Delia Ephron’s Art of Fearlessness

The author has surprising tricks for feeling empowered—and they start with her boots

by Delia Ephron
heel illustration image
Photograph: Illustration by Aad Goudappel

I DON’T DO THERAPY.

I used to do therapy. I had a psychotherapist in my twenties when I was unhappily married. I don’t even remember the shrink’s name, although I do remember the names of all my bad boyfriends. How ironic is that? Now that I am veering out of middle age, I don’t have time for a talking cure. I’d be in a nursing home by the time I solved the problem.

Instead, I work from the outside in. In the lifelong battle of empowerment versus insecurity, calm versus anxiety, positive versus negative, I swear by these tricks:

BOOTS. When my sister Nora and I wrote a play, Love, Loss, and What I Wore, we asked our friends to tell us about their favorite clothes. Tales of boots poured in. Boots matter, I realized. They make a woman feel brave, strong and grounded—and, I almost forgot, hot. I invested in a pair, blue-gray suede, kick-ass. I want to tell you that when I wear these boots, I feel fearless, like Carrie in Homeland, but she is out of her mind, or assured, like Alicia Florrick in The Good Wife, but she has given up sex with Will Gardner, so who wants to be her? Nevertheless.

A BLOW-DRY. Nothing gives a girl more confidence. Woody Allen has written that he would never have wanted to live in a time before antibiotics were invented. For me it’s the blow-dry. Without one, I look like a woolly lamb.

SILVER HOOP EARRINGS. Recently I was booked on Morning Joe. No pressure, just three minutes to say something wonderful that would make viewers rush to read my book. “Do I look OK?” I asked the makeup woman. She considered my face and hair and said, “Silver hoop earrings.” Then she said, “Power,” as if that were the definition of silver hoop earrings. She took off hers and lent them to me. I don’t know whether it was her kindness—the sisterhood of that—or if she’s right, that silver hoops have power, but those earrings gave me an extra charge. A few days later, I bought a pair of my own.

JILL. We all have a girlfriend more daring than we are. Mine is Jill. She climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. She trekked through Mali and slept on roofs. Until I met Jill, my idea of a hike was the one block uphill from the subway to my doctor’s office. So last year, when I had to travel to several cities to give talks, I decided to be Jill. I would arrive at the airport pumped, as if embarking on a great adventure. I would make eye contact with seatmates on airplanes. I would be O-P-E-N.

I got on a plane to Nashville and found myself talking to a woman named Laura Heatherly, who runs a music-industry charity. Would I like to come to a benefit? I was Jill, so I said yes.

But you never know when your timid old self will resurface. In my hotel room, I was seized with a desire to dive into bed and order up a Law & Order marathon. Instead, I called Jill.

“Go for 15 minutes,” she said. “If it’s awful, leave.”

I did go and it wasn’t. Culinary legend Lidia Bastianich did the food. I sat at a table with Steve Cropper, who co-wrote “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay,” not that we spoke, but hey. And my hosts, Laura and her husband, Bob, epitomized Southern hospitality.

On the way home, my flight was delayed. I was Jill, so I chilled.  

Delia Ephron is the author of the novel The Lion Is In.

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First Published in the May 2013 issue

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