Nature, Nurture and Nora

There have been countless studies on it.

The best and the brightest minds in the psychology field have thoroughly investigated the matter and exhaustively documented their findings.

And yet, somehow, despite their high intelligence and noble intentions, they missed something I feel is at the very heart of the debate: they forgot about Nora.

Sadly, in all the talk about genetic inheritance vs. environmental factors, Miss Ephron has been woefully neglected in the “What shapes your personality” debate.

I find this to be a rather glaring omission from an otherwise rich conversation, because I know I can’t be the only one. I know I can’t be the only woman to have based her personality seemingly almost exclusively on classic Nora Ephron characters. It can’t possibly just be me.

There’s no way I’m the only woman who watched When Harry Met Sally or Sleepless in Seattle at arguably too young of an age and somehow co-opted all of the female leads idiosyncrasies , aspirations, hopes and fears as her own.

Now, some could argue (rightfully, I suppose) that the reason Nora Ephron’s characters seem to remind me so much of myself is simply because Nora was a great writer who created relatable, slightly off-kilter but nevertheless lovable characters who vain, self-deluded individuals such as myself want to see themselves in. Yes, obviously, Nora did that. She was a genius. I’m not denying that. I’m just saying, with me, I think it goes a bit further than that.

I think I may have taken it too far.

Just the other day, for example, I realized that I had absolutely no idea why my lifelong ambition was to be a reporter. Sure, I liked high school newspaper class. That was pretty neat. But I wanted to be a reporter long before I got to boss sophomores around and over-zealously edit their articles on one-act plays and National Honor Society bake sales. I wanted to be a reporter so long before that that I don’t even remember when I got the idea into my head.

That being said, I’m pretty sure it’s Nora’s fault. I’m pretty sure it’s her fault that I decided to pursue a college major in a reportedly (pun, obviously intended) dying newspaper industry. She pretty much told me to.

For those of you who are not schooled in all things Nora (And seriously, why aren’t you?) I’ll break it down for you: the majority of Nora’s female main characters are reporters.

Sally Albright (as in the Sally who meets Harry) proclaims very early on in the movie that she’s going to be a reporter. According to Sally, nothing’s happened to her yet so she’s moving to New York to go to journalism school to become a reporter, where presumably things will happen to her. It’s not much of a plan, but, hey, it’s something.

Annie Reed is the slightly-less insomnia-prone romantic counterpart to Tom Hanks’ sleepless Seattle-dweller. She, like Sally, is you guessed it, a reporter. Granted, she’s a reporter who shamelessly misuses company time,  money and resources to investigate a potential boyfriend, but questionable journalistic ethics aside, she’s still a reporter.

Apparently, these things made an impression on little kid me and from then on I was dead-set on a journalism career. In retrospect, this is probably because little kid me (and also everyone else in the world) had a giant, yet extremely wholesome crush on the approachably-handsome, effortlessly-likable, early 1990s version of Tom Hanks.

I also really liked Billy Crystal as Harry, which just goes to show you how persuasive Nora’s writing was: her dialogue believably turned Billy Crystal into a momentarily swoon-worthy, romantic lead. Billy Crystal.  Not Channing “I’m allergic to shirts” Tatum.  Billy Crystal. That’s solid writing.

Nora’s so good she even tricked me into adopting some of her characters’ more annoying err, character traits.

Like Annie:

  • I watch the same, sappy, sentimental movies over and over again and I cry every single time, even though I know exactly what is going to happen.
  • I am slightly flighty, noncommittal and wussy so its entirely possible I (like Annie) would fly across the country for the sole purpose of talking to a stranger and then when I see said stranger, complete wuss out and hop on my return flight before saying anything more than “hello.”

Like Sally

  • I frequently get cold when it’s 71 degrees out.
  • I am annoyingly well-behaved 90 percent of the time but occasionally I have rather inappropriate, loud outbursts in the middle of restaurants (but you know, not as inappropriate as hers.)
  • I, like Sally, also very much enjoy a good sandwich.

Now some would argue that the only reason I was able to notice these similarities is because I was raised in an environment (or to really spell it out) “nurtured” in an environment where I was allowed to watch these formative flicks. I suppose that’s a solid point.

Still others would argue that, by nature, I was already bound to be like this, that based on the awesome, Ephron-like generations of ladies in my family who came before me, I was destined to see these similarities between myself and Nora’s best gals. I like that point too, obviously, because it was a slightly obvious way for me to call myself awesome.

Unfortunately, either one of these arguments, if successful, could conceivably eliminate the need to study the Nora effect at all.

Thankfully though, I don’t have time to discuss the matter either way. I have very important matters to attend to: it’s been a couple months since my last When Harry Met Sally viewing, I’m way overdue.

P.S. In case you didn’t get the hint earlier, stop what you’re doing and go watch When Harry Met Sally. You’ll like it. Trust me. You’re welcome. The end.

P.P.S. If you don’t like it, there is something wrong with you. I make no apologies for my recommendation.