I’d like to devote my next several posts to the female humorists I’ve loved and admired since early childhood. Here’s to you, ladies! You helped make me who I am today. It’s ok, I forgive you.
First up: Erma Bombeck.
You were one of the first humorists I ever read, at the tender age of 9 or 10, and I’ll never forget how excited I was to discover your voice. You wrote about being a housewife and raising a family in the suburbs—not the most scintillating subject matter, but you made it funny and real. You were humbly self-deprecating, but you also had a sly wit and a way with zingy one-liners. As a child growing up in New York City, the life you described was far from my own experiences, but you made it tangible, and I wanted to read every book you wrote.
Reading your work now almost twenty years later, I have a slightly different perspective. I still love your shrewd observations and gentle wit, but I also see you as a bright, passionate woman who loved her children and her husband but wasn’t sure exactly how she was supposed to spend her days as a housewife. Someone who struggled to find meaning in her life in an age when raising a family and taking care of your husband and your home was supposed to fulfill your every need. You knew better, Erma, and you recorded your struggles with wit and wisdom, with charm and devastating humor.
As a little girl, reading your work taught me that women can grow up to be funny and smart, and to bring wit and life into whatever they do.