The older I get the harder it is to have heroes.
I still haven’t forgiven Molly Ivins for dying, Gwyneth Paltrow for that ill-fitting pink, Shakespeare in Love Oscar night dress, or Bill Clinton for that blue, slightly stained one. (By the way, a little club soda will clear that right up, or so I’ve heard.)
But today I’m mad at Nora Ephron.
I used to love Nora. How could I not love a woman who still makes me laugh every time I order a sandwich in a deli, thanks to that wonderful scene in When Harry Met Sally? And how could I not love a woman who “fictionalized” the story of her divorce–in Heartburn –by giving her husband a beard and making his cat into a hamster? When I divorce my first husband, I’m going to make him 4’9″ and bald, with extra toes.
Talk about a perfect hero for me. She writes that most of her mistakes turned out to be things she “survived, or turned into funny stories, or, on occasion, even made money from.”
But now I’m really mad at Nora. Thanks to her recent book of essays, I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman, I too feel bad about my neck, and that makes me really, really mad.
It’s hard enough to go through life with a disproportionately large behind, gigantic feet, and unpolished fingernails. Now I have to worry about my friggin’ neck?
There are days when the only solace I can find when I look in the mirror is at neck level. While my hair is still thick and thankfully low maintenance, the grays in my tresses are beyond the plucking stage and I know I’ll give in and start coloring them soon. My son is voting for green.
The laugh lines around my mouth are looking more and more like crow’s feet, and when I remember to put on lipstick, it invariably ends up decorating my teeth a lovely shade of coral. The same teeth that I now have to remember to use two different kinds of toothpaste for every day: Sensodyne in the morning, for my aging gums, and a teeny tiny prescription tube of $29 super-fluoride toothpaste at night, that will supposedly help prevent me from needing another $7,000 worth of dental work this year.
And my eyes, oh my eyes. My vision is getting so bad that I gave myself 47 new wrinkles last night, from squinting down at my 4’6″ husband and asking, “You want me to do what?”
But until I read this book, I was okay with my neck. It has kept my head in the right place for a long time.
Sure, it wasn’t dripping with the diamonds I once fantasized about. And okay, it’s not usually holding up a tiara. And it’s never worn an Olympic gold medal, or even a bronze. But I was okay with my neck until I read this book. To tell you the truth, I didn’t really give it much thought. If anything, I thought maybe the sagging boobs made it look longer, more elegant.
Now, I can’t stop thinking about my neck and I can’t stop looking at everybody else’s. I’ve become obsessed with looking at the necks of the other women at school, at Little League, at the grocery store, and at the gym.
The other day I was watching Grey’s Anatomy on TV, and I had to pause it so I could go put my nose right up next to the TV where I could see and stare at Kate Walsh’s neck. She’s supposed to be 40 on the show but I counted the rings around her neck and I don’t think she’s quite that old in real life.
Or maybe she is that old, and 40 just looks a lot younger than it used to, even on TV. It’s not that I never thought about these things before I read the book, but I never thought about aging in terms of necks. I never even noticed before how many women in their 50s and 60s wear turtlenecks on sunny days, or mandarin collars when they have to dress up. Cowards.
But now I notice. Everywhere I look there are necks, and thanks to Nora, I have this irresistible compulsion to rubberneck and check them out. I can’t stop myself.
What a pain in the … you know what.