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Ephron’s book: funny truth or big-time set-back?

Nora Ephron’s new book I Feel Bad about My Neck is causing quite the stir. Here we are at a time when Oprah is claiming that 50 is the new 40, women’s magazines are focusing on the beauty of self-confidence over taut skin, and women past menopause are openly discussing their sexuality. Then, wham!, Ephron comes and claims this is bull****. The truth, she says, is that “it’s sad to be over sixty.” Getting older is basically one long decline until death.

Although I think about menopause right now about as much as I think about buying a training bra, the conversation and debate around the book is fascinating.

On the one hand, I respect the fact that women view Ephron’s book as a huge setback. In our youth-obsessed culture where older celebrities try to look 18 and anti-wrinkle cream flies off the shelf, who needs a book from a smart Jewish woman trumpeting her belief that getting old is a big fat bummer? I firmly believe that that it’s pathetic valuing Botox over wisdom, facelifts over perspective. Hey, I’d take gray hairs any day over worrying whether someone is going to ask me to the prom. I’ll happily take sagging breasts over crying that no boy will ever like me. I think there is nothing sexier than a woman who truly knows herself—and feels comfortable in her own skin.

That said, plenty of women are thrilled that Ephron is slapping some truth on the table. There is a downside to getting older: some of your body’s systems do start to go, your memory capacity does decrease, and all the plastic surgery in the world isn’t going to stop it. The American Society for Plastic Surgeons just reported that cosmetic surgery procedures climbed 5% from 2004 to 2005. We’re talking 1.5 million procedures! Those procedures won’t change the fact that the number of medications in our travel bags will likely keep growing. Why not admit this, and have some laughs along the way?

So, what do you think? Is the truth once again in the middle?

Topics: Non-Fiction
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I'm usually an Ephron fan, but in this case, I think her humor has hit a wrong note. I think it's important for women to think about and write about their embodied experiences, but Ephron's perspective in this book strikes me as superficial and not critical enough. At a time when women face much more serious problems than wrinkly necks, it seems a bit irresponsible to me to focus our attention this way.

But I also think that the increasing negative focus on older women's appearances is the side effect of a more positive phenomenon: the opening of new roles for older women, beyond that of grandmother. Now that there is more recognition that older women are sexual beings, not just wizened caretakers, there is more pressure for them to adhere to certain standards of sexual attractiveness and beauty.

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How to cite this page

Cove, Michelle. "Ephron’s book: funny truth or big-time set-back?." 6 September 2006. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on March 5, 2024) <http://jwa.org/blog/ephron>.