The workshop for humor writing, human interest writing, networking and getting published

Erma Bombeck Wrighters' Workshop Banner

Extra! Extra! Extra!

Paul_Lander(These pieces originally appeared in Huff Post Comedy. Reposted by permission of the author.) 

Happy 50th Star Trek: ‘Star Trek vs. Rocky: The Wrath of Arthritis’ Announced

Big announcement just confirmed as part of Star Trek’s 50th anniversary celebration. In the tradition of Godzilla versus King Kong, the teaming of two giant film franchises was announced in what the studio hopes will be the blockbuster — “Star Trek vs. Rocky: The Wrath of Arthritis.”

Although script details remain hush-hush, a source reports it all begins when Captain Kirk and crew pay a visit to Rocky’s Philadelphia, only to get into legal trouble when they forget to shut off the turn signal light on the Star Ship Enterprise. Rocky takes offense to this “dissing” of his hometown, and the ensuing drama culminates with Rocky, despite hip replacement surgery, making his way, one last time, up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum.

Reports indicate that multiple corporate sponsors have signed lucrative product placement deals. In fact, a spokesman for Pfizer announced that its popular ED drug Viagra would play a prominent role in the film. “Let’s just say,” the spokesman said, “The term ‘beam Me Up, Scotty’ will take on all kinds of new meaning.”

Trump/Pence Against Spanish Inquisition for Not Being English Only

After meeting Mexico’s President Nieto, to show their resolve and draw a strong line against illegal immigration, the Trump/Pence campaign came out against the Spanish Inquisition for not being English Only.

Trump said this was his toughest call so far in his run for the White House, but that because the Bible’s in English, so should be any torture, coercion or persecution in its name. He added, “Believe me. We’ll have the best torture. It’ll be huge. Believe me. Huge.”

Trump/Pence campaign surrogate and a self described ‘cradle Catholic’ New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, speaking for the Trump/Pence campaign, said, “We’ve come a long way from those times, and a lot of so-called tortures should now be used to keep marriages together.” Adding, “There’s nothing like a good flaying or a few cracks of the whip to add spice to a marriage, as long as it’s done in English.”

Due to missteps on message between Governor Pence and Mr. Trump, Governor Pence did add: “As a supporter of former President Bush, I believe he did the enhanced interrogation thing right. Except where he didn’t. So I agree where he was right and don’t where he wasn’t. That is, by the way, my position on all things. Except when it isn’t. What were we talking about again?”

A-Rod Announces Retirement From Yankees, Enters Santa Anita Derby

After a stellar and controversy-fueled career in Major League Baseball, New York Yankee slugger Alex Rodriguez announced his retirement. Bidding farewell to the game, he, once again, apologized to teammates, fans and strangers who happen to be passing by for taking banned substances.

In fact, A-Rod admitted to years of taking Trenbolone, a steroid usually taken by thoroughbred horses. Now that his playing days are over, he confirmed he has returned to taking the drug and will attempt to fulfill a lifelong dream to run in the Santa Anita Derby. When asked how long he thought it would take to prepare for such a grueling challenge, A-Rod replied by stomping his foot six times on the ground, each stomp representing one month.

In related news, A-Rod’s plans caused Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds to file paperwork claiming a desire to change their names to Full Count Fleet and Giant California Chrome Dome, respectively.

— Paul Lander

Paul Lander is not sure which he is proudest of — winning the Nobel Peace Prize or sending Sudanese peace activist, Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim, to accept it on his behalf, bringing to light the plight of central Africa’s indigenous people. In his non-daydreaming hours, Paul has worked as a writer and/or producer for shows on ABC, NBC, Showtime, The Disney Channel, ABC Family, VH1, LOGO and Lifetime. In addition, he’s written stand-up material that’s been performed on “Leno,” “Letterman,” “Conan” and “Last Comic Standing.” His humor pieces have appeared in Huff Post Comedy, McSweeney’s, The New YorkerSanta Fe Writers Project Journal, Humor Times, The Higgs Weldon and Hobo Pancake. In 2015, he placed second in the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ annual column contest in the online/blog/multimedia category for his pieces in Humor Times and was named the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop’s “Humor Writer of the Month.”

First world injury

Molly StevensSo what exactly is a first world injury?

When I attended the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop last April, I had an injury in the hotel room. As I opened the heavy hotel curtain wielding the drapery pull rod, I bonked myself on the face.

It hurt and I examined myself for welts wondering how I would explain to my fellow writers what happened. Then I imagined this scenario.

Excited to start another day of learning and laughter at the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, Molly bounded out of bed and reached for the log attached to the curtain to unveil a glorious new day.

Thwack!

It was curtains for her consciousness as she sagged to the floor in a heap.

Meanwhile, Molly’s new friend Lee was pacing as the last shuttle bus was leaving in five minutes. “Where can Molly be? I bet she stayed in the bar for three hours after I went to bed and she’s nursing a hangover. I don’t think it would be wrong for me to go to the workshop without her; after all, I just met her. Why should I miss a lecture because of her irresponsibility?”

Alas, even though Lee has many shallow qualities that drew her and Molly together as friends, her conscience prevailed and she reluctantly pushed the elevator “up” button to investigate.

She knocked on the door and heard a groan. At first, she thought it confirmed her suspicion about Molly’s late evening revelry but her mother instincts told her it could be an expression of pain.

She knew her new friend was klutzy from the moment they met when Molly ran to give her a hug, tripped and knocked her into a potted plant. It wouldn’t have been so nettlesome, but it was a cactus.

Lee panicked and called hotel security. “I need you to check on the person staying in room 635. I think she is having a medical emergency.”

In a flash, a hotel official unlocked the door to find Molly lying in a puddle of humiliation with the imprint of the drapery pull rod on her forehead. Lee screamed, “Oh my God! It’s a first world injury! Call 911!”

So what exactly is a first world injury?

I found this definition in the Urban Dictionary:

“An injury most likely to occur in an advanced first world country due to the high standard of living. Example: Karma suffered a first world injury walking into a dumpster while tweeting on her smart phone.”

I began to chronicle my traumas in the context of privileged circumstances.

• Applied hypoallergenic mascara, missed lashes and injured eye.
• Thumbed through a Pottery Barn catalog and incurred paper cut.
• Fell off spin bike and sprained ankle.
• Waved hand over steam vent of rice cooker and sustained burn.
• Fished lipstick out from under front seat of car and wrenched shoulder.
• Chopped shallots for Steak Diane and cut fingernail.
• Pulled an excessively dry cork from a wine bottle that had been stored incorrectly and bruised nose.
• Slipped with the box cutter when unpacking special order French roast coffee and slashed arm.
• Poked a touch screen repeatedly and developed tendonitis of index finger.
• Hopped on a hammock, flipped onto ground and scraped elbow.
• Ate microwave popcorn and broke tooth. While watching Netflix.
• Opened dishwasher and bruised shin.
• Failed to reapply #50 sunscreen and exposed unprotected skin to sun. While waiting in line at Disney World. Because I ran out of Fast Passes.

I know I should feel irritated about these boo-boos spawned from a first world lifestyle, but instead I find myself with a strange sense of gratitude, realizing these are small prices to pay for a luxurious existence.

— Molly Stevens

Molly Stevens arrived late to the writing desk, but is forever grateful her second act took this direction instead of adult tricycle racing or hoarding cats. She blogs at www.shallowreflections.com, where she skims over important topics, like her love affair with white potatoes and why she saves user manuals.

Emails, texts, shmexts
What’s the difference?

Tracy BucknerOf all the things we may wish our parents would stop doing — like driving, eating too much salt and sugar or becoming too sedentary — my suggestion to my parents isn’t quite health-related.

I simply want my mother to place her iPhone under the front tire of her car and then drive over it. Many times. Until it’s pulverized.

First, the calls to me:

“Delly?”

“No, Mom, it’s Tracy.”

“I didn’t call you, I called Delly.”

“Mom, you called ME. You’re talking to Tracy.”

“Well, I meant to call Delly.”

At times I may receive a text with a red pin on a map indicating her current location. According to the map, she’s in her house and apparently not lost and hoping I can find her so there’s no need for alarm.

The FaceTime application makes me yearn for those days of the land line telephone. My mother doesn’t know why my face appears on her phone even though she is the one who initiated the Facetime call. It’s difficult to converse; she is too busy laughing and has no idea what to do next. Turning her phone this way and that makes her face jump side to side, up then down on my phone. I get dizzy trying to follow her image. “Mom,” I ask, “what the heck are you doing?!” She replies, “I’m LOLing.”

Calling her takes patience until she figures out which pocket, which purse, which counter, which chair, which car, which room her phone is in. Then she swipes to answer. Usually she swipes the wrong way no less than three times, disconnecting me each time. When we finally connect, she’s still laughing. I’m learning to take deep breaths as I count to 10.

When I call and my mother’s out of the house, she puts the phone on speaker and then places it to her ear. I hear the lawn mower, the check-out girl, a blow dryer, all sounds going on around her, but I can’t hear HER. She can’t hear me and I can’t hear her. My ears are ringing. We’re like walking advertisements for Verizon: “Can you hear me now?”

Despite my frustration, my dizziness and the constant ringing in my ears, I’m impressed technology doesn’t scare away this 80-plus-year-old. My interesting, intelligent mother reads the New York Times on her iPhone, forwarding articles on Tesla, hedge fund tax loopholes and recipes. So it’s with patience, respect, love and deep breathing that I explain to my mother that no, I didn’t receive her message in an email, but received it in a text that didn’t include the attachment indicated, and oh, by the way, the text went to four people I don’t know. From my still feisty mother, “Email, text, schmexts, what’s the difference?” And she inserted a red-faced emoji.

But the worst day of my life happened with the inevitable, dreaded phone call.

I knew it was coming, but still not quite prepared for it.

My distraught sister on the line, tearfully saying…

“Mom’s on Facebook.”

STEP AWAY from Facebook, I quickly texted my mother. This is nothing to be LOLing about. She texted back an emoji of a certain hand gesture.

So I accepted her Facebook friend request.

It might be easier to get her to stop driving.

— Tracy Buckner

Tracy Buckner contributes periodically to the Observer Tribune Newspaper of Chester, N.J., and blogs for the New Jersey Hills Newspaper, serving Madison, Chatham and Chester, N.J. She enjoys writing about the slow decline and vows to go down kicking and screaming. You can see read other pieces and sign up to follow her on her blog.

It’s not alright if you have to hurry

Teece Aronin A lot of things had happened.

I was buying a house. I’d dug so deep into my pockets that I’d gouged my ankles for the money to send my son Jon to Ireland with his school choir. My mother died.

One day it hit me: The only way Jon would have his passport in time for his trip was if I paid the extra fee to expedite it. I thought of the movie California Suite where four L.A. tourists are merging onto a freeway. The driver yells to ask if it’s clear. His wife yells back, “It’s alright if you hurry!” The driver then bellows: “It’s not alright if you have to HURRY!”

I hoped the Department of State thought it was alright if they had to hurry.

Next I realized I was missing a form, the DS-3053, the notarized one from my ex-husband giving his permission for Jon to leave the country.

I called my ex-husband who lives in Maryland. He was leaving town early the next morning and it was already late afternoon. With the Herculean effort only a father whose kid is about to lose out on a trip to Ireland can pull off, he made it to the post office where the form and a notary were available and had the whole mess overnighted.

Days passed. Then I received an email from the Department of State saying there was an error — a discrepancy between two dates noted on the form.

I called my ex-husband who was in L.A. He rushed to the nearest mailing service and filled out the form again. Calling me from the store, he said, “Here — I think you should talk to the notary.” A voice on the other end said:

“Ms. Aronin, this is Mazhar.”

“Yes?”

“Well ma’am, I was just explaining to Mr. Aronin that as a notary in the State of California, I’m not allowed to notarize this exact physical form from the Department of State. What I can do is attach a separate notarized form showing that I witnessed Mr. Aronin’s signature on this date and on that form, but I can’t notarize that exact form.”

“And the reason for that?”

“Because the State of California doesn’t recognize the language of the DS-3053.”

“The State of California doesn’t recognize English?”

“No, ma’am. I mean the State of California doesn’t recognize the language of the DS-3053.”

“So what you’re telling me,” I said, “is that the State of California is saying to the federal government that it has an issue with the wording of one of the federal government’s own forms? Really, don’t you think California is being a bit of an upstart?”

“Ma’am, I can’t say I understand it either; that’s just the way it is,” said Mazhar.

When the passport arrived in time, my ex-husband and I would have high-fived each other if not for the fact that, as indicated by the need for the DS-3053 using language unrecognizable by the State of California, we weren’t standing close enough to reach each other.

— Teece Aronin

Teece Aronin is an essayist and humor writer. You can find her work at ChippedDemitasse.blogspot.com, CAWLM.com and TrueHumor.com.

Happy almost Halloween

Mari' EmeraudeHappy almost Halloween all you parents!

Hey, I’m all for the little ones having a good time although I still think we need to design children’s costumes out of their winter coats. Here in Colorado it always seems to snow hard on the festive night.

This year Halloween falls on a Thursday, which means Friday is gonna be a difficult one for school teachers what with all the kids bouncing off the walls from massive sugar overload.

I used to stay in and hand out the goodies, but I was the one in the neighborhood who actually doled out toothbrushes or cheese sticks. Needless to say, I wasn’t the most well liked among the kiddies!

I remember Halloween was a little different when I lived in the United Kingdom. There, the children received mostly apples and nuts (and these kids whine about my cheese sticks). I guess it was in keeping with tradition when the adults were offered a drink at each house they went to — a nip of brandy here, a shot of whiskey there. By the time I reached the fourth house, I was pretty smashed! I staggered up to the door and called out, “triCkur TreAt – an’ make it a double.

This year I decided I’d go around with my grandchildren. I hope they won’t be too scared. They’ve seen me without my makeup so they should be good to go.

I’ve never been real big on Halloween, mostly because I don’t want to bother with the festivities of carving pumpkins and decorating. I hate anything pumpkin and can’t really handle the smell of apple cider. I suppose I should try and get into the groove of things for the sake of the grandkids though. I guess dressing up as a tired, worn-out mother of four just doesn’t have the horror it used to. I’ve overdone it.

Nah, I really need to rev up the scare tactics.

I know! Maybe I’ll hang my credit report in my front window — that oughta do it.

— Mari’ Emeraude

Mari’ Emeraude is a writer and poet from Denver, Colorado.

Joking till the cows come home

Jerry ZezimaEven though I have always been more apt to milk a joke than a cow, which can create udder confusion (see what I mean?), I have long wanted to be a gentleman farmer.

First, of course, I’d have to become a gentleman, which would ruin my reputation, or what’s left of it.

Then I’d have to buy the farm, which both my banker and my doctor say I am not ready to do.

So I recently did the next best thing: I went to Ty Llwyd Farm in Northville, New York, on the North Fork of Long Island, and met Dave Wines, who is both a gentleman and a farmer.

I also met June-Bug, a calf who has developed a bond with my 3-year-old granddaughter, Chloe.

Chloe previously visited Ty Llwyd, a Welsh name pronounced Tee Luid, meaning “Brown House,” with her mommy, my younger daughter, Lauren, a member of the Southold Mothers’ Club, which arranged the trip.

“The kids had a nice time,” Dave recalled. “June-Bug took a liking to your granddaughter. She gave her lots of kisses and wanted to follow her out.”

“Maybe June-Bug will like me, too,” I said hopefully.

But first I watched as Dave meticulously planted a row of carrots. It was in a part of the 30-acre farm on the east side of the, yes, brown house. At the entrance, where there’s a west side story, visitors are greeted with these signs: “New York Permitted Raw Milk,” “Chicken Manure” and “Caution: Ducks.”

Dave, who’s 67 and fit as a fiddle, even though he doesn’t play one, was on his hands and knees, holding a little plastic doohickey (a farming term meaning “doohickey”) that contained carrot seeds. He used his right index finger to tap the seeds, one by one, into a long indentation in the dirt.

“Do you like our modern equipment?” asked Dave, adding that the farm has been in his family since 1872.

As he inched his way along, a process that took half an hour, Dave told me about an uncle of his who lived off the land and was, as a result, strong and healthy.

“He was in his 80s and his doctor had put him on a special diet,” Dave remembered. “He came over one day and said he wasn’t on the diet anymore. I asked him why. He said, ‘My doctor died.’ ”

Dave isn’t on a special diet, even though his doctor is still alive, but he does abstain from alcohol.

“When people find out what my last name is, they say I should open a winery,” Dave said. “But there are enough of those out here. Besides, I’m a teetotaler. I drink milk.”

I have more than made up for Dave’s lack of wine consumption, but I am now sold on his milk, which is the best I have ever tasted.

His son Christopher, who lives on the farm, is Ty Llwyd’s “milk man,” said Dave, adding that he has another son, Thomas, who lives in Boston, and a daughter, Judy, who lives in upstate New York.

“They’re in their 30s,” Dave said. “I forget their exact ages because the numbers keep changing. It’s hard to keep up.”

Dave’s wife, Liz, was born in Wales, where she and Dave were married.

“Today is our 42nd anniversary,” Dave announced proudly.

When I wished the delightful couple a happy anniversary, Liz said, “I’m celebrating by collecting eggs.”

She said the farm’s 1,200 chickens produce 65 dozen eggs a day. She also said Ty Llwyd has 33 cows.

“How much milk do they produce?” I asked Dave.

“A lot,” he answered, adding, “I told you I’m bad with numbers.”

After giving me a tour of the farm, which has plenty of modern equipment, Dave introduced me to June-Bug, who was in a fenced-in area with her fellow calves: Cassandra, Cricket, Flower, Millie and Twinkle. They all had name tags on their ears.

“Hi, June-Bug,” I said. “I’m Chloe’s grandfather.”

The sweet calf walked up and started kissing me with her large, rough tongue. The others kept their distance.

“She likes you,” Dave noted.

“It must run in the family,” I bragged.

“When she’s old enough, you should come back and milk her,” Dave said. “And that’s no joke.”

— Jerry Zezima

Jerry Zezima, who served on the faculty at the 2010 EBWW, writes a humor column for the Stamford Advocate that is nationally syndicated through the Tribune News Service and regularly appears in the Huffington Post. He’s written three books, Grandfather Knows BestLeave it to Boomer and The Empty Nest Chronicles. He has won six humor-writing awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and was named EBWW’s Humor Writer of the Month twice. He is the past president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

Inspired by Erma

Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop badge(Editor’s Note: When we asked for personal stories about how the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop inspired writers to write — anything from books to blogs — the response was overwhelming. If you missed the opportunity and would like to share your story, send a short note to erma@udayton.edu for a follow-up story. )

One writer dubs the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop the “Woodstock of Humor.” Another calls it a “utopia” for writers — one “that only appears every other year, out of the mist, on the edge of the Great Miami River in Dayton, Ohio (like Brigadoon).”

Many say it’s life changing. Empowering. And, yes, magical.

When we asked for personal stories from writers, they told us they gained the confidence, writing know-how and connections to publish books, write essays for The New York Times and other national outlets, perform stand-up comedy, secure speaking engagements and submit work for anthologies.

“EBWW has been a nonstop chain reaction of success stories for me,” says Bonnie Jean Feldkamp, a freelance writer from Louisville, Kentucky, who credits keynoter and faculty member Gina Barreca for giving her valuable feedback on her essay about her blended family. It later appeared in The New York Times‘ “Motherlode” section.Bonnie Jean Feldkamp

Attendee and fellow writer Amy Sherman hired Feldkamp to help her start her Kranky Kitty website and develop a social media strategy. And other writers, Lisa Smith Molinari and Suzette Martinez Standring, introduced her to the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, where she now serves on its board as director of media.

In 2014, an attendee came up to Rosalie Bernard in a University of Dayton hallway after she “totally bombed” her Pitchapalooza book pitch and said, “Hey, I would buy it!” Bernard wanted to hug her. “I kept thinking, ‘If she would, others Rosalie Bernardwill.'” Two years later, she published Mimi and the Ghost Crab Dance, which is now in its second printing, and she’s writing the second book in the trilogy.

“And all this was inspired by Team Erma,” she says.

Allia Zobel NolanAllia Zobel Nolan, a former senior editor at Reader’s Digest who’s written close to 200 books, traveled from Norwalk, Connecticut, to attend her first workshop this spring — with some hesitation. “What could a writers’ conference teach a publishing veteran of 15 years, a been-there-done-that woman on the lookout for innovative, time-saving, smarter ways of doing things while staying relevant in an ever-changing literary world?” she asked herself.

Plenty.

“I learned so much, I could hardly internalize it all — from social media to branding, from the importance of garnering a loyal ‘tribe’ of fans and friends to getting a lousy first draft of your novel done and dusted, not to mention a way into The Huffington Post. (After trying for months to no avail, I’m now a blogger on the site, thanks to the kindness of a most helpful Erma attendee who recommended me),” she says.

“Then there are the people — other writers, authors, humorists — who understand what it’s like writing (sitting down at your desk and opening up a vein), who are not afraid to share their triumphs and failures, and who are more encouraging than your mom coaxing you into the world at birth.”

Stacey GustafsonStacey Gustafson, an author and blogger from Pleasanton, California, caught “the stand-up comedy bug” after learning techniques from comedy pro Leighann Lord and performing at the closing night of the 2014 workshop. Since then, she won a stand-up comedy award, performed at a middle school fundraiser, wrote a feature story for Toastmaster Magazine and landed two paid stand-up gigs.

“The Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop has made a huge difference in my writing and confidence,” she says. “Through this process, I discovered that stand-up comedy is way harder than writing humor. When you write a story, you’re in the comfort of your own home, pecking away at the keyboard with the ability to rewrite and massage a story at your leisure. The same cannot be said for stand-up.

“In stand-up, every word must be perfect. Gestures, pauses, eye contact, timing and facial expressions are essential for success plus the ability to gauge an audience reaction. Don’t forget body movement, posture and memorization. …My confidence has soared, and it all started at the 2014 workshop.”Ginger Lumpkin

After Ginger Lumpkin, a columnist from Thorntown, Indiana, heard comic, author and coach Judy Carter give an hilarious keynote talk at the 2014 workshop, she began thinking about what it would take to launch a public speaking career. After this year’s workshop, she registered for Carter’s online class and began working with her on developing and perfecting a motivational talk.

“I am presenting it four times at a corporate training conference, and two other businesses, so far, have expressed interest,” she said. “Judy is phenomenal. EBWW is amazing.”

Mindy Wells Hoffbauer, a writer from Springboro, Ohio, credits the “incredible networking opportunities” at the workshop for helping her land a job in social media marketing for W. Bruce Cameron and Cathryn Michon, who co-wrote the screenplay for A Dog’s Purpose, available in movie theatres nationwide, starting in January.Mindy Wells Hoffbauer

“I’ve had the pleasure of editing books for Nancy Berk and Barb Best and am now having the time of my life working as a social media director,” she says. “And none of this would have happened without Erma.”

Kim EllerKim Reynolds, of Commerce Twp., Michigan, says the workshop gave her a big dose of “You can do it.”

“I made so many new friends and learned so much about writing that it almost paralyzed me,” says Reynolds, who pens a humorous blog, Kim’s Crazy Life, and writes for the Oakland Press.

At the 2016 workshop, Janet Coburn, a freelance writer and blogger from Beavercreek, Ohio, with bipolar disorder, “learned a thing or two about writing — how to write a better query letter, how to improve my blogs, when to consider self-publishing” — but mostly she learned to pace herself by finding quiet spaces and taking breaks.Janet Coburn

“Am I glad I went? Yes. The experience was good for me in more ways than one. Paying attention to my own limits and not trying to live up to artificial expectations made for a good — and survivable — learning experience.”

Kathy TullyAfter registering for the 2016 workshop, Kathy Shiels Tully, a regular contributor to the Boston Globe and magazines, felt so inspired about her writing life that she sent an essay for inclusion in Chicken Soup for the Soul’s latest book, The Power of Gratitude. It was accepted.

“I’ve sent a few stories in to Chicken Soup and have to say there’s something exciting knowing your story was picked out of thousands,” she says.

After the spring workshop, Helen Chibnik, a lifestyle writer and blogger from Middletown, New Jersey, found the inspiration to write a novel — and more.Helen Chibnik

“You would think that the workshop content would be the best part, but it wasn’t,” she says. “Don’t get me wrong. The content was worth five times the price. It was wonderful, and I still use the timer Cindy Ratzlaff and Kathy Kinney gave us. (And) Anna Lefler’s session inspired me to work on a novel, to write more and care less about what other people might think.

“But, for me, that workshop provided a community of people who think like me, who understand what it means to be a mom, a professional, a daughter, lose a loved one, and to fail and to still find something to smile about. People who feed on humor for therapy, even for survival sometimes. I don’t think there is another collection of smarter, happier and more insightful people than the Erma attendees.”

— Teri Rizvi

Teri Rizvi is the founding director of the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop at the University of Dayton, where she also serves as executive director of strategic communications.

Hair drama

 

Hillary IbarraI think my bathroom mirrors have learned to dissemble.

My own reflection stares out at me, seven times out of 10, with bright eyes, a dewy (otherwise known as oily) complexion and lustrous (also known as oily) hair.

Mysteriously, the minute I sit in a salon chair, I am instantly horrified by the lackluster, frizzy hair that frames my wrinkled, squinty eyes and pockmarked face. The shock is akin to seeing yourself in a swimsuit beneath florescent lights in a public dressing room as opposed to the dim, gentle lighting of your own bedroom hundreds of miles from a beach.

Why can’t salon mirrors be like those at the plush lingerie store? Those reflective surfaces are so savvy in their mendacity that we come out honestly believing we look good in a G-string and teddy with fewer threads than a paper napkin. Undoubtedly, they have some kind of special technology that, while reflecting our faces, swaps our bodies out with an idealized, computer-generated version of our 20-year-old selves.

All hairdressers’ studios, on the other hand, seem to have mirrors that make our crowning glory look like it’s in desperate need of chopping above the ears, a dye job defying all things natural or a partial shave. That’s how they rake in the money and convince women to do outrageous things to their heads that cause their husbands to gnash their teeth and their friends to tell bald-faced lies entailing the extravagant use of adjectives such as “cute,” “trendy” and “bold.”

I have yet to cave in, get a platinum dye job and razor my locks to within an inch of their life, but, believe me, I’ve thought about it!

My courage to storm ahead in this life with only my God-given body and color survived a stylist who made me cry by telling me very rudely that I could not pull off bangs in my wildest dreams because I had neither the high forehead nor the full hair for it. It survived an anniversary date with my husband when I asked another hairdresser for big, retro waves, and she — defeated in her valiant efforts by my fine, silky locks — made up an excuse to give me a discount and sent me out the door with hair that resembled no-boil lasagna noodles.

I’ve had my moments at home, too. Every time I try to curl my hair, for instance, I look more and more like Medusa’s offspring in both strand texture and facial expression with each twist of the iron. And a blowout? Forget about it! When an acquaintance told me that her enviable blowout would sadly fall flat by the next day, I had to resist the urge to throw a bucket of water on her head! I could do a handstand for three hours in a gallon of hot volumizing mousse, and the minute I righted myself, my hair would flatten against my scalp. Even the professionals with their expensive tools and products can’t give me a lift.

One particularly catastrophic Sunday I stormed through my house yelling, “Stop lying to me!” at every member of my family who dared to tell me that my hot mess of a curl job looked good. After an hour spent trying to shape my hair with unrelenting, brutal heat, I at least wanted the satisfaction of hearing my family confess that it looked atrocious. Is there any better way to prepare yourself for church on a Sunday morning, after all, than to point a finger by turns at each of your loved ones, exclaiming, “You’re a liar! And you! And you!,”merely because they tried to be kind?

Really, what is it with us women and our hair?

I heard a story about two little girls recently, one with tight, curly hair and the other with stick-straight tresses. They were the best of friends but each wished for what the other had. The curly-haired girl very earnestly said to her friend one day, “When we get to college, I can curl your hair and you can straighten mine.”

I suppose that about sums it up, and that is why — no matter what the world comes to — the hair salon and product businesses will never hurt for money from desperate women.

Wait. Did I say desperate? I meant adventurous. And super trendy.

— Hillary Ibarra

Hillary Ibarra has had several humor pieces published on Aiming Low and humorwriters.org and was recently published at Hahas for Hoohas. She is a mother of four who dreams of playing the banjo, living in Jane Austen’s childhood home and writing for more than spam artists and 50 loyal readers but can’t seem to find them in the laundry. She is the mysterious blogger at No Pens, Pencils, Knives or Scissors. In her spare time she likes to threaten to sell her children to the zoo, and their little dog, too.

Reflections of Erma