It's been more than a week since Nora Ephron's death and it seems life can't let go of her. Interviews with friends, notable quotes, Facebook tributes are still popping up on the Net. Maybe life holds onto her was because she was so full of life--not an idealized version, the real thing. And in these days of plastic politicians and Botoxed Hollywood stars, when we spot the genuine article, we cherish it, we want to hold onto it.
At lunch recently with some women friends, the conversation turned to Nora and our grief at her passing. She was the sister we never had or a wittier, less self-absorbed incarnation of the ones we did. Our kind of gal, and the funny thing was, we were all kinds of gals. Whatever our backgrounds, we identified with this sophisticated lady who listed as one of her greatest pleasures driving over the bridge into Manhattan.
As we nibbled we talked about the nature of Nora's appeal. And BTW, we called her by her first name. Obviously , she hadn't known she was part of our circle, though from the intimate tone of her writing, I imagine she appreciated that what she said and wrote resonated at the deepest level with women . She touched the damaged chord in all of us. You think your neck is crepey? Mine looks like a turkey wattle. Your husband/boyfriend cheated on you? I'll give you Carl Bernstein who flagrantly screwed around on me. And I'll raise you: I was pregnant with our second child at the time. She was the mistress of one-downsmanship. And that made you feel less isolated, odd, singled out for lousy luck.
Also, she unveiled secrets we thought were shamefully ours alone. like occasionally faking orgasms. That "I'll have what she's having," scene isn't just funny, it's connecting. As Meg Ryan brilliantly simulated the Big O , women mentally nodded as they howled in knowing delight; men laughed but from a distance. Yeah, sure, but not in my bed.
Nora seemed to unveil most of her own insecurities, her humiliating experiences--and they jibed with our own. Everything was grist for "copy" as her mother, the screenwriter Phoebe Ephron had advised Yet, at the end she maintained a dignified privacy, sharing her terminal illness with very few.
"Seventy-one. So young ," my sixty-eight year old friend murmured buttering her third piece of bread. "She lived an incredible life," my thirty-seven year old friend said before deciding to order the brownie sundae. On a radio interview replayed shortly after her death, Nora declared she'd eat whatever she craved, calories, carbs be damned, because she never wanted to regret an unordered dessert. Of course, we're grieving her. And it's going to take time. How can we let go of that?
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