I Feel Bad About My Neck
Nora Ephron (1941–2012), New York Times bestselling author, was a journalist, novelist and screenwriter with a knack for writing about life and love with grace and humor.
My own experience with my neck began shortly before I turned forty-three. I had an operation that left me with a terrible scar just above my collarbone. It was shocking, because I learned the hard way that just because a doctor was a famous surgeon didn’t mean he had any gift for sewing people up. If you learn nothing else from this essay, dear reader, learn this: Never have an operation on any part of your body without asking a plastic surgeon to come stand by in the operating room and keep an eye out. Because even if you are being operated on for something serious or potentially serious, even if you honestly believe that your health is more important than vanity, even if you wake up in the hospital room thrilled beyond imagining it wasn’t cancer, even if you feel elated, grateful to be alive, full of blinding insight about what’s important and what’s not, even if you vow to be eternally joyful about being on the planet Earth and promise never to complain about anything ever again, I promise you that one day soon, sooner than you can imagine, you will look in the mirror and think, I hate this scar.
Assuming, of course, that you look in the mirror. That’s another thing about being a certain age that I’ve noticed: I try as much as possible not to look in the mirror. If I pass a mirror, I avert my eyes. If I must look into it, I begin by squinting, so that if anything really bad is looking back at me, I am already half way to closing my eyes to ward off the sight. And if the light is good (which I hope it’s not), I often do what so many women my age do when stuck in front of a mirror: I gently pull the skin of my neck back and stare wistfully at a younger version of myself. (Here’s something else I’ve noticed, by the way: If you want to get really, really depressed about your neck, sit in the backseat of a car, right behind the driver, and look at yourself in the rearview mirrors. What is it about rearview mirrors? I have no idea why, but there are no worse mirrors where necks are concerned. It’s one of the genuinely compelling mysteries of modern life, right up there with why the cold water in the bathroom is colder than the cold water in the kitchen).