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Nora Ephron

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In Defense of Ryan O'Neal

Posted: 08/06/09 07:56 PM ET

I understand that Ryan O'Neal has confessed, in the current edition of Vanity Fair, that he recently failed to recognize his own daughter Tatum at a funeral and accidentally made a pass at her.

Everyone is very judgmental about this, but I just want to say that I sympathize.

A couple of years ago, I was standing in a mall in Las Vegas when I saw a very pleasant-looking woman coming towards me, smiling, her arms outstretched, and I thought, who is this woman? Where do I know her from? Then she spoke and I realized it was my sister Amy.

You might think, well how was she to know her sister would be in Las Vegas, but I'm sorry to report that not only did I know, but she was the person I was meeting in the mall.

It was not entirely my fault that I didn't know my own sister. Amy has a variety of hairstyles and you never know which one of them she will show up in. Also, she was wearing a new pair of glasses. But for the most part, I was to blame: I'm getting worse at recognizing people. My hard drive is full. And it's more and more difficult to keep track. People you haven't seen in years go gray, or gain weight, or have facelifts, or take up hats to cover their bald spots, or put an excessive number of highlights into their hair, and then they expect you to recognize them.

As it happens, Ryan O'Neal had not seen his daughter Tatum in years. He thought she was a Swedish person. I completely understand. The truth is that had I been gay, I might have accidentally made a pass at my own sister in a mall in Las Vegas. So who's to judge? Not me.