I am a woman who would rather poke her eyes out with a red-hot poker than spend an evening with a bunch of women. The ubiquity of magazine articles extolling the virtues of our ‘girlfriends’ have never resonated with me. My girlfriend preference is for the arms-length, mentor type. And one of those women whose work has inspired (and I daresay influenced me) died last week. I’m talking of course about Nora Ephron.
I don’t think that her influence on me was in my conscious mind until I read about her death and thought, “We’ve lost a good one.” Then I started thinking.
In all of my writing (of the non-academic type), my protagonists (whether fictional or real) are strong women, feminist types, ahead of their times or just plain wise. Although she may have been best known to the masses as a screenwriter, it wasn’t her movies that inspired me – it was her journalistic career and her books.
I first read Heartburn in 1983 or ’84, soon after it was published. Relating a seriously funny take on the break-up of a perfect marriage, the book resonated with me partly because I had escaped a (less-than-perfect) marriage myself only a few years earlier, and I found her witticisms so spot-on that she captivated me for the long-term. When I think about some of her most valuable pieces of advice over the years, I’m almost alarmed how much I agree with her.
When she said, “I am continually fascinated at the difficulty intelligent people have in distinguishing what is controversial from what is merely offensive,” I found myself nodding in agreement.
And then there was advice for living: “Oh, how I regret not having worn a bikini for the entire year I was twenty-six. If anyone young is reading this, go, right this minute, put on a bikini, and don’t take it off until you’re thirty-four.” Yes, I should have done that.
But of course, she also said, “Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”
Amen. And I don’t feel bad about my neck. Yet. Sigh.