Writer, producer, feminist, director, and all around talented woman, Nora Ephron, 1941 – 2012
“I have always thought it was a terrible shame that the women’s movement didn’t realise how much easier it was to reach people by making them laugh than by shaking a fist and saying, ‘Don’t you see how oppressed you are’,” she told Newsday in 1976.
Maybe I could apply that to the upcoming elections. Instead of going all heavy duty and gathering serious facts about health care and education et. al., I could find jokes. A good punch line will help voters remember because they were smiling as they heard the facts. The smile helps voters feel positive, and positive motivation – well, anyway, I should look for punch lines. That will help.
“Your education is a dress rehearsal for a life that is yours to lead.”- graduation speech at Wellesley, 1996.
I’m not sure I agree with this one in a literal sense. If I’d followed my undergraduate education stream of consciousness, I’d be – oh, I give in, I wouldn’t be me. Since my graduation day, I’ve built on my liberal arts knowledge base and my experiences to move through a range of jobs and fields of study, some connected to my major and some unheard of under the roof of the ivory tower in which I studied. My current position did not exist when I was in college. In fact, my current job did not exist a mere ten years ago.
On the other hand, my undergraduate experience was an education in survival. I survived being an open-minded person in a closed-minded structure. I survived being a hearing impaired person in a conservatory of music. Some of those who wanted to knock me down back then are no longer in music or education. Dress rehearsal? Perhaps. When the curtain rose, I didn’t follow the script. I improvised. I had a lot of practice in modifying a score to fit the structure of my life rather than modifying myself to fit someone else’s composition.
“Above all,” said Ephron, in the address to the graduates of Wellesley in 1996, “be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”
Wow. That’s harder than it sounds. In the past few years, I’ve been victim of health troubles, including both physical and mental health, a victim of professional bullying (how’s that for an oxymoron?), and if you listen to the insurance company, a victim of my own coping skills. If I read it the other way, I’m a survivor. I cope. I am determined and willing to put a lot on the line to better my life and those around me. Is that heroic? I don’t leap tall buildings in a single bound, but I’ve crawled out of some nasty swamps and bogs.
A victim who recovers and moves on beyond victim status can indeed be a heroine. I think I’ll take a bite of a line from one of of Nora Ephron’s screenplays.
“I’ll have what she’s having.” – from When Harry met Sally.
My world is better for knowing Ephron’s work. She was an amazing woman. May she rest in peace – or better yet, may she spread her wisdom and humor to a new, eternal audience. I can have a taste of what she had by experiencing the collection she left behind.