Sadly, this seems to be another year of losing great, inspiring people. Whitney, Etta James, Ray Bradbury, Donna Summer, Adam Yauch. It seems like the more you think about it, the more there are. And with the death of Nora Ephron on Tuesday, the world lost a woman who loved to teach us about love. Also safety violations at factories and how French cuisine can change your life, but mostly love. This is the woman that knew long before many others that men and women can’t really be “just friends”. She made meeting a guy online seem incredibly romantic. That alone makes her a genius in my mind, and also might explain this whole Taz thing. Huh…that’s interesting. Wait what was I saying? Oh yeah, Nora Ephron. Is there any line that makes us more squirmy and girlie than, “When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible”? Well, maybe “You complete me” but that’s kind of lost a bit of its appeal with Tom Cruise’s whole batshit nuts phase. Besides there’s a line that speaks to me even more than that.
I hadn’t actually heard it before a friend posted it as part of her tribute to Ephron. It’s from her novel, Heartburn, which oddly is about the breakup of a romance rather than the beginning of one as most of her movies were. She writes: “I married him against all evidence. I married him believing that marriage doesn’t work, that love dies, that passion fades, and in so doing I became the kind of romantic only a cynic is truly capable of being.” In context, it’s sad really. When you think about the fact that in this case, the love actually does die and the marriage didn’t work, the quote is almost painfully ironic. But the last part of it is what really hit me as so uniquely, touchingly true.
It’s the thing that she came back to over and over again in some of her most iconic films. Someone who doesn’t believe in love, who has been hurt and broken and given up, suddenly finds love in an unexpected way. The best friend seen in a new light, the guy on the radio with the sad story, the enemies in business. There is something particularly poignant about the cynic who somehow finds her way to love, and more importantly believing in love. Absurdly, improbably, when I read that quote for the first time, my immediate thought was, “Oh sweet Jesus, that’s going to be me.” And then the Little Roo that hangs out in the back of my brain cackled in agreement. Oh yes honey, that will be you. You who resigned herself to the idea of love for other people but not for her, the one who said marriage with an if instead of when, the one who believed her fairy tale was over. You will fall so hard and be utterly, completely transformed. Little Roo is sometimes snarkier than real Roo because she lives in my brain and has absorbed some of my tone. Still, the sentiment is the same as the one summoned up in the look she gives me every time I say something disparaging about my future lack of love.
And I can see it happening too. I can see how I could meet a guy, not expecting it to be anything, not believing he or anyone else could change my expectations or the “proof” against love garnered by my experiences. And through a thousand little things moving inexorably towards that end, I would somehow find myself in love. Not just in love, but so in love that I become that girl. The one who can’t stop talking about her boyfriend/fiancé/husband, the one who seems to have all the answers or at least a mega dose of advice and a knowing attitude, the one who is practically on fire with that lovey-dovey glow. Yes, she’s incredibly annoying to her single friends and she makes them ask themselves how a person could change so dramatically, but she also gives them the slightest tinge of hope. After all, we’re not talking about the girl who wears her heart on her sleeve and falls in love at the drop of the hat. We’re talking about the girl whose love mantra is something along the lines of, “Fuck it, who needs it.” The Samanthas and Mirandas, not the idealist Charlottes or confused Carries. They are the firmly entrenched.
I have told Taz that he will be the guy who is knocked on his ass by a woman, the guy who is so bewilderingly in love with his wife that you can’t imagine him having a life before her. But it wasn’t until I read that quote that I realized I should say the same thing about myself. We are not the type to dip our toes into love or splash around in the shallow end. If we’re going to get in at all, we’re going to be dragged mercilessly all in, submerged and reborn like a country baptism. That’s what happens when cynics become romantics. They are as stubbornly, wholly romantic as they were once skeptical. So thank you Nora Ephron, for teaching us about love in its many forms, and for scaring the shit out of me about the potential for me to turn into the kind of sappy romantic I haven’t been since I was five. You will be missed.