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Is that a dog?

Years ago, we had new neighbors move in to the upstairs apartment in the house next door. One Saturday afternoon shortly after the couple had moved in, I saw them out with their dog on the grassy median strip dividing our residential street. The couple was talking with some other neighbors, so I went out to say hi.

After meeting the friendly guy and his girlfriend, with no introductions to their scruffy dog sniffing at my feet, a question formulated in my head:

“Is that a male or female dog?”

(Because, really, how can you tell without being, y’know, obvious?)

In a moment of supreme brain-body disconnect, the question that came out of my mouth, however, was:

“Is that a dog?”

Write that down as an excellent example of how NOT to make a good first impression.

But it still cracks me up when I think about it, even though it happened more than 25 years ago.

I probably take myself and the foibles of life too seriously much of the time. But I also love laughing at myself. Not in a way that feels like a self put-down, but in a way that makes me feel human and hopefully approachable, in an “I screw up, you screw up, we all screw up” kind of way.

If I’m at a party, I’m not always a great conversationalist. I’m not especially politically astute (although for some reason lately, I’ve had more of an opinion than ever before — go figure). I’m not good at remembering details from trips and vacations, so I can’t name that “memorable” restaurant on the lake in Skaneateles, New York, and I can’t discuss which historic sites we visited in Philadelphia.  (Other than the Liberty Bell, of course — the memory bar isn’t set that low.) I’m also severely “directionally challenged,” so don’t even ask me the best way to get from East Poestenkill to Cropseyville.  You might end up in Massachusetts.

But I can tell a funny story about myself and I always seem to catch a listening ear.

Our imperfection — our vulnerability — is a great human connector. Like the K’nex building blocks that my kids played with years ago, it pulls us together and helps us stick with each other. In fact, a little more self-deprecating humor and a lot more K’nexing may be what the world needs right now.

— Karen Debonis

Karen Debonis blogs about her wild adventures as a homebody, including writing (aka avoiding housework), meditating (aka napping) and serving a nightly smorgasbord to deer and other critters in her yard (aka gardening). She lives in a wonderfully emptied nest in upstate New York with her husband of 34 years.

Reflections of Erma