Nora Ephron was the poster girl for an era of bold women who redefined “feminist”. Like my other favorite author, Anna Quindlen, she was whip smart, quick witted, politically astute yet still a mom, and a wife, and a girl who worried about how she looked. She proved that as women, we can “have it all”.
When she gave a commencement address at Wellesley College she told the graduates: “Maybe young women don’t wonder whether they can have it all any longer, but in case any of you are wondering, of course you can have it all. What are you going to do? Everything, is my guess. It will be a little messy, but embrace the mess. It will be complicated, but rejoice in the complications. It will not be anything like what you think it will be like, but surprises are good for you. And don’t be frightened: you can always change your mind.”
I love this advice. We don’t have to be just stay at home moms, just working moms, or even just moms. We can be all of that, and more. We can be writers, brand ambassadors, we can work for money or volunteer our time. Best of all, we can change our minds. We might not have Martha Stewart worthy homes and sometimes a child or two might get forgotten at soccer practice, but that’s ok. It’s ok to want more, or even to want it all, we don’t need to apologize for it.
Nora made it ok to be smart and funny, cool even.
I discovered her late in life, I’m not a baby boomer, feminists paved the way for me to believe that the world had always counted women equally. Of course I’d seen her movies, they’re my favorites. Who can’t quote every line from When Harry Met Sally?
It wasn’t until I discovered her books that I began to really relate to her. I Feel Bad About My Neck is full of great life lessons. Nora regrets not appreciating her neck when it was young and unwrinkled, who knew it had a shelf life? It had never occurred to me that I would also eventually be the proud owner of an elephant neck that required scarves to disguise it. I literally ran to the bathroom while reading the book to see if the decline had already begun. Realizing I was still in business, I committed to wearing trampy low cut tops daily.
She could have warned me about the knees. Women of a certain age know what I’m talking about, one day you look down and wonder why no one told you that knees get wrinkly too. Wear the hot shorts while you can girls.
What would be her last book, I Remember Nothing, has been a great inspiration, and not just because I can continually re-read it. One of the lesser known side benefits of aging, no need to buy new books. Nora wrote a lot about what matters in life, and perhaps more importantly, what doesn’t.
“You do get to a certain point in life where you have to realistically, I think, understand that the days are getting shorter, and you can’t put things off thinking you’ll get to them someday,” she says. “If you really want to do them, you better do them. There are simply too many people getting sick, and sooner or later you will. So I’m very much a believer in knowing what it is that you love doing so you can do a great deal of it.”
I can’t explain why I’m so saddened by the loss of a woman I never met. Perhaps because she wrote such truth, maybe because I see myself in her; struggling to be a writer (and a good one) and a mother (who’s children don’t require therapy) and a wife (who even cooks every now and again). All while keeping my eye on the prize, and the clock. We are all only given so much time on this earth. The loss of Nora Ephron two days ago is a wake up call to do it now, all the things you say you will do and want to do, don’t wait, life offers no guarantees.