Death. Like taxes and the Kardashian sisters, it is unavoidable. I don’t usually like dwelling on it, because it tends to depress me, particularly as I enter that sun-dappled grove called “After 50.” But every now and then, some lives are worth examining at their natural end, because even though the sorrow is palpable, so is the sense that all of the beauty and laughter created by that creature when living remain in the wake of her passing. That happened for me with Nora Ephron.
I can’t remember when I first heard her name, but it was probably around the time when I saw “All the President’s Men” with my mother on the Million Dollar Movie. She mentioned to me that the short reporter played by Dustin Hoffman in the film was once married to a really good writer named Nora Ephron, who reacted to his cheating on her by writing a tell-all novel called “Heartburn.”
It was both loving and bitter, sweet and caustic, funny and tragic. I was hooked. Here was a woman who could take her own personal humiliation and turn it into a publishing triumph, all the while making you laugh. But make no mistake: Ephron was a serious lady with a serious message, particularly compelling for someone like me who has a tendency to lose focus when life sends curveballs: “be the heroine in your story not the victim.”
Ephron is from my mother’s generation, someone who was on the cusp of the feminist movement and who might have considered herself a women’s libber but who preferred writing about bras (and how they were filled) than burning them. She made the minutiae of a woman’s life into grand drama, including cooking, men, hygiene, men, handbags, men, plastic surgery, men, and men. She was a navel gazer, that’s true, but unlike so many other women who write about women, she wasn’t convinced that we were the center of the universe or that men were simply the backdrop for our fabulousness. Ephron loved men and women equally (short men named Carl Bernstein being the only exception) and made us love the worlds in which we intersected.