If you’re not a Twitter (or even a Facebook) person, you don’t get your news all in-a-flashy like we do, so you might not have found out right away. But Tuesday night, I was sitting around writing something up for another blog (you’ll see, it’ll be out next week) and flipping back and forth to my social networks. That’s what I do when I’m writing. Here, I’ll give you a glimpse behind the curtain. You like that sort of thing, right? You want to see the Great and Powerful Oz?
Here you go. I sit down to write, I open up the following tabs: Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, WordPress. Then I write for a while, and when I’m either stuck or bored or need a break or notice I have a notification in one of the tabs, I flip around and see what’s up. I know I could probably get work done a hell of a lot faster if I ignored (or refused to open) the other tabs (and when I’m in a hurry, I don’t open them at all, and wait to check them until I’m done – I’m not a complete moron about what drains my time) but I like that they’re there, and I like that I can see if people are trying to get in touch with me or if important things are going on or what-have-you.
So I was writing and writing and flipping around and catching up on back episodes of Haven while I wrote (I have such a weird crush on Eric Balfour with his big old noggin it’s kind of insane) and flipped over to Facebook and saw a post that just said “Oh” and the link said Nora Ephron had passed away.
And because I am a gigantic sap I totally started to cry.
Listen, Nora Ephron was a pretty stellar woman. You all probably know her from When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail (the first of which she wrote, the latter two she both wrote and directed) and you might think “meh, romantic comedies, whatever, cheesity cheese cheese” but she was really kind of someone we can all look up to, and it’s a huge loss that she’s gone.
She interned for John F. Kennedy. She was a low-level mail girl (imagine calling someone an ANYTHING girl now? the mind just boggles) at Newsweek back in the 60s. Why? Because they didn’t hire female writers and she wanted to work in publishing. Her just-for-fun satirical writing with some friends led to her first writing job, with the New York Post. It’s the writer’s version of being discovered at a soda fountain and going on to become a famous actress, I think. (Side note: the person who noticed her writing? The publisher of the Post? A woman. Nice job with the early integration, Post.) From there, Ephron became a well-known reporter, essayist, and humorist, writing for not only the Post, but Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, and New York magazine, as well as collecting her essays into a number of books.
So she conquered journalism. She was a hipster feminist, WAY before it was cool.
What next? Well, in her personal life, she married, she divorced, she married again (Carl Bernstein, maybe you heard of a little thing called Watergate? The journalists who broke Watergate? Woodward & Bernstein? This is that Bernstein, and Ephron knew who Deep Throat was THE WHOLE TIME, yo), Bernstein cheated on her with one of her friends, she wrote a scathing screenplay about it (Heartburn, in which she says the cheating husband is “capable of having sex with a Venetian blind,” hee!) and she married again, to a screenwriter, by all reports quite happily.
So. Screenplays, huh? After she helped Woodward & Bernstein clean up their screenplay for All the President’s Men (her version wasn’t used), her writing caught Hollywood’s eye. Not long after, When Harry Met Sally happened. (Oh, she also wrote Silkwood. So whenever I say I want to Silkwood-shower my brain after I see something especially icky? Thank you, Nora Ephron.)
Without Nora Ephron (for better or for worse, because YES, I KNOW, it’s NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN) we’d never get the line all women are kind of secretly hoping some guy will say a variant of to us at some point or other in our lives:
I love that you get cold when it’s 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it’s not because I’m lonely, and it’s not because it’s New Year’s Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.
Yes, yes, like I said. It’s irrational to expect this. But think about it. Don’t we all kind of want someone to love us not only despite, but for, our quirks? The things that we think, “huh, this is probably driving someone nuts” – someone noticing that? And loving it? That’s something, right? That’s your person. The person that loves you FOR those quirks. The person who notices all of our junk and thinks, eh, we all have junk. The person who wants the rest of their life to start right now, because they found you. Don’t you even say this isn’t a little bit awesome. Is it irrational? Yeah. But it’s also a little bit awesome and kind of true and I love it.
Or how about, “Is one of us supposed to be a dog in this scenario?” or “Waiter, there is too much pepper on my paprikash. But I would be proud to partake of your pecan pie.” Or that they don’t make Sunday days-of-the-week panties, “because of God.” Or “Oh, but ‘baby fish mouth’ is sweeping the nation?” Or (sob) “I am not your consolation prize, Harry.”
I know that it makes me a huge old girly-girl and I know that it’s creating these unobtainable expectations for romance, but I will always, always, ALWAYS want a When-Harry-Met-Sally romance on some level. Always and forever. I know it’s not coming, of course I do. The practical side of me is well-aware of that. But the side of me that still picks up wishing-pennies and refuses to step on cracks still holds out some hope. She’s optimistic, that one.
Then Ephron decided, huh. I liked writing that. That went really well. Let’s try some directing, what do you say?
The first one (This is My Life – heard of it? Nope, me either) wasn’t a home run. I love her a little more for that. If she hit it out of the park the first time, she wouldn’t be as relatable. Then: Sleepless in Seattle.
Pair up Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan at the height of their squishy adorableness. Keep them separated for most of the movie. Throw in a ton of longing and heartbreak and the statistic (how much did THIS kill the women watching? I was in my early TWENTIES and was a little panic-stricken!) “It’s easier to be killed by a terrorist than it is to find a husband over the age of 40!” The Empire State Building. “That’s your problem! You don’t want to be in love. You want to be in love in a movie.” (I do. That is my problem. I ABSOLUTELY want to be in love in a movie.) Their faces when they see each other for the first time. “Magic.”
Yep. Nice job, Nora Ephron. Add “meeting on the Empire State Building” to the “things all women secretly kinda want” list.
Then You’ve Got Mail. Did everyone love this as much as I did? Or is it just me who was completely swept away in the whole New York City/bookstores and the love of literature/rivals/secret identities/falling in love without seeing each other’s faces thing? I’m ok with it if it’s just me.
I’m going to quote the hell out of You’ve Got Mail. Listen, I tried to narrow it down. I just couldn’t. I love it so much.
Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life – well, valuable, but small – and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven’t been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn’t it be the other way around? I don’t really want an answer. I just want to send this cosmic question out into the void. So good night, dear void.
I would have asked for your number, and I wouldn’t have been able to wait twenty-four hours before calling you and saying, “Hey, how about… oh, how about some coffee or, you know, drinks or dinner or a movie… for as long as we both shall live?”
I love daisies…They’re so friendly. Don’t you think daisies are the friendliest flower?
What will NY152 say today, I wonder. I turn on my computer. I wait impatiently as it connects. I go online, and my breath catches in my chest until I hear three little words: You’ve got mail. I hear nothing. Not even a sound on the streets of New York, just the beating of my own heart. I have mail. From you.
Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address. On the other hand, this not knowing has its charms.
When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.
The odd thing about this form of communication is that you’re more likely to talk about nothing than something. But I just want to say that all this nothing has meant more to me than so many somethings.
I wanted to be your friend…I knew it wasn’t…possible. What can I say, sometimes a guy just wants the impossible.
And, the line that can make me cry just thinking of it, the line that I didn’t have to look up online for the exact wording because sometimes it comes to mind with Meg Ryan’s face attached, her hopeful, relieved, teary face, and I just get all weepy all over again because it’s just perfect:
I wanted it to be you. I wanted it to be you so badly.
If it makes me sappy and girly and silly, so be it. But I like the magic in this movie. I like that there are two people out there so, so perfect for each other, and they meet in the least likely of ways, and they, despite all odds, manage to make it work. I like that. So much. I like that it speaks to those of us who spend a lot of our time online – not the “ZOMG WE’RE GOING TO FALL IN LURVE” thing, but the making-a-connection thing through the computer, with someone you’ve never met, through their words and their thoughts and getting to know them through the minutae of their day, you know? I love that. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. The two of them really were the cutest together in these movies back in the day, weren’t they?
She continued to direct (her last movie was Julie and Julia, which wasn’t that long ago) and write books. She had two children. She had a large group of friends and supported up-and-coming young writers and comedians and directors; many of whom were women. She believed that (unlike a lot of men, both then and now) women in comedy WERE funny, ARE funny, and if they had to work twice as hard to show that? Well, nothing wrong with a little hard work. She openly talked about (shh!) “female issues” – sex, aging, romance, motherhood, divorce – and she made them FUNNY. And RELEVANT. She made them so MEN wanted to read about them or watch them. MEN! Interested in WOMEN’S issues, can you imagine the HORROR? She reportedly had a huge cackle; if you made Nora cackle, you knew you’d done something really special.
I would have liked to make Nora cackle. I have a cackle. I’ve been told the same thing, actually; that if someone hears my laugh in an audience, from all the way backstage, they know the show’s going well. I’m proud we have that in common. We’re not the type to be silenced. We don’t whisper; we roar.
She believed very strongly in the power of the written word. From Hilary Rosen’s piece about her in the Huffington Post: “What do you do when your friend Nora Ephron dies? You cry and then you write about it. Because that is what she said to do whenever you told her a story that moved her or amused her. ‘Write about it’ she’d say. It was like Beethoven telling you to play a symphony or Billie Jean King telling you to serve the ball or Springsteen telling you to rock. She was the best of the best and when she said, ‘write’ she was telling you to engage in the noblest pastime she knew.”
How can you not love a woman who believed in the written word this much? “The noblest pastime she knew.” Chills. Just, chills.
From Lisa Belkin’s piece, also from the Huffington Post: “’Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim,’ she said in a 1996 speech to the graduating class of Wellesley College.” My college graduation speaker told us to make sure to save for retirement, I think. I’d have liked a speech about being the heroine of my own life. I try to be. I think I’m succeeding.
And finally, from Arianna Huffington’s piece from the Huffington Post. (See, Nora Ephron didn’t really need to write anymore, and didn’t have time to, really. But when Arianna Huffington approached her about a new blog she was starting, Ephron did some research and realized that blogs were the wave of the future in writing and making that immediate connection. She made the time, because she loved it so much. She was a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and good friends with Arianna Huffington.)
“Nora excelled not only as a blogger but as a blogging evangelist, spreading word of the medium’s particular value and making many converts. She quickly grasped that ‘one of the reasons for blogging was to start the conversation and to create the community that comes together briefly to talk about things they might not be talking about if you hadn’t written your blog.’”
Savvy woman, that Nora Ephron.
She intimated she was ill in her last book, but very few people knew she was suffering from leukemia. She played that close to the vest. I can appreciate that. I’d do the same thing. Who needs the sympathy? Life’s too short for that. She passed away on Tuesday from complications related to the disease.
We lost one of the good ones Tuesday. She paved the way for a lot of women in writing and in comedy. She showed what we can do, us women, if we work together; if we refuse to take no for an answer; if we work our asses off. She wrote beautifully and told it like it was and she loved deeply and she laughed, and she laughed, and she laughed.
Thank you, Nora. You’ll be missed. In your honor: I think I’ll write.