Nora Ephron taught me what an orgasm was. Call me naïve, but I had no idea.
This isn’t as sad as it sounds, truly. I was in high school when When Harry Met Sally… came out. And I loved every part of the movie. This, of course, was despite not being able to relate to it on several levels in the least: unlike the film’s protagonists, I was a suburban teenager who had never had sex.
But I loved the movie. I loved the way the plot ran through locations with which I was familiar, from New York city streets to the Temple of Dendur in the Metropolitan Museum of Art to Central Park. I loved the Harry Connick Jr. soundtrack. And most of all, I loved the idea that quick wits would inevitably lead, by hook or by crook, to love of some sort.
That idea was a lifeline to me, the nerdy high school girl. It was a beacon of hope, flashing in the distance: someday, somewhere out there, there will be men–not boys, men–with whom you will be able to have witty repartee. As an implicit signal to like-minded folk when I got to college, I took to wearing Meg Ryan-esque hats. This had the unfortunate effect, when I wore them to Hillel for Friday night services, of people asking if I was married.
But I digress. The point was that I loved the vision of sophistication and humor that movie laid before me. I loved it so much that I laughed even when I didn’t get the jokes. Which brings me to the orgasm–or, to be more accurate, the first time I faked it.
I’ll admit it now: I watched that Katz Deli scene many many times, and had NO freaking idea what they were talking about. No boy, man, or anyone else other than my pediatrician had ever shown any interest in my body (and the pediatrician, lest you think that was anything dirty, was just for well checks). I was that thing that the media would lead you to believe doesn’t exist: a high school virgin. And while I read a lot, apparently Lady Chatterly’s Lover didn’t really make much of an impact on me. I had no idea what an orgasm was.
What I did know was that that scene made people laugh. And laugh. And the other thing I knew was that I also loved to make people laugh.
It was my senior year of high school (this is embarrassing) and I was hosting the cast party for the school musical, of which my nerdy self had been the star. We were watching When Harry Met Sally. After the Katz scene, I poked the person next to me in the side and said, “Anyone can do that.”
“Go ahead,” the guy said, a grin on his face.
And so, on my parents’ couch in front of approximately 20 people, I began to vocally enact a series of pants and yells that apparently strongly resembled an orgasm. Needless to say, other partygoers from other rooms came in to watch as well. Apparently, I was doing a good job.
And then my parents came in. And the party was, as they say, over.
I bring this up not only as an excruciatingly embarrassing moment of my adolescence, but also to point out the following: Nora Ephron was someone whose work made you want to smile. She made you want to quote her because, for those seconds that her words were in your mouth, they made you feel smart, clever, funny, and fun.
I’ve had my own orgasms since…but it was never quite the same.
I’d say that was the magic of her work.