Nora Ephron, one of my favorite writers in the world, died yesterday at age 71. One of her most stunning qualities was the ability to appeal to women of every generation; a twentysomething can laugh over, and identify with, and feel that unmatchable someone gets it feeling about Ephron’s work as much as a fortysomething, fiftysomething or sixtysomething. My earliest Nora Ephron memory was at age 20, sitting on my then boyfriend’s bed in our first shared apartment in Manhattan, reading a New Yorker article in which she justified the purchase of a crazy expensive apartment by dividing the price by the number of days she would presumably live in it and equating that to the price of her daily Starbucks run. As someone who often equated the price of jeans and shoes to a daily Starbucks soy chai extra foam, I thought this was brilliant that a professional writer—a published New Yorker writer—would have the same thought.
I’ve since stopped drinking soy chais, but I haven’t stopped reading Nora Ephron. I’ve been inspired by dozens of her stories/quotes/movie moments, from her line about 26-year-olds and bikinis to the famous New Year’s Eve monologue in When Harry Met Sally. Today, I have read approximately one billion and one posts mourning Ephron’s passing and rounding up her best work, and came across one piece I had never seen before but am convinced was written for me: “A Few Words About Breasts.”
Insecurity about my breasts pretty much defines my twenties (and teens…and third grade). A brief timeline:
Third grade: Katie S., a loud girl in my class, boasts about needing a bra for her “tail lights.” (Looking back, I think she meant headlights.) I assume I will need a bra one day as well.
Sixth grade: Still don’t need a bra. Embarrassed in gym locker room; rush in to be first one to change, or change in bathroom stall.
Eighth grade: Still don’t need a bra. Embarrassed to the point of getting one anyway. It is elastic and hideous.
Ninth grade: Do rudimentary research on family’s dial-up Internet. Convinced I’m simply a late bloomer.
Twelfth grade: Blooming—not happening. Tell mother I want breast implants. She is patient and kind in vetoing this.
College, sophomore year: Refuse to let first boyfriend take my shirt and bra off at same time. It’s one or other, I tell him. Doesn’t cross my mind he will eventually figure out I have no breasts. Or that he probably already knows.
College, junior year: Start running. Am pleased I don’t need to buy a sports bra.
College, senior year: Read that Jessica Simpson needs two sports bras to play volleyball. Even more pleased with myself.
Age 24: Have boyfriend who, in five months of having sex, never once takes my shirt off during it. Insecurities return.
Age 27: Upgraded from 32A to 30B by bra-fitting professional. This, despite what logic may tell you, makes my breasts look smaller under t-shirts; the tighter band prevents the cups from gapping out. Mentally enhanced (B cup!!) but physically diminished. Either way, it is nice to be wearing a bra that doesn’t reveal my nipples to anyone who happens to be a few inches taller than me and standing next to me while I’m wearing a V-neck shirt. Still no sports bra. Run in my bikini top because a) it’s 90 degrees; b) I’ll get better tan lines; and c) I can. Feeling good.
Last week: Try on unpadded American flag bikini at American Apparel; even after all these years, am slightly shocked at how flat I really am. Pretend I don’t care, then put bikini back.
This all is coupled with extreme fascination with anyone who has breasts, and what that’s like. I wish I could say that, by this point in my 20s, I’m comfortable, content and—heavens—even happy with my bust size 100% of the time. That would be a lie. But I can say that I’ve come so far buying clothes for this body, and have gotten so used to running in bikini tops, and have found such a wonderful boyfriend who loves me for me (and who is eager to take my shirt off), that I’m happy with what I’ve got 99% of the time. Well, maybe 98.7%.
And no one can phrase it as well as Nora: “If I had had them, I would have been a completely different person. I honestly believe that.”