Lena Dunham On Knowing Nora Ephron (And Our Relief That These Two Geniuses Met)

“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”

                                                                                                            -Nora Ephron  

Is Lena Dunham the Nora Ephron of our generation?

After Mrs. Ephron died last month I wanted to write about her on this blog. Stupidly, I thought that night I would get in bed, reread some of her essays, get some inspiration and write a brilliant tribute. I wanted to, I thought I needed to, and I thought it would help me put into words why I admired her so much. Instead, I just sat there, stared at my computer screen and ultimately succumbed to reading what everyone else had to say about her on the internet.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve thought about her a lot. I read her works and I went on a mad hunt across Toronto to buy ‘I Feel Bad About My Neck’, a book I had read a few years ago but never owned. It wasn’t until I started rereading the book that I was able to BEGIN to articulate why I admired her so much. I was also able to understand how people like Nora, visionaries, wonder women, thinkers, shape our lives over the years in such subtle sneaky ways that we don’t even realize it’s happening until they’re gone and we feel the hole left in our heart and spirit.

I didn’t have to know Nora personally to have felt the impact of her words, characters and stories. To be inspired by her wisdom and love, which were always forefront in everything she did. I have to admit, I spent the first couple of days after her death trying to figure out why I cared so much. I mean, I was pretty young when I was watching all her movies. Most of her brilliant characters are women older than me and with much different lives, and my generation wasn’t really her target audience. This is what I came up with: To me she represented what I could and wanted to be. She made me think, strive to be better, smarter, and respect an art form that has the capacity to change minds and lives. In short, she represented an ideal. The ideal artist and human being who wants to do the right thing and share wisdom, passion and love. Knowing that there are people like this out there is comforting. When someone like Nora is no longer with us it’s a devastating thought. It’s sad to think of what else she could have taught us and who else she could have changed with her words.

This takes me to Lena Dunham. Boy am I glad Nora influenced her from a very young age and took her under her wing during the last year of her life. Dunham may argue this point, but I think she was a pretty brilliant person long before meeting Ephron or watching her movies. Like Ephron, she has a unique voice and a determination to be heard. I also think she feels a responsibility to tell the truth, specifically about our generation. It only takes the pilot episode of her hit HBO show ‘Girls’ to see her gift. Her gift of words, of storytelling and of humour. She doesn’t shy away from the truth. Instead she celebrates the highs and lows and ridiculousness of our generation, and our adventures in this crazy place we call the world. She seems fearless but at the same time incredibly uncomfortable with the spotlight that is currently on her. Yet, I know she will carry the torch proudly and continue to be the voice of our generation…or at least a generation. :)

Lena wrote an incredible article in The New Yorker about her relationship with Ephron. It was both enlightening and beautiful. At one point I thought maybe I would just link the article here instead of writing something myself! Lena’s words and thoughts are what finally pushed me to write this and articulate my thoughts on Nora. I urge all young women, especially creative women to read it. I know we are always striving for inspiration and mentorship and  Lena’s relationship with Nora was the little piece of beauty I had been waiting for.

“Her advice was unparalleled. At one of our lunches this past January, I was sheepishly describing a male companion’s lack of support for my professional endeavors. She nodded in a very “don’t be stupid” way, as if I already knew what I had to do: “You can’t possibly meet someone right now. When I met Nick, I was already totally notorious”—note: Nora was the only person who could make that word sound neither braggy nor sinister—“and he understood exactly what he was getting into. You can’t meet someone until you’ve become what you’re becoming.” Panicked, I asked, “How long will that take?”

Nora considered a moment. “Give it six months.””

-Lena Dunham


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