The collective tears of women over 40 who loved the “you-go-girl” commentary in every brilliant work of writer, filmmaker, director, devoted mother and dedicated wife, Nora Ephron, are surely filling every possible canyon, crevice and pit of negativity so that Ephron’s spirit lives on in each and every one of us. The astonishingly prolific Ephron, one of the funniest women in any business, lost her battle last night with leukemia, leaving a hole in the hearts and minds of visionary, intelligent and motivated women everywhere – especially those of us over 40. She was the champion and defender of every possible strength and opportunity that daring women over 40 muster in navigating our lives. We will all miss her.
The following is a blog I dedicated to Ephron a few years ago:
December 10th 2010
DARE TREAT Yourself! Laugh!
I’m DARE-ING all visionary, intelligent and motivated women over 40 who juggle every role from chauffeur to chaperon, to chairman to chef, to seek out and enjoy some TREATS for themselves -free or almost free of guilt or other hangovers. This week we’re all about LAUGH-Lines -the good kind we all welcome, as opposed to the ones I see multiplying around my mouth that make me feel like the shriveled sister of the “Nutcracker” marionettes lined up on my fireplace mantle.
I hope the only LAUGHS you seem to have during the holidays aren’t from the bubbles up your nose when you guzzle that full glass of champagne as your father-in-law attempts to regale everyone at dinner with details of his annual physical. If they are, you definitely need a lot more to LAUGH about. TREAT yourself to this LAUGH instead:
LAUGH #2. Anything by word-genius Nora Ephron, but for sure her new book, I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections.
Are you a woman over 40 whose workstation is so covered over with reminder Post-It notes that you could weave them together as a comforter? Then TREAT yourself today to this new book from one of the funniest authors alive -at 69, that’s something to LAUGH about! Writing about the annoying and alarming things that plague most women over 40, Ephron makes me LAUGH so hard I can almost understand the reason manufacturers of adult diapers are in business. But I won’t bring myself to forgive them for their insufferably awful commercials.
Ephron’s last book, I Feel Bad About My Neck, obsessed about that body part while making fun of older women who celebrate their wisdom (OK, I confess: even I LAUGHED at that). Sit down with her new one, I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections, and I promise you will never again think of Aruba merely as a pleasurable island getaway. Nor will you ever again take your elbows for granted.
Screenwriter, film director, producer, novelist, playwright, journalist and, of course, blogger, Ephron could easily add stand-up comic to her portfolio. During TV appearances to promote her book, she is both visually and audibly droll and hilarious. She is somewhat like your sardonic friend who isn’t really trying to be funny when she talks about her latest horror show in front of a three-way mirror, but who has everyone screaming with howls of laughter and empathy, and repeating her stories for weeks afterwards.
Ephron is the DARE-ING master of the kind of humor based on the cruelest facts of life, especially for women over 40. This somehow makes those inescapable truths easier to bear -for us and for her. In fact, she managed to turn one of the truly awful periods of her life into a major therapeutic catharsis: the novel Heartburn, based on her discovery of then-husband Carl Bernstein’s affair with a mutual friend. In the novel, Ephron describes the anti-hero husband as being “capable of having sex with a Venetian blind.” I could only envision the literal manifestation of that phrase and how it would’ve cut the thing short -ba dump bump. But I digress. The novel was turned into the hit film by the same title, starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson. Ephron doesn’t allow herself to get stuck at “life sucks.” She moves immediately to yucks, and then to bucks. If only all of us could be that talented.
Not only is Ephron’s talent for making us LAUGH serious business, her genius is in taking on subjects of style and substance that very few other writers would DARE with such courage and conviction. One of my favorite examples is her grave and passionate excoriation of her own alma mater, Wellesley, in one of her earlier books, Crazy Salad. Ephron tells readers that a certain Wellesley dean was advocating for graduates a life of, as Ephron puts it, “glazed politeness.” The dean was in essence advising graduates to plant themselves firmly in some middle ground of “tolerance,” about which Ephron objects:
“How marvelous it would have been to go to a woman’s college that encouraged impoliteness, that rewarded aggression, that encouraged argument. Women by the time they are eighteen are so beaten down, so tyrannized out of behaving in all the wonderful outspoken ways unfortunately characterized as masculine…We all graduated from Wellesley able to describe everything we had studied€¦ yet we were never asked what we thought of any of it€¦”
Ephron’s intelligent point of view on DARE-ING to have a substantive voice resonated with me when I first read Crazy Salad some 30 years ago. But now that I’m in my fifties and observing younger women, in my work, in the classroom and in social settings, it resonates even more. Aside from the shrill spectacles of media-maniac celebri-tots and faux-cialites gone wrong, some young women today seem so tentative and polite about everything. Everthing except exposing their cleavage and midriffs at inappropriate times in frankly unattractive outfits (more like costumes). And all the while they are affecting intonations in their speaking patterns that result in their punctuating, with an emphatic question mark, even their most assertive declarative sentences: “Wow, Miley is really rocking that SKIRT?” (Emphasis added to make my point.) In my opinion, what they really need to rock is a double dose of Ephron!
For all DARE-ING women but especially for women over 40, Ephron is the real deal. Unlike other writers whose work seems an obvious pastiche of ghostwriters, agents, publicists and others assigned to famous authors’ production line and marketing teams, she makes you feel that she’s been through what ails you, she’s still recovering, and she’s got the cure. In fact, “Ephron” even sounds like the name of a great new drug for women over 40. Imagine:
For all those cranky people you know: “Get over your bitching. Take two Ephrons and brawl me in the morning!”
Not in the mood? “Sorry, not tonight, babe. I’m having a major Ephron moment.”
Can’t sleep? “Heading to the kitchen for warm milk and an Ephron, dear. Don’t wait up.”
So, go ahead and TREAT yourself with Ephron. You’ll LAUGH until you cry, or pee, or fall asleep happily exhausted. And, who knows, at your next family get-together, you might remember something Ephron wrote about older men who hog the spotlight, just as your father-in-law is about to regale everyone with a frame-by-frame analysis of his colonoscopy. TREAT yourself to a little more Champagne, and pray that your LAUGHS are loud enough to drown him out.