Everything I Need to Know, I Learned From Nora Ephron
Today marks the birthday of the most perfect woman to ever live, in my not so humble opinion. Miss Nora Ephron is not just the reason I wanted to write my heart out, but she is also the only reason I ever felt like falling in love was a good idea. And then a bad idea. And then potentially a good idea again, maybe one day. For me, Ephron normalized everything a woman feels–independence, dependence, struggles with food and the body, sex, and writing. She is everything, and I know I miss her every day. With no further ado:
Everything I Need to Know, I Learned From Nora Ephron
1. “Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”
Truer words have never been spoken. I am definitely not guilty of being the victim in my own life–I am queen of ownership. I have been known to say (even recently), “I don’t know how I get myself into these dramatic situations, but I know it must be my fault!” Because I also don’t believe in coincidences so there is just no way I have fallen into dramatic traps accidentally. Regardless, the word dramatic is a bit, well, dramatic considering the life “drama” is not actually “drama,” it is just life. Life is a big mess of confusion and heartbreak and fear and uncertainty. It is also beautiful, enlightening, encouraging, and above all, worth it. For any lady out there who is not letting herself own her own life, start today. Be your own heroine.
Also see: the scene from The Holiday where Arthur tells Iris to be the leading lady of her own life. Best words.
2. “Somewhere between 30 seconds and all night is your problem.”
Trust that it is hard–nearly impossible even–to pick just one quote from the most perfect movie ever written, When Harry Met Sally. In case you are nuts and don’t know important things about the world, Ephron wrote When Harry Met Sally, and also it is my favorite movie of all-time. (Titanic, I see you, and my heart does go on and on.) The reason WHMS finally creeped its way up into the number one spot in my heart is because I have noticed that I gain appreciation for it more and more every like…six months of my life. I watched it for the first time when I was seventeen years old and loved it, though back then it was just a cute romantic comedy. These days, I pick up new and important pieces of life advice that I hadn’t even noticed before. In fact, I watched it last night with a first timer and I couldn’t get over how much/how true this line is.
Of course, Sally says she does not have a problem, and I would say the same thing about myself but, well, I bet somewhere between 30 seconds and all night is my problem.
3. Diets are forever.
One of my favorite things about Ephron is her brutal honesty about women’s bodies. She never had shame in expressing the hilarious frustrations about being a woman, especially when getting older. I mean, she has a book called I Feel Bad About My Neck…and it is perfect. Within that book, there is a short story called “The Story of My Life in 3,500 Words or Less” in which she discusses gaining weight when she went to college. It is short story within a short story in a book of short stories, but this line has been stuck in my head for years:
“The next day I go on a diet. In six months my weight drops back to 106. I have been on a diet ever since.” Ephron, I Feel Bad About My Neck.
Don’t jump down my throat for talking about diets. I am queen of body confidence, I am not a skinny girl, I have never been a skinny girl, and I don’t want to ever weigh 106 pounds because I’d definitely be a dead person at that point. (I’m tall, so that’s scary to think about.) BUT. I eat cottage cheese and fruit, tuna fish and salads, celery and tomatoes, protein bars and shakes. I am the most boring eater in the world because I have to be, not because I don’t love the thought of swimming in Velveeta. I mean, you do you, girl…I just feel that “diet for life” thing.
4. It is okay to be a romantic.
Ephron wrote some of the absolute best romantic comedies of all-time. She is the queen of rom-com, and it is undoubtedly because she hit us with not just humor and heart melting first kisses, but there is intelligence behind her words. With every line, no matter how unlike the situation your life is, there is such ease in relating to the feelings. It is okay to be a romantic. It is okay to think about men/women and who you might end up with. It is okay to have a job, have your independence, spend your days reading and writing yet still fall asleep at night thinking about that nameless, faceless One.
Frank: What about you? Is there someone else?
Kathleen: No. No, but. But there’s the dream of someone else.
Sigh. Story of my life.
5. Take advantage of the world.
“I look out the window and I see the lights and the skyline and the people on the street rushing around looking for action, love, and the world’s greatest chocolate chip cookie, and my heart does a little dance.” Ephron, Heartburn
Your heart should always do a little dance. Your heart should always be dancing. Even on your saddest, most down days, your heart is beating strong.
6. Keep your friends close…
…now maybe I am just saying this because Ephron had the coolest friends possibly ever, but I also happen to mean it. On a much less famous scale, I personally think that I am equipped with the most badass group of girlfriends therefore I can always appreciate a woman who has wonderful ladies in her life, as well. I have a soft spot for girls who love their girlfriends. Any time I say anything like that, everyone jumps down my throat about it not being their fault that they don’t have girlfriends who love them, but I’ve got a thing to say.
I have had multiple people tell me that I am “so lucky” to have such good friends in my life, but you know what? I am not lucky, I am wise. I have never chosen to surround myself with people who are not worthy of being friends with me. I am a great person, I have a whole bunch to offer my friends or partner, I will happily, selflessly, give everything to anyone that I deem worthy of being in my life. That all being said, there are a ton of people who are worth my time, and I am not lucky to have found them. I am smart enough that I have watered these friendship seeds and most of the people I call my people have been around for fifteen years. I did not happen to go to a middle school with an exceptional number of gals attending–I simply weeded through the mean girls and found a phenomenal group of people, and then I never let them go. It is not luck. A real lady makes her own luck, you know?
That all being said, I am certain Ephron was not simply lucky enough to call these girls her friends. I guarantee the give and take between them was a perfect balance, as friendships all should be. If you don’t have good friends, get better at picking them. It is never too late.
Rant over, here’s a great picture:
7. Never regret the potatoes.
In case you are not well versed in Ephron’s writing, she was a huge foodie. She cooked, she related food to her love life, and she had a love for all things delicious. (Um, hello Julie and Julia.)
“I have made a lot of mistakes falling in love, and regretted most of them, but never the potatoes that went with them.” Ephron, Heartburn
My first ex-boyfriend, the one who really messed me up for all future boyfriends (thank you, you’re welcome) was the most amazing cook. He made me breakfast as I got ready for work, he planned dinner while I was at work, and he let me drink wine and write while he made my dinner. It was the most emotionally traumatizing relationship I could have ever been involved in–it was more hot and cold than Katy Perry song lyrics, but dammit if I don’t miss the food.
8. “Never marry a man you wouldn’t want to be divorced from.”
…that’s just darn good advice.
9. Men and women can never be friends.
Speaking of friendships, I had to include this, even though everyone and their mom has a serious opinion about it. As a mostly single, heterosexual woman, I find it to be incredibly true, forever.
Sally: I thought you didn’t believe men and women could be friends.
Harry: When did I say that?
Sally: On the ride to New York.
Harry: No no no no, I never said that. Yes, that’s right, they can’t be friends. Unless both of them are involved with other people then they can. This is an amendment to the earlier rule. If the two people are in relationships, the pressure of possibility of involvement is lifted. …that doesn’t work either because what happens then is the person you’re involved with can’t understand why you need to be friends with the person you’re just friends with. Like it means something is missing from their relationship and, “why do you have to go outside to get it?” Then when you say, “no no no no, it’s not true nothing’s missing from the relationship,” the person you’re involved with then accuses you of being secretly attracted to the person you’re just friends with, which we probably are. I mean, come on, who the hell are we kidding? Let’s face it. Which brings us back to the earlier rule before the amendment, which is men and women can’t be friends, so where does that leave us?
(Married, eventually. That’s where that leaves them.)
10. Life goes on.
“Well I care that there’s a war in Indochina, and I demonstrate against it; and I care that there’s a women’s liberation movement, and I demonstrate for it. But I also go to the movies incessantly, and have my hair done once a week, and cook dinner every night, and spend hours in front of the mirror trying to make my eyes look symmetrical, and I care about those things, too. Much of my life goes irrelevantly on, in spite of larger events.” Ephron
…that quote means the world to me. If it weren’t so long, I would tattoo it on my arm. For those who think I talk about nothing but men and hair and sometimes race relations, see above. Your life can (should?) be the most important thing about your life. It always goes irrelevantly on.
Happy Birthday, Miss Nora. And thank you.