Heroine or Victim?

I have started this blog many times this year and some how never finished it...but there's no time like the present right? So here goes, my latest epiphany: :)Nora Ephron's (May 19th, 1941 - June 26th, 2012) demise has definitely had a lasting impact on me this year. Just like how it is with all other legends, I sought out & read the most about her life after her passing than while she was alive...

But she's kind of been part of my life for a very long time... like for many other women one way or the other, through her legendary movies: When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail, Julie & Julia and so on...

At this point I have to specifically call out to the male readers about the fact that, all of the aforementioned movies were branded "chick flicks" and are some of the greatest of this genre. But for those men who've never given these movies a chance precisely for this stereotype, I vouch that these movies are quite amazing and can be watched and appreciated by ALL of us - they are that good!

However, there is no denying that in all of Nora's movies and books, women were always the central subjects and were quite interesting & intriguing at that.

This is what made her and her work so personally influential for me - given that I am a HUGE proponent of women's rights, feminism and it's role in today's world.

So I got quite solemn and thoughtful when I heard the news about her passing...

But like Mr. Steve Jobs so rightly put it: "Death is the destiny we all share"...so Nora Ephron is no exception.

So I decided that the least I could do for someone I dearly admired on the year of her demise, was to write about her personality, her life, her life's lessons and legacy.

To give a very brief introduction about her life: She started out simple, was content being in love, getting married and to bear children.

Then of course, as always life throws things at us when we all least expect it. For Nora this came as the affair her husband was having with her good friend!

Well, maybe in hindsight she would have thought this was a great thing that happened to her; because it resulted in her first career break - the book 'Heartburn' and the movie that followed it which then led to her grand entry in to Hollywood.

The rest of her career is history.

She did a wonderful job raising her children and also found the love of her life and married again.

A few years before her passing, she was diagnosed with an acute form of leukemia which resulted in a fatal pneumonia that eventually took her life in June 2012.

She did not divulge her condition even to some of her very close friends due to the fear of instilling  sympathy for her, during the last memorable years with them.

To say she was a strong fighter till her last breath is an understatement!

However, the more I read and thought about her, her personal life and struggles struck me the most. What happened to her very early on in her marriage was pretty sad, unthinkable and unbearable...  but how many women (definitely not excluding me here!), choose to stop treating ourselves as the biggest victims of the universe and stop asking "Oh, Why Me??!!" and actually go about to make a difference?

I specifically call out the women folk with regard to this incident just because of all the eons of playing second fiddle to the "bread-winners", of what the society still deems and expects of us and, of how we ourselves choose to go about our emotional selves because of all this. And based on how we are genetically wired, we do tend to fall under this "victim" category more often than most of our male counter-parts. No matter how hard this is to accept, let's face it: IT IS TRUE.

I got to then thinking, what might break and devastate some women, is exactly what MAKES some women to define and re-write their destinies.

This got me thinking about my own state of mind on this topic:

When I call myself a feminist, I do so with pride and automatically expect this from all women - no exceptions.

But as I grow older (and hopefully wiser ;)) I feel like even this "way of thinking" is the gift my parents chose to give me when they raised me to think with my head and be an independent, self sufficient woman. And not a lot of women were/are this fortunate & blessed.

Let's face the dire truth that faces us every day: We live in a male-dominated society at large. Anyone who disagrees, is either lying, in denial or is just wishfully thinking the opposite.

Having said that, there are definitely degrees of variation to this statement in various societies.

They can range from snide remarks in the break room at work, to severe forms of torture starting with female infanticide in some remote, ignorant parts of the world.

This is why my heart always goes out to these women like Nora, who a midst all this strive their best to change this - one baby step at a time.

Then I started thinking about this in another light, which lead to this 2 part question: i) How do men treat women? and ii) How do women treat each other?

Now the first question is actually more easy to stereo-type, explain and understand.

The second question however is more complicated and does not seize to amaze, intrigue, even make me smile all at the same time!

I don't mean any disrespect to any one particular set of people. I am just writing what always comes to my mind when I see certain things so starkly among many women - whether in a remote, uneducated village in the third world or a very 'forward thinking', glitzy city in the first world.

The main observation has been:

Clearly men have their "guy friends" they hang out, talk to, exchange ideas and socialize with. Most importantly, they make time for this "networking" right from the days of our grand-fathers', fathers' to men folk in this generation too. So much so that there is a term for this in the United States: "Old boys network". How come there is no such thing as "Old gals network"?

Now I know if I said this a midst a bunch of different types of women from different societies, lifestyles etc. I'll hear a lot of backlash which can be summed as follows:

1) Women are more inclined to "caring" and "embracing" their home and family before anything else. This mainly includes their children, husband and parents.

2) Fathers are wired to be different than Mothers.

3) Being a mom, wife and daughter is like having 3 full-time jobs.

And my personal favorite:

4) Women just don't have any time for friends or a social life! :)

I am not in any way being cynical, snide or un-empathetic.

I get it, simply because I am one of them!

But I also cannot hide the mere fact that these are all excuses which eventually turn out to be a huge disadvantage to our lives and mental well-being in the long run.

A lot of women (including my mother) ask "What disadvantage?, We've lead a content life of having served our family".

While this sounds very noble, I am very saddened by this and more so disheartened when I see the same attitude in the present generation of middle-aged women too!

Let's take a typical scenario: A woman, married with 2 kids, a job and parents/in-laws to cater to.

What happens to her "personal" life during and after this time?

During this time, while she might be crazy busy juggling so many aspects of her day, she does not take a minute to nourish her personal side, by talking to her girl friends about her day, venting out her deepest, darkest miseries (no matter how trivial or huge), learning something new she'd always wanted to etc. So guess what happens after all this craziness comes to an end, when the kids leave home to follow their dreams, the parents/in-laws age or pass away, and she gets close to retiring?

She struggles to make sense out of her life...she has no best friend(s), no life, just A LOT of time and pent up feelings.

Now, some people may call their husbands their best friend and that's great! - but the need for a girl friend for every woman is just inevitable and that's natural for most women.

I am not making this dramatic or blowing this out of proportion. I have strong evidence based on encounters with women who exactly fit this bill and have lived a life I've described here.

And don't get me wrong, these women who work to make their best for themselves and their families are miracle workers, I have no idea how they can do all this and wake up everyday to do it all over again!

But that is precisely why they need to have a life of their own, pursue hobbies, interests - outside the husband, the kids and work.

Now, this is the typical situation for women when everything goes per plan, life is normal and there are no big blows between their 30s - 40s.

But if on top of all this there are life's unexpected curve balls to face like my protagonist Nora - all hell is bound to break loose. And given how much little 'time-out' women take for their own selves, they struggle to deal with the smallest difficulties without the support of wonderful girl friends, and end up as a result with a miserable life and make bad, impulsive choices they eventually regret.

Fortunately, some women (I've even had the privilege of meeting some of these women in my life) foresee this and learn these lessons fast and early on in life and live a powerful, productive, "non-victimized" life.

I am striving to get there every day...and hopefully our generation and the future girl children will live a life that my dear most Nora envisioned for us and them...and she says so to all of us women:

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

If that's not a rule to live by, I don't know what is?