The horror of my life was the shaving mirror in the morning.
Of course, it wasn’t the mirror but what I beheld there: Me. Actually, my neck.
Like millions of others, I suffer from neckophobia: the consternation that arises when your neck decides, quite on its own, that it’s old and has too much skin; and what are you going to do about it?
Well, there are dickeys, extra-snug shirt collars and turtlenecks.
There are thoughts of cosmetic surgery–tucks and lifts. But that’s expensive and risky and requires bravery.
But, no, my winter of discontent has been made glorious summer by a woman. One wonderful woman: Nora Ephron.
Nora is a genius: a gifted journalist, essayist, novelist, playwright, screenwriter and bon vivant. I don’t actually know about the latter, but she must be – she was once married to Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame. I did know Carl, we worked together at The Washington Post; and even before he was famous, he was into the good life.
Anyway, Nora has saved me from hating my neck by writing a book, “I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts.” Thank you, thank you!
The moment I heard about her book of essays, I felt so much better about my surfeit of skin. How could a great lady in Hollywood–or is it New York?–so help the self image of a stranger?
Actually I met Nora in 1963 at The New York Post, when she was 21 or so and already a star. She was wise too; assiduously, she avoided my attempts to talk to her.
Nora’s neck was lovely in those days. I can see it now, long and shapely.
I thought Nora might be fascinated by my young adventures in Africa and Europe. But she had moved in rarefied circles all the days of her life. Her parents had been wildly successful screenwriters. They even wrote a play about her when she was a teenager, “Take Her, She’s Mine.” Imagine that? You don’t need a resume; you just send a script or two tickets.
Nora’s secret–I hope she won’t mind if I call her by her first name, since necking is an intimate undertaking–is to turn adversity into art and art into money.
When Carl Bernstein–who I’ve always liked–turned out to be a very naughty husband, she wrote one of the funniest novels of the generation, “Heartburn.” It was a riot of a book in which she wrote that the husband, Mark, was “capable of having sex with a venetian blind.” In this volume, she indulged her passion for revenge with her passion for cooking—grilled husband with diablo sauce. If she is a comfort about my neck with her latest book, she was doubly so for betrayed wives with “Heartburn.”
In the movie “When Harry Met Sally,” Nora took revenge on all her lovers and husbands with the faked orgasm scene. That caused many a man to wonder at his prowess. More revenge against men and comfort for women. Her own cri de coeur: “In my sex fantasy nobody ever loves me for my mind.”
Well, Nora, I love you for your neck. It has so changed the way I feel about mine that I’m going to go on television wearing an open-neck shirt.
But recently, I’ve had this nightmarish thought: Suppose the exceptional Ms. Ephron goes under the knife and restores the long, smooth body part I beheld in New York in 1963?
She wouldn’t do that to me, would she? —For the Hearst-New York Times Syndicate