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14 August 2013

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

 It turns out I am eight hours a week from looking like a bag lady on the street.

I received this book as a 40th birthday gift from someone I usually consider sensitive, tasteful and intelligent.  I had not read anything by this writer, but I had enjoyed her films so I was excited.  Nora Ephron published it in 2006, six years before she died.  She was not young and she certainly knew it.  I laughed and laughed and then I was paranoid.  I am not quite there in terms of age, that is my late 50's to mid 60's but I see them looming, like that massive tidal wave in the movie "2012".  To my friend, the giver, I will say this... thank you, I have so much to look forward to... my consolation is that you are on the same path.

So back to the book.  The book is about female urbanites I can relate to very much. Nora Ephron discusses vibrant topics like handbags, marriage, flats (apartments in cities), children and the topic that made me laugh, pause, consider, worry... "Maintenance".  Yes it deserves the capital letter.  It turns out I am 8 (eight) hours a week from looking like a bag lady on the street.  Nora says so in this book and after doing some personal math, she is correct.  Eight hours a week times 52 weeks in a year is 416 hours.  Say I have been doing all this grooming consistently since the age of 15 (more or less depending on babies), that is 25 years times 416? That is 10,400 hours of my life doing some painful, occasionally humiliating things for the sake of vanity and social convention.  So far I have spent more than a year plucking, dying, scrubbing, painting, washing, exfoliating, waxing, blow drying, polishing, smoothing, soothing and toning... I am sure this list is not exhaustive.

So back to the bag lady who does not get professional haircuts, dye her hair, moisturize her face or (heaven forbid) wax her legs.  Have a good look because it could be any of you if you skipped it all for ONE week.  "So?" you may ask, "Who cares?"  My husband, Beloved Proof Reader,  says he loves me.  Yea right. That is the same husband who wholeheartedly approves of my sky high Louboutins... and try stepping out in those with hairy legs, dry feet and un-groomed toes.  If I did not care about what others thought, I could step out with my Louboutins and my bathrobe.  Usually, I only care about what BPR thinks and he makes approving noises when I make an effort (i.e. 8 hours he does not often see).  Is it worth it? Yes because I feel good... I hope I look good... but that is another topic.  But it has taken me a while to reach this decision.  At first, I was shocked at the time and effort.

Some of my friends shrugged their shoulders when I mention my latest read and some of the fun numbers in it.  In fact both my über-groomed European friends and the au naturel European friends said, "of course".  Shocking to think about it because after 10,400 hours it is natural.  Truth is that I had thought I was beyond those teenage obsessions and concerns.  Teens can be quite cruel about your looks and personal grooming, I know from personal experience.  But I outgrew those fears and insecurities.  I am a confidant, beautiful woman.  This funny book gave me some serious moments of deep self reflection about the most shallow of topics.  There are some depressing things about growing old.  There are some frustrating things about growing old.  But those 8 hours loving myself (painful sometimes, but love hurts) are in fact a weekly conquest of my self love, love of metropolitan cities, love of my husband and love of my children (who are glad to have a youthful mother)... though I'm not sure this is the result Nora would have expected from other women reading this book.

Nora Ephron 
ISBN: 9780552773812 


  1. Anonymous09:44

    hello Miriam,
    long time no comment, good to be back.
    hope this does not sound like a dating site statement, but you are a truly beautiful woman. you will never look like a bag lady.
    this is a subject that fascinates me and sometimes frustrates me. I could write many paragraphs but will keep it short. I have mixed feelings about grooming, vanity, and expectations. i do not like women who use a surgeon just for vanity. reconstruction after accident or disease is fine. dang, lots of backspacing and rewriting lol. i like "normal" grooming. cleanliness and hygiene are the only absolutes. after that, some shaving is good and light makeup. clothing should fit well. natural hair styles are best. i like hair that moves in a breeze. a woman does not need to be a size zero and spend hundreds of dollars a week to look pretty. a smile is worth more than all the beauty products and razors and fashions. i know special occasions (weddings or other formal events) require a little extra. tell me i am a man and being too simplistic, i will not be offended.

  2. Dear Bob,

    My reply button still does not work so I will respond down here instead. I am so happy to hear from you. A birdie told me you had been going through a rough patch but that you are now on the mend... I am happy for you.

    As for your comment, you are a gentleman and I am not surprised by your response. I only hope you have passed on these views to your sons (if any), you will have grateful daughters in law.