You know that little box in Zoom/video chats where you can see yourself moving and talking and, usually in my case, not revealing your best side? Well, I saw myself the other day with a series of small, but most-definitely-prominent, undulating rolls of neck-squidge. I stretched my neck, tried that trick of rubbing my neck to somehow magic them away – failed, as Donald Trump would declare, bigly – and adjusted my posture. Drastic action is needed.
I Feel Bad About My Neck and other thoughts on being a woman is the kind of book, a series of essays on subjects that affect all women, that you read and assume you could also write. But then you think about how you would write it and realise that there’s no way you could express yourself as succinctly and in the light, humorous way that Nora Ephron does so unfailingly magnificently.
I am appalled with myself that, until early 2020, Nora Ephron was someone I only ever associated with romantic comedy films (When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail; a distinct genre, to my mind, albeit one which I secretly enjoyed in my more cutesy-film-loving days). I had often noticed a swathe of Ephron spines in book shops and never even picked one out. This is now the second Nora Ephron book I’ve read (Heartburn being the first) and I loved it, it was just what I needed to read that day, an “I’m going to read a whole book” kind of day amidst those weird twixt Christmas and new year days.
If its being essays is likely to put you off, think of it more as thoughts on various topics that are of interest and relevance to most women (and, I’m sure, also relatable-to to some men), from maintenance (skincare, for example) to ageing, to a list of things the author wishes she had known and acted upon earlier. It’s not gloomy but it’s also not that kind of sickly, upbeat gushing that has the effect of making me feel incredibly miserable. It is a book that makes you smile with recognition, feel good and it also makes you think about how you live your own life, your relationships with partners and friends, the homes you have lived in and your choice of handbag. It’s easy-reading but fun and well-written. It’s short and doesn’t take long to read, but not so much so that you feel cheated when it ends so quickly.
I read it as the first off a pile of books I was given for Christmas and I chose this particular book in part because it related to necks and I had a stiff neck at the time. The neck section, distressingly, is actually about the phenomenon of your neck going from something you don’t think much about until one day, and ongoing, it is noticeable, not in a good way, and reminiscent of a turkey’s neck. That all hit home a little more than I would have liked, particularly the no-going-back element. But, taking away a positive, I have since instigated a neck-care regime into my otherwise very minimal pre-bedtime maintenance routine. I can not reverse the ravages of time and the effects of eating too much but I can at least try to preserve my neck’s smoothness. Or just wear more roll necks and scarves, depending on the force of my fighting spirit that day.
To me, this book is a nine out of ten, in part because there are so many great lines expressing ideas with humour and clarity that I could never have reduced to one pithy sentence. It is also one of those rare books that I can relate to, it being written in a friendly, chatty kind of way, and which makes me think about things with a positive spin that, in some cases, I would default to feeling a bit gloomy about had I given them much thought without Nora’s guidance. I have become a big fan of Nora Ephron and I look forward to reading more of her thoughts.