I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being A Woman by Nora Ephron

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I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman by Nora Ephron

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Category: Autobiography
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The creator of When Harry Met Sally takes a light-hearted looked at the effects of aging and other thoughts on being a woman. It's gentle, self-deprecating and should be an instant hit with any woman who has realised that she will not look under thirty for ever.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 224 Date: February 2008
Publisher: Black Swan
ISBN: 978-0552773812

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Not long ago I was moved to tell a friend that gravity was having such an effect on my body that I was convinced that eventually the entire problem would be contained in a stout pair of wellies. I've never looked my age but I'm now finding that I look an age that I don't want to be, so when I saw Nora Ephron's I Feel Bad About My Neck I knew that I had to read this book. This woman understood me.

Strangely enough my neck is one of the few parts of my body which doesn't seem to have succumbed to the ravages of time but I nodded in agreement as she described a meeting with a group of her girlfriends, all wearing turtleneck sweaters, or scarves or mandarin collars – in fact anything to hide their necks from public view. You can dye your hair, have Botox injections into your wrinkles and various other non-surgical procedures which understate your years, but there is nothing that you can do about your neck short of plastic surgery. Nora Ephron says that she works hard at maintaining the way she looks (and we hear all about it) with the result that she looks approximately one year younger than she actually is.

The book had me in (non-surgical) stitches in places. Occasionally I wasn't laughing kindly as the women of whom Nora Ephron writes are very high-maintenance and looks and fashion matter a great deal to them. Handbags (or purses) don't bother me and I don't think that I've ever consciously thought of them as being in fashion or out. I've tended more towards 'functional' or even, on occasion, to 'zip not broken'.

I was amazed by the thought that no matter how skinny you are you develop a roll of fat just above your waistline as you get older. This is particularly visible from the back and means that your entire wardrobe needs to be re-evaluated, particularly with regard to white shirts.

If only one third of your clothes are mistakes, you're ahead of the game.

Whilst I might look on in wonder at the expense of being maintained in a fit state I'll confess to a twinge of envy at the joy Nora Ephron takes from her life. There have been good times and bad times, but it's obvious that she's putting the bad times behind her. The bitterness she felt when her marriage broke up because of her husband's affair with the wife of the British Ambassador just as her second child was born has faded and she managed to mention neither of their names. Somehow I felt that she had the best of the deal.

She is the master of the memorable phrase. When your children are teenagers, it's important to have a dog so that someone in the house is happy to see you. There's gentle self-deprecation and the ability to laugh at and with herself. She was apparently the only intern in the JFK White House whom the President didn't make a pass at – and the one true love in her life seems to have been an apartment.

I loved this book but I suspect that's because of my age. It wouldn't appeal quite so much if I was younger. In exactly the same way that we all believe that we are immortal, no one really thinks that they will age and you're only going to appreciate the truth and humour in this book when you know that you were wrong – and probably on both counts. The neck, apparently, starts going at forty three – which might be a suitable guide.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag. I'm not going to emulate Nora Ephron's maintenance schedule but I have a greater appreciation of the time that I save each day by not being that bothered about the result.

It's not a literary kindness to call these pieces 'essays'. They're generally well-crafted and very entertaining. Whilst some of the subject matter might be considered trivial, the insight is not. If you're looking for a more literary book then Bookbag can recommend At Large And At Small by Anne Fadiman, the master of the familiar essay, but if you're looking for a present for an aging woman then I think this might be the book for you.

Buy I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being A Woman by Nora Ephron at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being A Woman by Nora Ephron at Amazon.co.uk


Buy I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being A Woman by Nora Ephron at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being A Woman by Nora Ephron at Amazon.com.

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Jill said:

Aieeeeeeeeeeee! I am forty-three. I can't stop laughing at your review, let alone the book. Later on, when I'm alone in my bath, all that laughter is going to turn to maudlin depression, you know that, don't you? I've started already, and I haven't even got away with a single year!


Sue replied:

Pull yourself together, Murphy. You know there isn't enough on you to sag.


Magda said:

I'm not going to emulate Nora Ephron's maintenance schedule but I have a greater appreciation of the time that I save each day by not being that bothered about the result.

...and good on you! I don't think I'd be that charitable. One of the greatest pleasures of getting older in a more old-fashioned era, or a more old-fashioned marriage, perhaps, surely must be the pleasure of letting oneself go. In fact, somebody should write a funny book entitled just that. One of the precious few aesthetic advantages of being fat is that the wrinkles are somehow later, and a very secondary consideration.

Magda, 5 years to the neck-time and not counting.


Sue replied:

I've let myself go to the extent that I've disappeared into the distance! I suppose it depends on why women want to look good, doesn't it? Is it to attract/retain a mate or because you like to look good for yourself?

I'm not bothered about the attracting/retaining a mate idea as the thought that a marriage might be based on how I look fills me with horror and I'd rather not be part of it. My hair is pretty grey now and I thought that I had given up colouring it, but I think I might be about to start again. When I look in the mirror I see my mother - and I don't like it. Clothes don't bother me at all - most of mine are years old and I wear them until they fall apart. When most of your social life occurs whilst walking over muddy fields with the dogs this seems only sensible.

On the wrinkles point I agree that a little bit of plumptiousness does help here. I actually have fewer wrinkles than my forty-year-old daughter who's a perfect size ten. Roll on the day when being plumptious is the norm.


Kerry said:

You know how I'm not given to persuasion? I really have to think it's relevant to me, having read a review, to then go and buy the book based on someone else's opinion of it but you have definitely won me over with this one. I have to have it. I do do handbags and I like fashion and having just shifted three stone (with one more to go) so that the perfect size ten is not a foreign country to me any longer, I want to know what the downsides to that are and what this talented lady really thinks about the little roll of fat you have around your waist even when you're skinny...... I really don't want to look like my mother - as much as I love her. And then, with all the research done, I'm going to sally forth and start writing that book Magda mentioned..... with a follow up for Ms. Ephron entitled Does My Neck Look Crepey In This.