Friday, April 13, 2012

Thank You Erma Bombeck!

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I was watching a show recently that had been "tivoed" (Is that a true verb yet? If not, it will be soon!) about the life of Erma Bombeck. For those too young to know her, she was a syndicated newspaper columnist in the 1960's and 70's whose tongue-in-cheek look at suburban housewives and their families was called "At Wits End" She was a staple in my childhood growing up as my mother, who was a fan of all things humorous, adored her. Erma was truly funny. Here is just a smattering of quotes attributed to her:

I am not a glutton -- I am an explorer of food. 

Housework, if you do it right, will kill you.   

With the entire block of my friends feeling trapped, bored, neurotic, and unfulfilled, why should I feel good and alienate myself?

Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died.   

It goes without saying that you should never have more children than you have car windows. 

She poked fun at herself and at the proverbial American housewife at a time when women were still in aprons in the kitchen and baby doll pj's in the bedroom, being the good little wife and mother. No complaining, no arguing back, this was your lot in life to be at everyone's beck and call and just possibly lose yourself in the bargain. Needless to say, her column was a hit. Oh, she had her share of haters, there were women so offended that Erma would have the nerve to say the things she did, after all being a mother was sacred ground. Her column was written at a time when few women were working outside the home, let alone being anything other then the good girls they were brought up to be.

There was one column written about Erma needing to leave one of her three children on the front stoop of her home each time she went out for errands, otherwise she would never recognize which house was hers. She was referring to the fact that  in suburbia, everyone's house was a cookie cutter version of the one next to it.  I believe we refer to this as tract housing. Women were so outraged that Erma could ever conceive of doing something so shameful and cruel as to leaving a child on her stoop.


After watching that show I came to the realization that I owe a lot of my satirical humor and desire to poke fun at life to Erma Bombeck. You see, I think there are indeed just too many people out there who take life way too seriously. People worry about how they look, do they fit in, are they successful, are you well liked, do you make enough money, are you keeping up with the Jones sufficiently, etc. 

I also happen to think that most people are naturally drawn to people who make us laugh. Case in point:

We had some friends over the house for dinner recently and my husband and I were retelling the tale of how we met. It was in a beach side bar/restaurant in Wollaston Beach, MA. I was supposed to have been heading out to see Sister Act II with a good friend of mine. It was a gorgeous, warm sunny day that smelled of promises to come, in early June. We agreed it was far too nice an evening to sit in a darkened theater. Ice-cold beers in sweating glasses along with the tang of sea air and the throb of the latest up and coming band from Boston were just what we wanted. Especially for this Jersey girl who grew up close to the shore and loved all things beach, Springsteen, highway 9 and fast cars. But I digress.

My husband recalls seeing me from across the room being chatted up by some drunken bar dude who thought he was winning me over.  He could see I was trying to be nice and felt obligated to come over and rescue me. I honestly do not recall all that, especially the rescue part, but who am I to argue as the thought is quite romantic, as well as the fact that he still remembers it so well! What I remember is that my girlfriend and I sat down at the bar so we were far enough away from the live music to talk, but where we had a full view of the entire room. Behind us were the huge windows that lined the street overlooking the outside seating area and slowly setting sun. Neither one of us was here to meet the love of our life, just two good friends looking to pass the time and enjoy the spectacle of people..

I also recall Seal's hit song playing over the speakers during a band break,  my favorite anthem of the moment "Crazy." I saw this broad shouldered, very handsome and shy seeming man standing next to me and before I knew it, we were both laughing and talking about David Letterman, Larry "Bud" Melman and anything and everything that struck our funny bone. He tells me it was his first time coming to this club, I tell him I was supposed to be at the movies, he tells me he won two tickets to a Red Sox/Yankees baseball game at Fenway, I tell him I am originally from NJ and a Yankee fan, we have a good chuckle about that arch rivalry, then he asks me to go with him to the game.  So you see, it all started with some shared laughter. That same laughter continues to pull us through some pretty tough stuff in the last 18 years of our marriage, but more importantly, helps us appreciate the good stuff even more.

And oddly enough, even though my "little man I love",  as I adoringly refer to my son, is NOT genetically ours, he has our same absurd and off the wall sense of humor that makes this little person very much ours, as much as any child can truly be yours, in every way indeed!!

So thank you Erma, for giving me the courage to face life’s changes and be the modern day humorist that I am, with a brand of merriment all my own! And for giving me the moxy to start my own Blog in order to poke fun at my own life and the endless absurdities of this world as we know it. 

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