I Feel Bad about My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman

I Feel Bad about My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman

by Nora Ephron

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Overview

With her disarming, intimate, completely accessible voice, and dry sense of humor, Nora Ephron shares with us her ups and downs in I Feel Bad About My Neck, a candid, hilarious look at women who are getting older and dealing with the tribulations of maintenance, menopause, empty nests, and life itself.

Ephron chronicles her life as an obsessed cook, passionate city dweller, and hapless parent. But mostly she speaks frankly and uproariously about life as a woman of a certain age. Utterly courageous, uproariously funny, and unexpectedly moving in its truth telling, I Feel Bad About My Neck is a scrumptious, irresistible treat of a book, full of truths, laugh out loud moments that will appeal to readers of all ages.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307265944
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/01/2006
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 11,275
File size: 410 KB

About the Author

Nora Ephron was the author of the bestselling I Feel Bad About My Neck as well as Heartburn, Crazy Salad, Wallflower at the Orgy, and Scribble Scribble. She wrote and directed the hit movie Julie & Julia and received Academy Award nominations for Best Original Screenplay for When Harry Met Sally. . ., Silkwood, and Sleepless in Seattle, which she also directed. Her other credits include the script for the stage hit Love, Loss, and What I Wore with Delia Ephron. She died in 2012.

Read an Excerpt

What I Wish I’d KnownPeople have only one way to be.Buy, don’t rent.Never marry a man you wouldn’t want to be divorcedfrom.Don’t cover a couch with anything that isn’t more orless beige.Don’t buy anything that is 100 percent wool even if itseems to be very soft and not particularly itchy whenyou try it on in the store.You can’t be friends with people who call after 11 p.m.Block everyone on your instant mail.The world’s greatest babysitter burns out after two anda half years.You never know.The last four years of psychoanalysis are a waste ofmoney.The plane is not going to crash.Anything you think is wrong with your body at the ageof thirty-five you will be nostalgic for at the age of forty-five.At the age of fifty-five you will get a saggy roll justabove your waist even if you are painfully thin.This saggy roll just above your waist will be especiallyvisible from the back and will force you to reevaluatehalf the clothes in your closet, especially the whiteshirts.Write everything down.Keep a journal.Take more pictures.The empty nest is underrated.You can order more than one dessert.You can’t own too many black turtleneck sweaters.If the shoe doesn’t fit in the shoe store, it’s never goingto fit.When your children are teenagers, it’s important to havea dog so that someone in the house is happy to see you.Back up your files.Overinsure everything.Whenever someone says the words “Our friendship ismore important than this,” watch out, because it almostnever is.There’s no point in making piecrust from scratch.The reason you’re waking up in the middle of the nightis the second glass of wine.The minute you decide to get divorced, go see a lawyerand file the papers.Overtip.Never let them know.If only one third of your clothes are mistakes, you’reahead of the game.If friends ask you to be their child’s guardian in casethey die in a plane crash, you can say no.There are no secrets.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Wickedly witty. . . . Crackling sharp. . . . Fireworks shoot out [of this collection].” —The Boston Globe“Long-overdue. . . . Executed with sharpness and panache . . . . [Nora Ephron] retains an uncanny ability to sound like your best friend, whoever you are. . . . It's good to know that Ms. Ephron's wry, knowing X-ray vision is one of them.” —The New York Times“Women who find themselves somewhere between the arrival of their first wrinkle and death have to hear only the title to get the message.”—Los Angeles Times“Wry and amusing. . . . Marvelous.” —The Washington Post Book World

Reading Group Guide

“Wickedly witty. . . . Crackling sharp. . . . Fireworks shoot out [of this collection].”
The Boston Globe

The introduction, discussion questions, and suggestions for further reading that follow are intended to enhance your group's discussion of I Feel Bad About My Neck, Nora Ephron's disarming, intimate, frank, and often hilarious essays about coping—or failing to cope—with growing older.

1. In “I Feel Bad About My Neck,” Ephron writes that she avoids making truthful comments on how her friends look, even when they ask her directly [pp. 3–4]. Why is this a wise decision? She says, “the neck is a dead giveaway” [p. 5]. When women seek each other's opinions about how their necks, and other features, really look, do they want the truth, or do they want to be reassured?

2. According to Ephron, most authors who write about aging say “it great to be old. It's great to be wise and sage and mellow” [p. 7]. What, for her, is wrong with this approach? How would you compare I Feel Bad About My Neck with other books you have read about aging or menopause? Is it more useful?

3. In “I Hate My Purse,” Ephron sees her purse as a microcosm of her life—it is the symbol of her inability to be organized. Given the current obsession with expensive purses in American fashion, why is her choice of a plastic MetroCard bag amusing [pp. 15–16]?

4. What do the foods we cook, the cookbook authors we seek to emulate, and the way we entertain guests, say about how we want life to be? Why does Ephron give up her attachment to Craig Claiborne and begin “to make a study of Lee Bailey” [p. 26], and then later move on to Martha Stewart and Nigella Lawson?

5. Heartburn was a “thinly disguised novel about the end of my marriage” [p. 28]. If you have read Heartburn or seen the film, think about how Ephron presents her current stage in life, and what has changed for her. What is her attitude as she reflects on earlier and more difficult periods of her life?

6. Ephron writes, “I sometimes think that not having to worry about your hair anymore is the secret upside of death” [p. 32]. She also says that going to a hair salon twice a week and having her hair blown dry is “cheaper by far than psychoanalysis, and much more uplifting” [p. 34]. For Ephron, “maintenance” has larger implications than just taking care of one's appearance. What are the larger meanings of these annoying, repetitive actions, for her—and by implication, for women in general?

7. What would this book be like if written by a man? Do men have similar issues about growing older, and do they talk or think about them in similar ways? Think about and share ideas about what well-known man—a writer or a celebrity, perhaps—might be capable of writing the male version of I Feel Bad About My Neck.

8. In “Parenting in Three Stages,” Ephron revises some commonly held notions. Adolescence, for instance, is a period that helps parents separate from their children, and there is “almost nothing you can do to make life easier for yourself except wait until it's over” [p. 62]. Later in the book she says, “the empty nest is underrated” [p. 125]. How does being in her sixties, with her children out of the house, change Ephron's perspective on motherhood?

9. In “Moving On,” Ephron writes about an important and prolonged episode in her past: a love affair with an apartment building. How does she eventually “move on”? Does this essay suggest that she has become more pragmatic with time? How does she change her mind about what makes sense for her, as she gets older?

10. Why is “The Story of My Life in 3,500 Words or Less” such an effective way of telling one's life story? What does Ephron focus on as the most important issues in this miniaturized autobiography? What lessons has she learned?

11. While this is undoubtedly a funny and enjoyable book, in what ways is it also a serious book? What are Ephron's most important insights in “Considering the Alternative”?

12. What, if anything, does I Feel Bad About My Neck have to say about the benefits of growing older?

13. Certain small pieces in this collection might provoke you and members of your group to try writing your own version. What would you include, for instance, in your own list of “What I Wish I'd Known”?

14. What is the funniest moment in this collection, and why?

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