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For Nora

June 28, 2012

jennybadman

When Harry Met Sally came out in 1989 when I was 16. I saw it nine times in the theater.

Nine.

One of those nine times was with a boy with whom I was in desperate, angst-y teenage love. As I watched the movie with him, stealing sidelong glances to see if he laughed at the same moments I did, I imagined us as one of the long-married couples in the movie’s vignette asides, talking about how we met, revealing our quirky but everlasting love for one another.

That didn’t really pan out.

But, it didn’t stop me from watching the movie many, many more times.

I’ve watched When Harry Met Sally countless times: on my “special features” DVD but most often, when it’s on T.V. It never fails to make laugh aloud. It never fails to make me want to live in New York. It is somehow timeless and yet exactly in the moments it so perfectly portrays.

After I read of Nora Ephron’s passing, I began receiving emails from friends whose messages ranged from sadness and anger (Subject line of one email: Nooooooooooooooooo!) to a compassion usually reserved for the passing of a dear friend (“I feel like I should say I’m sorry for your loss.”) to a vigil-like devotion planned for an upcoming trip (“That means in Vermont we have to quote When Harry Met Sally even more than we usually do.”)

Yes, my friends and I quote When Harry Met Sally.

It’s my sincere belief that there is an appropriate line for nearly every moment in life.

As evidenced by…

ON DEATH
When I buy a new book I always read the last page first, that way in case I die before I finish I know how it ends. That, my friend, is a dark side.

WHAT’S IN A NAME?
Sheldon can do your income taxes.  If you need a root, canal Sheldon’s your man, but humping and pumping is not Sheldon’s strong suit. It’s the name.  Do it to me ‘Sheldon’, you’re an animal ‘Sheldon’, ride me big ‘Sheldon‘.  Doesn’t work.

ON SEXUAL FANTASIES
A faceless man rips your clothes off, and that’s the sex fantasy you’ve had since you were 12. Exactly the same.

Well, sometimes I vary it a little.

Which part?

What I’m wearing.

ON BURGEONING RELATIONSHIPS
You take someone to the airport it’s clearly the beginning of a relationship, which is why I have never taken anyone to the airport at the beginning of a relationship.

Why?

Because eventually things move on and you don’t take someone to the airport, and I never wanted anyone to say to me, ‘How come you never take me to the airport anymore?’

ON JEALOUSY
Well if you must know it was because he was very jealous, and I had these days of the week underpants.

ON CAREER CHOICE
You were going to be a gymnast.

A journalist.

Right, that’s what I said.

THE WHOLE LIFE-OF-A-SINGLE-GUY THING
You meet someone, you have the safe lunch, you decide you like each other enough to move on to dinner.  You go dancing, you do the white man’s overbite, go back to her place, you have sex and the minute you’re finished you know what goes through your mind?  How long do I have to lie here and hold her before I can get up and go home.  Is 30 seconds enough?

ON THE BIOLOGICAL CLOCK
I said to myself, “You deserve more, you’re 31 years old…”

And the clock is ticking.

No, the clock doesn’t really start to tick until you’re 36.

ON TIMING
Look, there is no point in my going out with someone I might really like if I met him at the right time but who right now has no chance of being anything to me but a transitional man.

ON BEING HARSH
You know what she says? ‘I don’t know if I’ve ever loved you.’

DON’T FUCK WITH MR. ZERO
You’re saying Mr. Zero knew you were getting a divorce a week before you did?

Mr. Zero knew.

RE: SEX ON THE KITCHEN FLOOR
Not once, it’s this cold, hard Mexican ceramic tile.

RE: MEN
You’re a human affront to all women, and I am a woman.

ON FAKING THE BIG “O”
It’s just that all men are sure it never happened to them and most women at one time or another have done it, so you do the math.

ON PULLING YOUR FRIEND ASIDE TO CHAT SECRETLY
Ohh, I’ve been looking for a red suede pump.

THE POST RUN-IN-WITH-THE-EX MELTDOWN
We started out like this, Helen and I.  We had blank walls, we hung things, we picked out tiles together.  Then you know what happens?  Six years later you find yourself singing Surrey With The Fringe On Top in front of Ira!

MUST BE SAID DURING EVERY GAME OF PICTIONARY FOREVERMORE
Baby fish mouth!

MALE COMPETITION
He’s too tall to talk to.

FEMALE COMPETITION
She makes 3,600 chocolate mousse pies a week.

RE: REJECTION, SELF-LOATHING, & AGING
Why didn’t he want to marry me?  What’s the matter with me?

I’m difficult.

You’re challenging.

I’m too structured, I’m completely closed off.

But in a good way.

No, no, no I drove him away…and I’m gonna be 40.

When?

Someday.

In eight years.

But it’s there.  It’s just sitting there like this big dead end.  And it’s not the same for men.  Charlie Chaplain had babies when he was 73.

Yeah, but he was too old to pick them up.

RE: LOVE
I love that you get cold when it’s 70 degrees out, I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order asandwich, I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts, I love that after I spend a day with you I can still smell your perfume on my clothes and I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep.

Why do we quote these lines, you ask? Because Nora wrote down all the things we want to say (if we are brave, funny, and honest enough), all the things we have said (from the mewling, angst-filled abyss to our shiniest, exultant heights), and the things we want someone to say to us (if we will just open ourselves to them).

(Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

During her much-too-short life, she listened, watched, wrote and gave us the gift of her words. And they are worth saying, repeating, living, and sharing. They are love and laughter. They are eternal.

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10 Comments

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  1. June 28, 2012

    I too love this movie. Of all the wonderful things she wrote, this was the apex for me. So many things jumped out, and I said, “Yep. That’s me!”

    • June 28, 2012

      Gosh, I know. It’s like our very own scrapbook of quotes.

  2. Byron Tracey #
    June 29, 2012

    The fact that you’re not answering leads me to believe you’re either (a) not at home, (b) home but don’t want to talk to me, or (c) home, desperately want to talk to me, but trapped under something heavy. If it’s either (a) or (c), please call me back.

    • June 29, 2012

      Love it. That was also once my answering machine message. You know, back when we had those.

  3. Lisa #
    June 29, 2012

    Baby fish mouth is sweeping the nation! YES!

  4. July 1, 2012

    Loved the movie the first time and the 50th time. It never gets old. Can’t believe Nora left us.

    • July 1, 2012

      Thanks, Lynn, I agree. So glad we have our words still with us.

  5. August 1, 2012

    My current personal fave from WHMS, also on my Top Ten of all time movies:
    “Someone is staring at you in Personal Growth.”
    Thanks for sharing, she was a gem and an idol of mine too. Look forward to quotin’ it up with you!

    • August 1, 2012

      Ha! Yes, another classic from a truly talented writer. Can’t wait to hang out when you’re here in Charleston!

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