Don't listen to your mother: Nora Ephron

the book:

I Feel Bad About my Neck by Nora Ephron

published 2006: from a piece called  'The story of my life in 3500 words or less'


What my mother said

My mother says these words at least five hundred times in the course of my growing up: “Everything is copy.”

She also says, “Never ever buy a red coat.”…

 What my mother said (2)

I now believe that what my mother meant when she said “Everything is copy” is this: When you slip on a banana peel, people laugh at you; but when you tell people you slipped on a banana peel, it’s your laugh. So you come the hero rather than the victim of the joke.

I think that’s what she meant.

On the other hand, she may merely have meant, “Everything is copy.”…

And by the way

The other day I bought a red coat, on sale. But I haven’t worn it yet.

observations: Nora Ephron died earlier this year, after a long and successful career as a writer, screenwriter and later director. She was funny, light-hearted and self-deprecating, and very much appealed to women. When Harry met Sally is probably her most famous film.

She certainly took her mother’s advice and did treat everything as copy: her novel Heartburn describes the breakdown of her marriage to Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein – the other three parties in the matter (Bernstein, his mistress and her husband) were all horrified by this, and Bernstein took legal action to stop her from writing more about the situation. The book became a film starring Meryl Streep, with Jack Nicholson as her husband - thus making Bernstein the only living person to have been played by both Nicholson and Dustin Hoffman (in the film All the President’s Men).

Her mother was Phoebe Ephron, a very successful writer herself, but also an alcoholic. And why should the rest of us listen to advice given by other people’s mothers? The words ‘my mother always said’ come up far too often (another guilty party is TV cook Nigella Lawson), and really, so what if your  mother said that? It may be special to you, but there is nothing to make it special for the rest of us.

And red coats can be perfectly beautiful, as in this picture, by the artist
Reginald Gray.

Links up with: Bathsheba Everdene wears a
red jacket in Far from the Madding Crowd; mothers, daughters and coats are all copy for Gwen Raverat; Adrian Mole’s mother wants more red clothing here.

With thanks to Jo for the book.


  1. I have never bought a red coat but my friend, who is very beautiful, has one and looks lovely in it.


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