As a kid you don’t kneel at your bedside and pray, “And please, God, when I grow up make me a syndicated columnist with 630 newspapers.” At best you just hope you will fall into something. When I was growing up, I was the shyest of all my friends…. Maybe that’s where the humor comes from. I think humor always is a cover-up. It’s a cover-up for inadequacies. It’s a cover-up for embarrassment. It’s a cover-up for anything you can think of. Humor to me had been the old matter of laughing at yourself before anyone else did. That was part of what I liked from the beginning about writing. It was a private thing I could do. I could just send it out and see what it did. If someone laughed, I could stand up and, “I did that.”
— Erma Bombeck, in Beginnings
Gasping-For-Breath Type of Laughing
Erma Bombeck was always a favorite author of mine. I have memories of my junior-high-aged son sitting at the kitchen table reading Bombeck aloud as I was preparing supper – both of us laughing ourselves silly. It was the gasping-for-breath type of laughing. You know the kind I mean. (My son is now the father of his own junior-high-aged son, so you can catch the time frame.)
If it were just for that, I would be grateful to Erma Bombeck – for creating a point of contact and clean innocent fun for me and my son. But there’s more.
I, Too, Used the Cover-Up
I, too, was that painfully awkward and shy youngster that she describes in this quote. I just wanted to sit on the sidelines, be left alone, and write stories. I, too, used my writing as a cover-up – even in later life – so I completely relate.
But I’m also grateful to her as a fellow writer who pushed through many obstacles to get where she was going. She stands as an inspiration to all of us who love writing, who love the written word, and who long for our endeavors to support us as Bombeck’s did for her.
Sympathy? No Thanks
Erma suffered a great deal physically in her later years; yet for the most part, kept that suffering out of the public eye. Not wanting to capitalize on sympathy.
Many of our younger generation may be unfamiliar with the name Erma Bombeck. But in her day her name was definitely a household word. Ten of her thirteen books, including Forever, Erma, appeared on the New York Times best-seller list.
In the quote above she mentions that she was syndicated in 630 newspapers, but later that number would grow to above 900 newspapers! In the day when everyone (read that EVERYONE) read the newspapers, it’s no wonder she was so well known.
Pioneers Lead the Way
I don’t know about you, but I love that we have pioneers like Erma who have gone before us and proved to us that, if you’re willing to pay the price, you can make it happen.
PS: For an extra added bonus, here’s another great humorous quote from Erma:
My theory on housework is, if the item doesn’t multiply, smell, catch fire, or block the refrigerator door, let it be. No one else cares. Why should you? –– Erma Bombeck