Wednesday, 26 June 2019

I've Just Discovered Nora Ephron, an essay

If you haven’t read Nora Ephron’s middleaged bible:


Find yourself a copy, and a deckchair on a sunny tropical isle and start reading! Then try very hard to stop yourself from laughing out loud through every chapter. This fine collection of hilarious essays on all important-things-women. Hair growth. Hair loss. Handbags. Anti-aging-creams. Food. Fashion. Family. The joy-of-reading. Diminishing eyesight. Sex. Necks. Teeth. Turtlenecks. Everything! Is a riot. It will have your girlfriend beside you in a state of major FOMO until you read the last bath-oil-filled chapter and pass this light, yet weighty tome, over.

“Everything goes with black, especially black,” Nora instructs.

I’m sorry, Insta-Influencers, but this would have to be one of the most sensible pieces of advice I’ve heard in a long long time.

Born in New York to Jewish screenwriter parents, Nora took on board her mother’s advice ‘everything is copy’ and became a journalist after college. But not before she interned, in that white house on Washington Hill for none other than J F Kennedy. Did-JFK, or did-JFK-not, make a pass at Nora? You’ll need to read Chapter 7: Me and JFK: Now It Can Be Told, to find out.

Nora’s writing went on to include, fiction, playwriting and screenwriting. She received Academy Award noms for her groundbreaking romantic comedies, Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally, and Sleepless in Seattle.

NOW had Nora written about elbows in this book, I’d be in a more stable place today. Minutes after falling in love with her writing, (thanks to my daughter Lily and her Sydney flatmate, Sara) I felt the need to get my hands on her every work past, present and future. Then thanks to the online Reader’s Digest Wikipedia, I discovered Nora Ephron died in 2012.

Honestly, I was in a flap. Literally. A barren, layer-mash-munching-hen falling off its roost. Me. Because I would be fan-emailing Nora right this very minute to ask advice. Help ME! PLEASE! Nora!  I’d write … I need to make a confession. I feel bad about a lot of things. From my shoulders up. Under-eye pillows. WRINKLES. General greyness. Sag. Well. I won’t go on. But, Nora. Nora, I apologise. I feel fine about my neck!

(Breaths out. Breathes in. With brown paper bag over her mouth and nose.)

However, Dear Nora, I feel bad about my elbows. Really bad. Hells Bells, I caught sight of these curious objets just last week, when I was trying on a silk silver fashion garment I’d had knocked off by a charming tailor in Sanur, Bali for 250,000 Rupiah. Twenty-five dollars! Good god almighty, the elbows in the mirror may appear closer than they are. The elbows in the mirror, in fact, may appear altered. Said elbows are no longer elbows. They are a new breed of miniature dog. Teacup-Shar-pei. Mottled-tan. What’s one to do? Has any middleaged journalist-du-jour written a self-help booklet on elbows? Please! No amount of Kiehl’s Crème de Corps (Superb All-over Body Moisturizer of Superb Quality) is going to fix these puppies. These what-cha-ma-call-its? I’ve searched a lot of weird shit on Google. But never before have I searched ‘skin over elbow name’ to discover: Your Wenis is the Epidermis on the Peripheral Epiphyses Dorsal of your Humerus (the SKIN of your elbow.) You’ve got to be kidding me! Wenis! Does this mean that when discussing both elbows they should be referred to as wee-nigh …?

I think not.

My only saving grace is that I did not, once-upon-a-long-time-ago, get large eyes tattooed over my wenii after a magic-mushroom milkshake in the Gili Isles. Because any winking, open-eyed, long-lashed orbs would now look triple-hooded, reptilian, crows-footed. Much the same as my very own eyes on a bad morning. The ones I’m currently anointing with *Dr Dennis Gross Ferulic + Retinol Triple Correction Eye Serum. Apply to entire eye area, including eyelids, the results will be transformative, Dr D an NYC dermatologist, claims. Goodbye eyelid crepe. Bring it. Or sucked in! Again! Cah-shing.  

Curiously, Retinol or Retin A is the current in-vogue anti-aging-must-have ingredient. But its many guises have been around before. I laughed very loudly when I read Nora’s chapter titled Maintenance. Broken into subjections, and listed under Skin, were all the potions I for one have slapped on my visage in vain. And vanity. And at vast expense. I recalled driving across LA with my sister, in her beat-up blue beetle, to buy a tube of StriVectin-SD in the early 2000s. We may have well have been buying a kilo of Class-A-dope from a dodgy dealer, such was the drama and mystery surrounding the purchase of this tube-of-eternal-youth. It turned out to be simply skin lotion, noted Nora. The only thing Stri-Vectin-SD gave me was red, raw, itchy skin. So I stopped using it. 

I really do feel bad about my elbows. Nora. And fine about my neck.

But having got this off my chest, is my neck now going to huff and puff and turn into a Bernard-Mathews-boneless-lamb-roast (thick, greasy chub of sweaty meat) in a couple of years? Tomorrow? Nek week? I know that whatever’s in store for me, the chicken, the turkey gobbler, the elephant, the wattle (as describe in Chapter 1) is already pre-programmed deep within my DNA. And no amount of money or time is going to change a damn thing. Mayhaps in the not too distant future, Instagram will have developed an App which applies filters to necks as well as faces. Should one be inclinded. To employ it.

As my fan girling of Nora Ephron reached fever pitch, I went to purchase her published works via Amazon. The postage was prohibitive. Redic. Where can you get a decent priced book these days I pondered? Aww, I know. The library. After a trip to my local, I discovered Central Otago had an okay N.E selection. I requested her novel Heartburn, the fictionalised retelling of her marriage breakup with Carl Berstein. It was also made into a movie with Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep in 1986. It’s a sad and funny book. Heart breaking in places.

I yarped so much about the enviable writing skills of N.E that long-time librarian Sharon was on to Wheelers toute-de-suite and has since supplemented the QT Lakes District Library shelves. It felt good to be doing some fellow-authorly-kindness. I hoped her children receive her royalties.

Yet I must credit the Z Generation for spreading the Nora E love. I only hope that reading a middle-aged woman’s bible can install in these beautiful young women of today a huge love for themselves and the skin they’re in. I for one hated my body for a way too long a time. I was pretty much on a diet from age 12 to 28. The Israeli army diet was one of my first, thanks to the informative pages of Cosmopolitan magazine. It was also thanks to Cosmo (as we so lovingly referred to it) that I discovered/realised I was pear-shaped, at age 13. Yep. My arse, hips and thighs were wider than my frame. Too wide. From that moment on, all I saw when I looked in the mirror were my hips and thighs, like an ugly, yet ripe human-sized William Bon Cretian staring guiltily back at me. Even when I grew First-11-hockey-shoulders. Then breasts. Those thunder thighs haunted my five foot four, fifty-seven odd kilo frame.

Nora said, “Oh how I regret not having worn a bikini for the entire year I was 26. If anyone young is reading this, go, right this minute, put on a bikini and don’t take it off until you’re 34.”

I’m 55 and I still wear a bikini. For the first time the other day, when I as getting out of the pool on that tropical isle, I wondered for the first time in while that perhaps I shouldn’t. What are the rules? I’m smaller than I was in my youth. My three children did not give me stretch marks. Thank whomever, big time, for that favour. I did receive major muscle separation with my third baby. Post birth, I could fit a sideways fist in the grand canyon running from my belly button to just above pubic bone. Thanks to 15 years of Pilates I’ve kept the crevasse narrowed to a few centimetres and my lower back in okay health. But back to the bikini. Nora? Anyone? I’ve decided, aged sixty orta do it. I’ll probably be in a skin protection suit by then anyways, such will be the size of the whole in the ozone layer. Or just the ground-heat of the planet will be enough to burn. Hey, we might all be in fire-fighting kits, with full face masks. Who will see all our devotion to eternal-yoof? Then.

Hopefully, by sixty we won’t care ... I know of course we will. So in the meantime, let’s hang on to another bit of excellent N.E advice: “If the shoe doesn’t fit in the store, it’s never going to fit.”

In praise of Nora Ephron (1941 – 2012). "There are no secrets." Thank you, Nora!

*Available from Mecca.
** Photo taken while lying on a sun lounger at Pondok Santi Luxury Resort, Gili Trawangan, Bali

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