Another Erma Bombeck conference has ended.
I’ll come home and friends will ask, so how was it? I’ll answer: Great, I loved it!
They will raise an eyebrow and wonder why I’m so uncharacteristically enthusiastic. Then they will smile at me the way people do when an older person indulges in reminiscences.
“I’m glad,” they’ll say, and quickly move on, lest I start talking about my love for pressed linens and starched curtains.
No! If you think the Erma Conference is quaint, you are wrong. Yes, we honor Erma, the writer many of us read and loved, the one who made us laugh aloud. But it is more than that. This was my third conference and I was finally able to crystallize why it means so much to me and other attendees.
It’s about sisterhood. I think it should be spelled with a capital S. We celebrate and laugh here in a way that only women do. We laugh, not the tinkly little-girl laughs women give in response to a man’s joke, but those big, deep-belly laughs women emit when we make each other laugh. The ones that shake the puppies out of their foundations and loosen tear ducts and bladders as well. These are never the mean girl laughs. On the contrary, they come from a deep understanding and appreciation of one another. Women tend to reflect on life in a way men don’t, a speaker commented. Women’s humor is different from men’s.
I observed the men to see if she was right. The men seemed to be watching the women here as they might an athlete or a musician, admiring them from a distance but accepting that they can’t fully participate in what was happening. (What else is new?) But, I think they were enjoying the laughter vicariously.
Yes, younger women attend also. I wondered if they read Erma. I suppose, if asked, they would say they came primarily to network. Oh! We are in Dayton, Ohio. We come here primarily to laugh. I watched as these young women got rid of their buttoned-up professional demeanor, at least for the moment. They roared. LMAO is how they might term it. And, sure enough, they wiped mascara from under their eyes, even if there wasn’t any there. (An atavistic response, we were told.)
Women laugh out of sisterhood; we understand one another. It’s a profound phenomenon, this understanding. When triggered, it makes us laugh and cry at the same time. And here I could see we are all afflicted with it. Older and younger. From New York City to the hills of Kentucky. Dems and Repubs. Wow! We laughed together. It all builds. The great speakers, the books, the writing sessions, the encouragement, the understanding, the warmth of the Bombeck family.
Yeah, you can tell, I love this conference!
I must add, with one exception: I didn’t win the contest — again. (Judges, if any of you are reading this, I’m not getting any younger.)
— Lynda Zielinski
Lynda Zielinski writes the blog, “Ole Granny Slogs,” and shamelessly will use her grandson and dogs to sway EBWW judges in future writing competitions.