Friday, July 18, 2008

On the Lighter Side

Sometimes I need a change of pace. After reading a series of a serious novels I was ready for a few laughs. So I turned to Nora Ephron's I Feel Bad About My Neck. Ephron's book is a series of essays about cooking, New York apartments, ex-husbands, reading, writing, purses - and most especially Growing Older. I'd like to pretend I've never had a discussion with my friends about turkey necks or the horror of wattles (and the advantage of wearing turtlenecks), but I'd be lying. Ephron has these same discussions and hers are a lot funnier. For example - “You have to cut open a redwood tree to see how old it is, but you wouldn't have to if it had a neck”. And then there's her observation that your neck never looks worse than when you view yourself from the backseat of a car in the rear view mirror. I thought I was the only one who had noticed this. And let me just expand on it for a moment. It's not just my neck that looks bad in that mirror. I have more than once been tempted to ask the driver to just drop me off at the Old Folks Home or the emergency room. Surely the rest of the people in the car don't want to be seen in public with me anyway. I mean, will I look any worse in my casket than I do in that mirror?

Where was I? Oh yes – Nora Ephron. The essay “On Maintenance” discusses this topic for women over forty. A simple Ephron definition: “Maintenance is what you have to do just so you can walk out the door knowing that if you go to the market and bump into a guy who once rejected you, you won't have to hide behind a stack of canned food”. It covers everything from hair (wanted and unwanted), nails and skin to exercise. Although I'm amazed to learn that a woman of her talents has not yet figured out how to blow dry her own hair, I completely agree with her theory that the increased use of hair dye has meant that more and more women look good in black. It can't really be true that “most everyone wears black – except for anchorwomen, United States senators , and the residents of Texas”, but it sounds right when Ephron says it. And her brief essay “Blind as a Bat” mourns the loss of such simple pleasures as reading a map or a pill bottle without finding your glasses. I think she could have added that the small print on price tags may in fact be a conspiracy to make older women spend more than they meant to. Are you really going to walk through Bloomingdale's with your reading glasses on a chain around your neck?

Other essays tackle more serious subjects, such as the death of a dear friend and a witty but scathing riff on her disappointment with Bill Clinton (“Me and Bill:The End of Love”). I have enjoyed Nora Ephron's writing for many years – her screenplays (“When Harry Met Sally”) as well as her essays, and I'm happy to report that her wry, witty, courageous observations still make me laugh.

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