Friday, July 13, 2012

Bye, Bye, Nora

Beautiful, inside and out.

What follows is a version of my latest Huffington Post blog entry, which can be found in its entirety  [here]. 

Last night my kid and I rented The Grey, a film I wasn’t sure about showing to him. He’s 9-years-old, and it’s rated R… but he was very enthusiastic about watching guys get eaten by wolves.

Instead, we watched Sleepless in Seattle. At first, he was suspicious about our change of plans. Romance isn’t as sweet as wolves eating people. Then the 8-year-old boy character Jonah busted his dad on a national radio show and found a way to go to New York City by himself to meet his future new mom on the top of the Empire State building. Things got interesting, and he stayed awake to the end.

Nora Ephron’s passing has been written about so eloquently by those who loved her and knew her well. I did not know her, but I know a few things about what made me love her anyway. I've been skeptical about my devotion to the romantic comedy formula, which is as old as time, but realize that Ephron trotted it out brilliantly for a new generation. Her female characters weren't damsels in distress- they were lonely and real, at least to me. The accidental nature of her character’s meetings have fueled the mythology of untold love stories, including my own. What could have just been a happenstance meeting at a party 16 years ago has been mythologized for me into “I met him at a party that I didn’t want to go to.” Oh, and it was pouring rain that night. And I was with my gorgeous single friend Vanessa, and he chose me, and we never looked back.

What does that have to do with Nora Ephron?

After I met Jim, I had a dream that felt like one of those visitation dreams. It was a dream of Raymond DeVantier, a father figure I’d had growing up, and who died in a car crash when I was 21. He was a perfect stand-in dad for my adolescent self—he gave me my first Patti Smith and Bob Dylan albums for my 16th birthday. In the dream, he said, “I tried to get you two together 7 times."  I’d realized that Jim lived in NYC the whole length of my time here, and our apartments had been one block apart, yada yada. Real life Sleepless in Seattle? Who knows, but whether that was a real dream visit from a dead loved one, or the Sleepless in Seattle plotline burned into my unconscious, I do not know. 

The comfort of Ephron’s penultimate love stories have served me well in harder times, and oddly have framed themselves as guilty pleasures. Why guilty? There’s something very breezy about Rom-Coms. They aren’t exactly brain food, just like Cosmopolitan isn’t exactly a grad school thesis. But since I’ve worked at Cosmo I realize that finding a perfect formula and making it look easy is difficult.  Anyway, what the trick to her effervescent and addictive writing is, I cannot exactly say. I think it would shift depending on the day. One day it would be humor, the next, her honesty. I’ve just crossed over the 40 threshold, and remember my sister-in-law telling me I didn’t have to do the pencil test yet. What’s the pencil test, I asked her? When your boobs sag and they can hold a pencil underneath them. She died a few years ago, far too soon, and had her dear, sagging breasts removed before she left our world. I’m lucky to be able to stand here on this earth and do a pencil test. I’m lucky if I can watch my neck change into something I’m not that crazy about, as Ephron did. I hope I have the grace to approach the rest of my days with her same gusto and honesty. I hope her family can keep this in their hearts as they move through these very sad days ahead. For so many of us, she gave us happy endings when it didn’t seem like there were real ones on the horizon. 

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