Becoming One with Erma

Posted: April 19th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Blogging, Firsts, Friends and Strangers, Husbandry, Misc Neuroses, Moods, Other Mothers, Travel, Writing | 7 Comments »

Every once in a while a friend will introduce me saying, “This is Kristen—the funny one I was telling you about.” The new person then turns to me wide-eyed, as if they’re expecting a monkey to jump on my shoulder playing maracas, and for me to launch into celebrity imitations and a slew of hilarious one-liners.

Oh, there’s always a two-drink minimum when I’m around!

I’m rarely at a loss for words, but that introduction—which I realize is meant to be a compliment—tends to leave me dumb and drooling.

I wish I could hear the conversations those people have as they walk away from me. “Is she feeling alight?” “So, wait, THAT was the Kristen you were telling me about?” “Do you think she’s maybe having a petit mal?”

Speaking of mal, I’m awake at a blisteringly painful hour, awaiting lift-off for a flight that will take me to the bright lights and glamor of Ohio. Yes, I’m goin’ “back to Ohio,” land of my alma mater, for a weekend writing workshop. It’s as if all those times I drunkenly sang that Pretenders song at Kenyon frat parties were somehow truly prophetic.

I wonder if that means there’s a Funky Cold Medina in my future too.

Anyway, I managed to get off the waiting list for this humor writing workshop that happens every other year, and sells out nearly instantly. A friend—the sassy and hi-larious Nancy of Midlife Mixtape (read her blog IMMEDIATELY if you never have) told me about it. When I asked to be put on the waiting list months after registration closed, the conference coordinator sent me the kindliest Midwestern email, essentially saying I had a snowball’s chance in hell of getting in, but he’d be happy to add me to the list.

But then a couple weeks ago a woman emails me outta the blue and says she can’t make it and would I like to take her spot. And thanks to The Husband’s preponderance of frequent flyer miles, here I sit watching the worst-ever American Airlines safety video. It is truly truly atrocious and I’m not sure why it’s pissing me off as much as it is.

At any rate, the conference is called The Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. Yeah, yeah, she’s the bowl full of cherries greener over the septic tank writer your mother loved so much. Several people have asked me if she’s still alive, and sadly she’s not, but I’m nearly certain we’ll have a seance to make contact with her at some point in the weekend. I mean, what else would you expect of a Marriott full of 350 kidless-for-the-weekend women? Think of it as an immense slumber party of hundreds of thirty- and forty-something women. We’ll all be globbing on eye cream and padding around in our slippers in the hallways raiding each others’ mini bars.

I know, I know. You want to come now too, don’t you?

Of course, when I first got the email about getting in I ran through my Mental Check List of Unworthiness. Aside from it being last-minute and utterly unplanned for, I wondered whether I really belonged in the company of those funny, successful women writers.

I also wondered:

Will the other kids like me?

Will I make any friends?

Should I spend the money to do this so soon after sending that large monetary gift to Uncle Sam?

Will I suffer some of the same dorkish alone-in-a-crowd feeling I sometimes had in the swarming throng at BlogHer?

What does one WEAR in Dayton in the springtime?

Not to mention all the practical issues, like childcare while I’m gone and the fact that the hotel hosting the event was sold out. Staying a mile down the road was sure to solidify my deeply internalized outsider status.

But then the woman whose spot I took said she knew of someone who didn’t need their hotel room. A pants-pissingly funny blogger who I heard read once, and had the entire room in eye-wiping hysterics. I sheepishly emailed her and within minutes she very graciously (and helpfully) outlined what I should do to transfer her room to my name, insisting I wasn’t at all the “stranger” I’d labeled myself as when I contacted her.


Call me a late bloomer, but I’m getting a hit of that down-homey comfort of an online community.

Maybe, just maybe, there’s hope for me in this group of gals yet.

So then, here I am. Horrifically early. (Did it mention that?) Ohio-bound. Awash in first-day jitters—though that may just be my body’s reaction to the 3:45 wake-up call.

If this workshop were a yoga class I’d have to set an intention for, it would be to try to learn as much as I can. And to put myself out there and meet lotsa people. And to not worry about being funny, because I’m clearly so very out-ranked there that I’m just thrilled to tag along. (When I make my Oscar speech some day I’ll really mean it when I say I’m honored to be in the company of the other candidates. I won’t mean it when I thank my agent. And I will mean it when I say that Mr. Harris was my favorite teacher in high school. Okay so he was really from Lower School, but do people ever thank elementary school teachers? Is that even done? I think that the high school white lie is the way to go.)

So wish me luck! And send some good vibes to The Husband who is gallantly wrangling the kids solo all weekend to make this happen. I told him that the kitchen is the room with the refrigerator in it, so he should be fine.

Actually, the man hardly needs domestic guidance (thank GOD), but that line just felt so Erma.

I’m already letting the channeling begin.

Light as a feather… Stiff as a board…


7 Comments on “Becoming One with Erma”

  1. 1 Jeff P said at 7:55 am on April 19th, 2012:

    i would thank elementary school teachers. Always good to hear some Pretenders, so thanks for the link. Just wish there was also a link to a video of you drunkenly singing at a frat party.

  2. 2 Jeff P said at 7:55 am on April 19th, 2012:

    also, you’re funny.

  3. 3 kristen said at 1:49 pm on April 20th, 2012:


    No cell phone or YouTube vids of me in college. I thank Al Gore daily for not having invented the internets back when I was in college.

    See? Being so old has its benefits.

    P.S. You’re funny too.

  4. 4 Alexandra said at 8:27 pm on April 22nd, 2012:

    Well, the universe always knows what to do.

    I adore Deb, and you as a stand in for her?

    No wonder I was so happy to meet you.

    I didn’t even meet you, did I?

    We just began yammering.

    About chunky necklaces.

    The nice kind, not the icky kind.

    True love.

    And, also?

    You had me at the “OhhiO” song mention.

    In my alternate reality, I am Chrissie Hynde.

    Did you stay for the stand up? Say yes, so we can talk.


  5. 5 kristen said at 10:22 pm on April 22nd, 2012:


    We met in a hazy didn’t we meet at BlogHer kinda way. That also included some talk of jewelry.

    Can’t believe I had to eat dinner tonight without a member of the Bombeck family reading me one of Erma’s columns. (Though blessedly there wasn’t a slab of cake at my place before I even sat down.)

    And yes, stayed for the stand-up–all but the last 5 or so. The butch teacher was by far my fave.

  6. 6 By Word of Mouth Musings said at 5:47 pm on April 23rd, 2012:

    You came, you saw, you made friends.
    Glad I was one of them ;)

  7. 7 kristen said at 9:52 am on April 24th, 2012:

    And can I just say, Word of Mouth mama, that you have TOTALLY redefined what I picture when I imagine a homeschooling mom. In a very good way. :)

    Would love to try to see you when in Fla. In fact, I’m staying until late Monday afternoon. So I’ll be in touch to see if I can lure you away from your recently-returned husband.


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