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Authors: Nora Ephron

Crazy Salad

BOOK: Crazy Salad
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Crazy Salad

Some Things About Women

Nora Ephron

Vintage Books
A Division of Random House, Inc.
New York

Copyright © 1975, 1983 by Nora Ephron

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Vintage Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto. Originally published in hardcover in different form in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, in 1975. Subsequently published in trade paperback by Modern Library, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, in 2000.

Vintage and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.

The Library of Congress has cataloged the Modern Library edition as follows:
Ephron, Nora.
Crazy salad : some things about women / by Nora Ephron.—1st ed.
p. cm.
1. Women. 2. Feminism—United States.
HQ1154 . E6 201
305.42’0973—dc21   99-086032

eISBN: 978-0-345-80473-0


Crazy Salad
Scribble Scribble

For my sisters:
Delia, Hallie, and Amy

It’s certain that fine women eat

        A crazy salad with their meat

        Whereby the horn of plenty is undone.


by Nora Ephron

For a while there I wrote about women. I started in 1972, when the women’s movement was in a period of frenzied activity, and I stopped in 1974, when it had moved into what we liked to call a period of consolidation. I wrote about women once a month, and then put it together as
Crazy Salad
. The title of the collection comes from some lines in a Yeats poem: “
It’s certain that fine women eat / a crazy salad with their meat / whereby the horn of plenty is undone
.” In the original edition of this book, I left the last line off. It seemed more hopeful, more playful, punchier really without that last grim image.
Whereby the horn of plenty is undone
. I’m not sure now what instinct prompted me to want to seem so optimistic, since I can see just from rereading these pieces that I had almost no grounds for being so; I’m also not sure why I wanted to absolve women from the full dose of counterproductiveness Yeats was describing, since I had spent two years reporting on women and, on some level, writing about it every month. Still, change seemed so inevitable, so inexorable. Things were bound to move along. Time marches on. That something else might turn out to be true—that
the operative bromide for change where women were concerned might instead be in the
area—seemed quite unlikely to me.

These days I find that I constantly have to remind myself that change for American women began in Seneca Falls in 1848; I have to remind myself of this since so much of what happened in the early 1970s seems undone, and so much of what ought to have happened since simply hasn’t. In those days, we honestly believed for a few minutes that all it would take to change the world was the will to change it. We (women) would change—and they (men) would have to change too. Abracadabra. I remember sitting on the beach in the summer of 1972 with my first husband and drawing up a list of household duties and dividing them up again in a more equitable fashion. I had read about doing this in a women’s movement pamphlet. The politics of housework, I think it was called. The personal is political, I think it said. Revolution begins at home. The author of the article about redistributing household duties said that she and her husband had drawn up a schedule, and she reprinted it in the pamphlet. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, she made the bed. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, he made the bed. On Sunday no one made the bed. A year later I was divorced from my first husband, and the author of that article was divorced from hers. Presumably we both ended up making our beds seven days a week. So much for revolution.

We got divorced and we got tired. Women were still being paid less than men for the same work, but never mind.

I often wonder how we could have been so simpleminded about how hard it is to bring about the least little change—but then I often wonder about a lot of things. I wonder when we are going to stop wanting it to be easy—and when we’re going to stop whining when it’s not. I wonder when we’re going to stop wanting it both
ways: demanding the options and then complaining about the difficulty of the choices; making the choice and then blaming others for it; claiming to be heroines but demanding the prerogatives of victims. I also wonder if we’re ever going to give up the greatest luxury we have as women—the alibi of our sex. Obviously, I don’t know the answer to any of this; but in the meantime, I continue to be drawn to the crazy salad, to the mistakes, the contradictions, the counterproductiveness, the glorious mess of it all.

Anyway, for a while there I wrote a column about women. And then I wrote a column about the press—which was collected as
Scribble Scribble
. I had a chance as a columnist to use a set of muscles I had never used as a newspaper reporter or magazine writer; I wound up comfortable with the essay form and oddly grateful for the discipline it imposes. Most of the articles published here first appeared in
magazine. Some of them I believe as sincerely as I did the day I finished writing them, and some are written by someone I used to be. Some of them seem dated—which is inevitable with magazine pieces; some of them that seem dated nonetheless have a kind of quaint historical value.

Enough. Here they are.


November, 1983


I began writing a column about women in
magazine in 1972. The column was my idea, and I wanted to do it for a couple of specific, self-indulgent reasons and one general reason. Self-indulgent specifics first: I needed an excuse to go to my tenth reunion at Wellesley College, and I was looking for someone to pay my way to the Pillsbury Bake-Off. Beyond that, and in general, it seemed clear that American women were going through some changes; I wanted to write about them and about myself. When I began the column, the women’s movement was in a period of great activity, growth, and anger; it is now in a period of consolidation. The same is true for me, and it has something to do with why it has become more and more difficult for me to write about women. Also, I’m afraid, I have run out of things to say.

As I go through the articles in this book, I can think of dozens of others I could have done instead. I don’t deal with lesbianism here and, except peripherally, I don’t deal with motherhood. Month by month, I took what interested me most, and so I never wrote about a number of things that interested me somewhat:
panty hose, tampons, comediennes, the Equal Rights Amendment, Fascinating Womanhood, Bella Abzug,
The Story of O
, the integration of the Little League—I could go on and on. The point here is simply to say that this book is not intended to be any sort of definitive history of women in the early 1970’s; it’s just some things I wanted to write about.



I have to begin with a few words about androgyny. In grammar school, in the fifth and sixth grades, we were all tyrannized by a rigid set of rules that supposedly determined whether we were boys or girls. The episode in
Huckleberry Finn
where Huck is disguised as a girl and gives himself away by the way he threads a needle and catches a ball—that kind of thing. We learned that the way you sat, crossed your legs, held a cigarette, and looked at your nails—the way you did these things instinctively was absolute proof of your sex. Now obviously most children did not take this literally, but I did. I thought that just one slip, just one incorrect cross of my legs or flick of an imaginary cigarette ash would turn me from whatever I was into the other thing; that would be all it took, really. Even though I was outwardly a girl and had many of the trappings generally associated with girldom—a girl’s name, for example, and dresses, my own telephone, an autograph book—I spent the early years of my adolescence absolutely certain that I might at any point gum it up. I did not feel at all like a girl. I was boyish. I was athletic, ambitious, outspoken, competitive, noisy,
rambunctious. I had scabs on my knees and my socks slid into my loafers and I could throw a football. I wanted desperately not to be that way, not to be a mixture of both things, but instead just one, a girl, a definite indisputable girl. As soft and as pink as a nursery. And nothing would do that for me, I felt, but breasts.

I was about six months younger than everyone else in my class, and so for about six months after it began, for six months after my friends had begun to develop (that was the word we used, develop), I was not particularly worried. I would sit in the bathtub and look down at my breasts and know that any day now, any second now, they would start growing like everyone else’s. They didn’t. “I want to buy a bra,” I said to my mother one night. “What for?” she said. My mother was really hateful about bras, and by the time my third sister had gotten to the point where she was ready to want one, my mother had worked the whole business into a comedy routine. “Why not use a Band-Aid instead?” she would say. It was a source of great pride to my mother that she had never even had to wear a brassiere until she had her fourth child, and then only because her gynecologist made her. It was incomprehensible to me that anyone could ever be proud of something like that. It was the 1950s, for God’s sake. Jane Russell. Cashmere sweaters. Couldn’t my mother see that? “
I am too old to wear an undershirt
.” Screaming. Weeping. Shouting. “Then don’t wear an undershirt,” said my mother. “But I want to buy a bra.” “What for?”

I suppose that for most girls, breasts, brassieres, that entire thing, has more trauma, more to do with the coming of adolescence, with becoming a woman, than anything else. Certainly more than getting your period, although that, too, was traumatic, symbolic. But you could see breasts; they were there; they were visible. Whereas a girl could claim to have her period for months before she actually
got it and nobody would ever know the difference. Which is exactly what I did. All you had to do was make a great fuss over having enough nickels for the Kotex machine and walk around clutching your stomach and moaning for three to five days a month about The Curse and you could convince anybody. There is a school of thought somewhere in the women’s lib/women’s mag/gynecology establishment that claims that menstrual cramps are purely psychological, and I lean toward it. Not that I didn’t have them finally. Agonizing cramps, heating-pad cramps, go-down-to-the-school-nurse-and-lie-on-the cot cramps. But, unlike any pain I had ever suffered, I adored the pain of cramps, welcomed it, wallowed in it, bragged about it. “I can’t go. I have cramps.” “I can’t do that. I have cramps.” And most of all, gigglingly, blushingly: “I can’t swim. I have cramps.” Nobody ever used the hard-core word. Menstruation. God, what an awful word. Never that. “I have cramps.”

BOOK: Crazy Salad
8.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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