Nora Ephron on Aging, Twitter, and NEWSWEEK

Nora Ephron, photographed at her home in New York. Charles Sykes / AP

A selection of things Nora Ephron will not miss when she dies (if she were able to miss anything): E-mail. Fox News. Taking off her makeup every night. Things she will miss? Her kids and husband. Also: waffles (which she made this week), pies, and Thanksgiving dinner. Has Ephron—the celebrated screenwriter, director, and Oscar nominee—been diagnosed with some awful, incurable disease? Of course not. But at 69, her new book of essays does tackle the reality that—among other things—death is inching closer.

Filled with Ephron’s usual dry wit, I Remember Nothing picks up where her 2006 book, I Feel Bad About My Neck, left off—with an ode to journalism, a rant about chicken soup, tales from her days as a NEWSWEEK “mail girl," and of course, observations on aging in a culture consumed by youth. Ephron spoke to Jessica Bennett.

In I Feel Bad About My Neck, you riff about the physical perils of aging, but less about the emotional ones. What’s changed?

Well, I feel nostalgic about the period of time when I thought getting older was mainly about having to wear a lot of turtlenecks. At some point you cross that threshold about the real truths about that ticking clock.

You have a whole chapter on things you’ll miss—and won’t miss—when you die. Was it hard to put that down on paper?

I don’t think it’s hard to put it down on paper itself. What I felt about that list was that if you knew what you were truly going to miss after you were dead, and did not have the capacity to miss it—because I certainly don’t think I’m going to be floating around in some heaven—one of the advantages of making a list like that is at least you try to have as many waffles as you can because you know you’re going to miss them. Apropos of which, I did make waffles yesterday.

Do you think you start to value things more with age?

I think you really should. And by the same token, I think you should try to shed the things you’re not going to miss. When you get to the point that it is literally true that life is too short, it imposes some imperatives, really. If you have friends who bore you, well then, stop having dinner with them.

You write that the “senior moment” has become the “Google moment,” because you can look up everything you forget. Is this how you took up blogging?

Well, first of all, when I embraced blogging, it was called “blogging,” and now only moments have passed and now it’s called “posting,” I noticed. I think I tried very, very hard to sort of stay with it. But in the last couple of years I’ve been completely defeated by things like Twitter. I think Twitter was put on the earth to make people like me basically understand that there’s just so far you can go with being up to date, and then you hit a wall.

Well, at least you have kids who can help keep you up to date.

Kind of. But there are things that you just go, 'I’m never going to know.' I’m never going to know what an algorithm is, I just know this.

As a writer, what do you think about Twitter?

It isn’t that I don’t think you can make something artistic out of a form like Twitter, it’s just ... What is that expression, the unexamined life is not worth living? Well, neither is the overexamined life. I’m one of those older people who think, just don’t tell me everything. I don’t care how you took your coffee this morning!

You have an entire section of the HuffPost devoted to divorce. Do you think we should do away with marriage altogether?

No, absolutely not. I still believe in marriage. But I didn’t really get good at it for a long time. Would you like to know my sister’s formula for a good marriage? It’s that you have to marry a man who was unhappily married to someone else for 17 years.

Why 17 years?

That’s just what worked for her. It’s as good a theory as any. Along with the most brilliant one of all, which is, never marry a man you wouldn’t want to be divorced from.

Your life seems very glamorous—both today and when you were starting out. What’s the most ungodly thing you did as you tried to make it as a writer?

Oh, God, I don’t know. I remember so many horrible assignments, one of which was at the [New York] Post. The Post sent me to cover some sort of happening in the New York City sewer, with Salvador Dali, the painter. You know, I was a young reporter living on $98 a week, and my shoes were ruined. I still remember those shoes. It was so horrible. I swear to you, I had about two pairs of shoes at the time.

So Dali was painting in the sewer? What was the assignment?

Well, of course I can’t remember exactly what he was doing in the sewer—all I can remember are the shoes! This is part of the nightmare of getting older, that you remember the most idiotic details.

What do you think is the biggest difference between your generation of young women starting out in the workplace and today’s young women?

Well, no one is ever going to say to you what they said to me when I went to NEWSWEEK magazine in [1962] and said I wanted to be a writer, and they said, “Women don’t become writers at NEWSWEEK.” Those words are never going to come out of people’s mouths anymore, and in fact there are many, many, many more women writing now than there were when I was young.

What’s the craziest thing you ever had to do at NEWSWEEK?

You know, they didn’t give you very much crazy to do there because they didn’t give you almost anything to do. I don’t think I remember ever being given almost anything to do at NEWSWEEK except to make sure whatever man I was checking the work of had gotten it right. But that was the whole problem—you didn’t get to do anything creative. You didn’t get to do anything but check other people’s work and clip newspapers and deliver mail. That was what it meant to be a girl then.

Do you think that culture still exists?

At some magazines, absolutely. But not at others ...  You know, in the movie business, I’m always surprised to find myself referred to as a “woman director,” instead of just a “director,” because I work the same hours and do exactly the same job that men do.

Do you think that will ever change?

Yes, no question. But I won’t be here!

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