The Late Nora Ephron: Post 2 of "Ephron, Fey, Rivers"

The good news is that I Feel Bad About My Neck is a Very Good book. The bad, or sad news is, that it is definitely her last. Unless some family member or friend of the family takes it into their heads to go through Ephron's notes, notebooks, drafts, unsubmitted or rejected material etc, and whip it up into a posthumous book. Not sure Ephron would approve of that, were she to have a say in the matter.

I don't know to what extent men enjoy this book. I don't think most men are very interested in women's ambivalent relationships with their handbags, or with the nuisance of removing unwanted hair from various parts of their body. Though I think men could benefit from a peek into what goes on in a woman's mind. For women, however, this book -- so funny, insightful, wise, and touching -- is a godsend; and some of the essays are definitely "unisex".

The essay that is the epitome of "what goes on in a woman's mind" is surely "On Maintenance". I'm not suggesting for a moment that that's all women ever think about. But, as Ephron says, "Maintenance takes up so much of my life that I barely have time to sit down at the computer."  You (er, the female "you" among us) read it, and you can't but smile, sigh, nod and empathize. For example, a few lines from the section headed SKIN:
For exactly five minutes in 2004 StriVectin-SD was thought to be the Fountain of Youth. It instead turned out to be simply skin lotion, a bottle of which cost an arm and a leg. But meanwhile, for one brief shining moment, I believed it was the answer to everything. ....  Now it sits on the bathroom counter, taking up space, alongside similar testaments to my gullibility -- relics of the Retin-A yars and the glycolic-acid era and the La Prairie period. One of my good friends once gave me a tiny jar of La Mer cream, which I think cost about a hundred dollars a teaspoon. I still have it, since it is way too valuable to use.

See what I mean?

So maybe in your part of the world having your nails done is not de rigueur. Maybe you're perfectly happy using Dove or Nivea, no matter what the women's magazines say and no matter how much your beautician insists that Obliphica oil is the new Fountain of Youth. Or maybe you happen to love exercising and can't get enough of it. (Like you, my dear friend J., you know who you are). But on the whole, we women share similar hang-ups. If it's not our girth, it's our hair. If it's not our hair, it's our skin. We often spend an inordinate amount of time either on actual body-and-looks maintenance, or on worrying about it, reading about it, talking about it. I for one draw the line at dreaming about it.

Then there's the essay that every parent can identify with, laughing and wiping a tear or two: "Parenting in Three Stages". Gosh, is it ever difficult to choose a few sentences that will do this essay justice! But here are a select few:

From Stage I:
Back in the day when there were merely parents, as opposed to people who were engaged in parenting, being a parent was fairly straightforward ....In any event, suddenly, one day, there was this thing called parenting. ... Parenting meant playing Mozart CDs while you were pregnant, ... and breast-feeding your child until it was old enough to unbutton your blouse.

From Stage II:
Your adolescent says words you were not allowed to say while growing up, not that you had even heard of them until you read The Catcher in the Rye.
...
Your adolescent's weekly allowance is the size of the gross national product of Burkina Faso, a small, poverty-stricken African country neither you nor your adolescent had ever heard of until recently, when you both spent several days working on a social studies report about it.
From Stage III:

... four years quickly pass ... Your children go. Your children come back. Their tuition is raised. But eventually college ends, and they're gone for good. The nest is actually empty. You're still a parent, but your parenting days are over. Now what? There must be something you can do. But there isn't. There is nothing you can do. Trust me.
...
Meanwhile, you have an extra room. Your child's room. Do not under any circumstances leave your child's room as is.Your child's room is not a shrine. ... Turn it into a den, a gym, a guest room...
...
 ... every so often, your children come to visit. They are, amazingly, completely charming people. ... They survived you. You survived them.... don't dwell. There's no point. It's over. Except for the worrying. The worrying is forever.
Forgive me, but this is the point where I actually cried; at this last sentence, which I put in bold.

The last essay, "Considering the Alternative", broke my heart. Even though I knew Nora Ephron died in 2012. (I don't consider this to be a spoiler; only in the sense that it can spoil your mood, as it did mine.) I won't bother quoting any more from her essays; it's too difficult to choose -- so much of it is worth quoting, and so much of her writing has indeed been quoted over and over again. Even ending this post makes me sad -- it's as if I'm saying good-bye to her again.

Enough sentimental mush; go get yourself some Nora Ephron! And if you're not in the mood for reading, just watch one of her movies!


3 comments:

Tami said...

Hi Nina,
I read the book a few months ago, and reading your post brought tears to my eyes once again.
Thanks!

Donna Bossin said...

Hi Nina,
I really liked your blog on Nora Ephron. You said that "I Feel Bad about my Neck" is definitely her last book, but I'm now reading "I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections" (2010), which was published later. Also very very enjoyable.
Best,
Donna

Nina R. Davis said...

Thanks, Donna. Yes, you're right! Somehow the 2010 book escaped me. What also led me astray was the tone of sad finality of the last chapter of "I Feel Bad about my Neck."

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