Just yesterday, Nora Ephron entered my mind. I’d been re-directed to an article at the New York Times about the growing trend of men and women being “just friends,” when the Ephron-penned film When Harry Met Sally came into the discussion.
I was instantly reminded of how forward-thinking that movie was at the time. How, even to this day studios try
to claim their newest rom-com pictures as the “next” When Harry Met Sally, what with the fake orgasm scene, and all. And who didn’t love Harry’s (Billy Crystal) cynical outlook on friendship between members of the opposite sex?
“What I’m saying is — and this is not a come-on in any way, shape or form — is that men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.”
In 1989, when the movie came out, Ephron taught me that it’s ok to have opinions, to be a strong character and to speak my mind.
A few months ago I was introduced to one of Ephron’s essay, I Feel Bad About My Neck, where she contemplates her age, physical image and the “work” that is expected of many women as we get older.
“It’s sort of funny and it’s sort of sad, because we’re not neurotic about age—none of us lies about how old she is, for instance, and none of us dresses in a way that’s inappropriate for our years. We all look good for our age. Except for our necks.”
The funny part about this essay is that I had a similar conversation with a girlfriend of mine not long before I read this. We age. That’s a fact, and there’s nothing we can do about it, but through this essay Ephron taught me that it’s ok to realize your flaws and to get frustrated when people tell you how to feel or what to do with your body as you get older. It’s part of what makes us human.
Last December, I found myself walking through the DVD section in my local Barnes & Noble where I saw a lone Sleepless in Seattle sitting on the shelf. I’d suddenly flashed back to my first apartment, watching the movie over and over, listening to the soundtrack that reminded me of the movie, all of which made me feel, somehow, comfortable in my newfound quiet and aloneness.
“I don’t even know him…I’m harvesting all these fantasies about some man I’ve never even met…who lives in Seattle.”
In those days, watching Sleepless in Seattle, Ephron taught me that it was ok to hope for a beautiful, magical life, to hold out for that man who would make me feel like I was “coming home,” and to be happy when walking away from the ones that weren’t quite right for me.
And, of course, being a writer and a food lover, I’ve watched Julie & Julia at least 20 times in the past year, from which I learned that it’s ok to get a late start on a writing career, to re-invent and challenge yourself to live out your dreams in life even if it’s not what’s expected, and to do what you love to do because you love it, not because someone else loves it, or not.
These are just a few of the life lessons I’ve learned from Nora Ephron. My only regret is that I never had the opportunity to meet her. But, I’ll forever be thankful for the words she put on paper, the characters she brought to life and the path she paved for myself and others who dream of following in her footsteps.