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