When you slip on a banana peel, people laugh at you; but when you tell people you slipped on a banana peel, it’s your laugh. So you become the hero rather than the victim of the joke.
Maybe young women don’t wonder whether they can have it all any longer, but in case any of you are wondering: of course you can have it all. What are you going to do? Everything, is my guess. It will be a little messy, but embrace the mess. It will be complicated, but rejoice in the complications. It will not be anything like what you think it will be like, but surprises are good for you. And don’t be frightened: you can always change your mind. I know: I’ve had four careers and three husbands.
SALON: You write about your start in journalism, at Newsweek, in a “Mad Men” era when there was this incredible male hierarchy, and you were stuck in ...
EPHRON: … the girls’ department.
SALON: The girls’ department. I think it’s an immensely confusing time for people who weren’t there, because at the same time, you did have women like Lillian Ross, whom you write about in another essay, who was a big star at the New Yorker.
Well, there were exceptions to the rule. And I think there were always exceptions to the rule, fewer and fewer as you go back in time. But it was so clear in my house that we were all going to end up being writers. And that my extremely powerful, albeit eventually fairly wacky, parents would be disappointed in us if we weren’t. And since our mother was a writer, you know, it all seemed like maybe this could be done, to me.
A friend of mine was a woman writer at Time — Josie Davis, who died very young — and you knew, therefore, that there weren’t going to be any other [women] writers at Time. There was going to be one at a place. And the result of that was that there was a tremendous amount of submerged competition among the handful of us that were climbing the greasy pole. Because you really did think, is she going to get it? Or am I? There was never any sense that there was room for all of you. It seems to me that a great deal of that is gone now.