I’LL HAVE WHAT SHE HAD
(This piece was published on The Buffalo News op-ed page on June 30, 2012)
A few words here about Nora Ephron whose work I discovered
in 1972 with her Esquire piece, “A Few Words About My
Breasts.” She had me at the bath tub, staring down at her flat chest.
A discussion followed with her mother, who was anti-bra. After Nora
screams, “I am too old to wear an undershirt,” her mother says, “Then
don’t wear an undershirt” to which Nora replies, “But I want to buy a
bra.” Her mom asks, “What for?”
The hilarity continued in that piece. In the rest. When my friends
and I discuss our body parts, men and aging, we include what
In the mid-seventies, I approached her at a New School conference and
asked for advice on getting humor pieces published. She took my left
hand. “You’re married. Too bad. The editors at MAD are a horny
bunch.” A pause then, “Call them, anyway. Make an appointment, take
the ring off, get yourself up there, and pitch a piece.” Another
pause. “Maybe keep the ring on. They’ll dig that you’re married and
unavailable. Maybe pitch a few.”
I did not go to MAD, but I took off that wedding band and wrote essays
on dating men who did not have a nodding acquaintance with reality,
which I had published in many other magazines and then compiled in a
book. I followed the advice Nora’s mother gave her, “everything is copy” and “take notes.”
I took notes on my experiences. I took notes on Nora’s films.
Flirting with the idea of writing a screenplay, as I watched WHEN
HARRY MET SALLY for the third time, I counted the number of scenes.
But writing essays, not scripts, I discovered, was—still is—my passion.
Nora Ephron remained a role model. To me. To every woman who
attempts to be amusing in print or on the screen. Nora lived out and
surpassed the dream, doing it all, wearing several hats. Becoming a
director in male-dominated Hollywood, she blazed the trail for other
women who had not yet ventured into that arena.
Speaking at the New School several years ago in the same auditorium as
she did at the mid-seventies conference, she was asked by a young
woman for pointers on getting published. “What are you writing?”
Ephron asked. “A novel. I have my manuscript with me,” the woman
said. To which Nora replied, “Bring it up.” The woman did.
Last Tuesday night, when my friend, Judy, and I were on the phone discussing
Nora’s death, Judy asked, “When was the last time you heard her
speak?” Twice in recent years: on a panel of writers at a
New York Times Talk and on a televised tribute to Mike Nichols She
called him on his saying that he loved three women: his wife, Diane
Sawyer, Julia Roberts, and Meryl Streep. The implication: she felt
Nora Ephron excluded? Not from the affection of her friends, family, and fans.
I feel bad she left us way too soon, but I feel good about her neck.
Her neck. Her achievements. And her wit that came out in all she
wrote and said. Nora Ephron will continue to enrich us with
her timeless gifts.