Another Ode to Erma

>> Monday, February 8, 2010

On my very first blog post, I gave a little ... kind of ... tribute to Erma Bombeck. Okay, it was pure flattery, and I called it, "Erma Bombeck is My Hero." I also said that I hadn't read Erma's books in a long time but that I would be re-reading them "soon."

Well, I think we can all agree that "soon" is a relative term, right? I mean, I can reasonably defend that now is "soon" given all the blogging I'm doing for you and my ongoing battle against the forces of Entropy and Chaos that have totally invaded my house. After all, Darling Husband's functional definition of "soon" is "I'll get to it before we move again." (Although, recently, he has added a corollary I call, "As soon as necessary to defend myself against your blogging.")

To be fair, I have wanted to borrow and/or purchase these wonderful books, but I have been restraining myself. I was a little bit concerned that I would get so wrapped up in her story telling that I would be unable to tell original stories myself. More than once already I have thought of an idea or two, only to remember that Erma already did that -- like the missing socks from the laundry and my irresistable urge to finish the leftovers on my kid's plate so they don't go to waste and instead go to my waist.

And then I had an epiphany.

Erma Bombeck wrote the bulk of her books in the 1970s. I was born then. While we share the experience of raising children and managing households, it is my second career and I'm a novice. Erma knew how to use things like a "vegetable brush". I don't even know what that is. Erma packed a dress to attend church when she went on vacations. I don't even own a dress right now, and I didn't even wear one to my own son's baptism. In fact, the last time I went to church I was overdue on the laundry and had to go in blue jeans. The forcast for next Sunday is snow, and I wouldn't be surprised if I wore jeans again so I don't ruin my good shoes.

On the flip side, I'll bet Erma never stood in the halls of Corporate America and had the fashion plate in the office next door come up and say, "Did you know you are wearing one blue shoe and one black shoe?" I'll bet Erma never lost her shoe crossing the street on the way to a business meeting while dragging a rolling briefcase and chasing down the boss.

Perhaps most compelling of all, I'll bet Erma never knew the relief that comes from finding a boss at last that has the same bladder capacity that you do so you don't have to be the one always interrupting meetings for a "quick break." I am a firm believer that the true division between men and women is not height, strength, stamina, fat ratio, or reproductive organs -- it's bladder capacity. Of course, there are no absolutes, but the average man can drink a can of soda before a movie and make it to the end without writhing in pain on the floor. The average woman can hope to eat an entire tub of popcorn, extra salt, to try to retain enough water to limit bathroom trips to before, during, and after the film.

But, I digress. Despite the kindred feelings I have, and despite our apparent similarities in perspective, we have had vastly different experiences. I think I can read her books again without fear.

After all, I took the Virginia Bar Exam in a suit the year the power went off. I doubt Erma had any story like that. And then there was the woman I sat next to in the Maryland Bar who said, "This is the third time. If I don't pass this time, I'm suing my law school." (I knew then who was setting the bottom of the curve for the rest of us.) It's okay that I don't know what a vegetable washer is, or that I have never used a ricer, or that I don't think I own a cheese grater. I still have my crockpot, and I know how to use it.

Erma was a self-proclaimed shopping master, buying anything at any price, as rapidly as possible. She once worried her husband would get a condolence letter from American Express when she didn't use the card for a full two weeks. For my part, my shopping experiences have been with The Shopping Man and his eldest daughter, resulting in unseen but deep scars. In fact, we once had our credit card turned off when we bought some art on a cruise ship because the card company was certain our card had been stolen. ("Oh my heavens! They are actually using it for more than groceries!")

But wait. With all these differences, will I be disappointed? Will I find after a long absence from her books that we actually are not kindred spirits? Is it possible she won't amuse me anymore, and my rose colored glasses will be stripped cruelly from my face?

Nah. Bill Bombeck was tall. My husband is tall. Erma was not. I am ... well ... not. That's enough. That will save us.


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