“La-di-da,” said Diane Keaton in “Annie Hall,” sticking her hands in her menswear trousers and fiddling with her fedora. “La-di-da.”
I was in my early 20s, a naïve actress who had just moved from New York City to Los Angeles to jumpstart my career, the first time I saw the classic, semi-autobiographical movie about the relationship between Woody Allen and Diane Keaton. I watched as Diane/Annie described her Midwestern childhood, met with her analyst, and made out with Woody Allen before moving on to a Hollywood record exec. I rolled my eyes. “Ugh,” I thought. “What’s wrong with this crazy woman? I will never be like her. She’s a men’s tie-wearing ditzy, clumsy, neurotic mess with a series of failed, overwrought relationships. No thank you.”The last line in the film left a sour taste in my mouth. “Well, I guess that’s pretty much now how I feel about relationships; y’know, they’re totally irrational, and crazy, and absurd … but, uh, I guess we keep goin’ through it because, uh, most of us … need the eggs.”
Ten years later, I was back in New York City—a much less naïve 30-year-old struggling to make a name for myself as a writer. I had paid my dues at the school of hard knocks in my 20s, both in my career and love life. It was a rainy Sunday afternoon and I sat on the couch of a guy I had just started dating, another in a long chain of future ex-boyfriends. It was raining out and we flipped on the TV.
“’Manhattan’ is on,” he said. “It’s like ‘Annie Hall: Part Two.’ I haven’t seen this in forever. Mind if we watch?”
As the rain beat down outside his Manhattan apartment, I followed Diane Keaton’s thinly veiled character, Mary Wilkie, through her futile affair with a married man and her appointments with her analyst. “She’s still up to it,” I thought. But this time, I felt actual glee as she and the putzie, pervy Woody Allen fell in love at the Museum of Natural History. “I love the Museum of Natural History. It’s so romantic,” I said.
“It’s OK,” he replied. “Kind of like fake science.”
Wrong answer. I tuned him out and quickly found myself enraptured by the film. While Diane had driven me crazy a decade earlier, I now completely related to her. All of a sudden it all made sense. Her neurotic ramblings. Her apartment filled with books. Her open heart. Her wacky hair. Her offbeat style. I looked down at my men’s blazer and jeans tucked into cowboy boots. Oh snap!
“I am Diane Keaton.” I blurted out.
The guy looked at me and chuckled a bit.
“No really … I am! I’m a quirky, clumsy, eccentric, good-natured neurotic mess!”
Why had I tried to deny it for so many years? Finally, I was ready to embrace my inner Diane Keaton. More than embrace it—really own it. Why? Because she does. She is unapologetically quirky. And she doesn’t waste time with anyone who doesn’t get her. “I gotta go,” I told the guy as soon as the movie ended. I felt reinvigorated and relieved as I walked out the door and shed yet another guy who wasn’t right for me.
Though her films with Woody Allen are what she’s known for, post-”Manhattan,” Diane did not go gently into that good night. She continued to have a successful Hollywood career on her own terms. Whether she was portraying the feminist journalist Louise Bryant in “Reds” opposite Warren Beatty (another one of her romantic conquests) or the kick-a** divorcée in “The First Wives Club,” Diane has consistently pushed the boundaries, choosing roles that challenge conventional female stereotypes. And she did this in her personal life as well. In 2001, she inspired single women everywhere when she publicly announced that she had given up pursuing romance. She said, “I don’t think that because I’m not married it’s made my life any less. That old maid myth is garbage.” But did she let her single status stop her when she felt the urge to become a mother at age 50? Heck no. She adopted.
This month, Diane is on the cover of More magazine and she is just about the hottest 63-year-old woman I’ve ever seen. She’s single and not at all wounded about it. “It’s a huge part of life that’s missing, yeah, but I don’t miss it,” she said. “I’m free to do what I want to try to do. I don’t have to worry that I’m not living up to some responsibility as a partner to somebody else.” [More]
Whether I end up with a husband and a litter of kids or happily single, if I’m anything like Diane Keaton when I’m 63, I will be damn proud. She makes me less scared to be myself, more confident about my decision not to settle for anything less than what I want. Because of her I finally understand the difference between needing the eggs and wanting the eggs. La-di-da, indeed.