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Invite people you don’t like to Super Bowl,
serve squid, codfish and octopi

Sammy SportfaceBe different. Branch out from mainstream America. Throw a Super Bowl party Sunday.

It’s a novel idea.

Invite people you wouldn’t really label your close friends. Just people you know. They don’t have to be people you like much. Maybe they’ve offended you. Maybe they don’t like you and you heard so through indirect channels. Maybe they told you because they couldn’t hold it in.

Make sure there is tension and discomfort between every person you invite has either never been addressed or won’t be resolved.

When they get the invite, they will be puzzled because when people are not close friends, have had differences in the past, or just don’t like being around each other, they know. Your invite will make them irritated. You want to invite the people — on a blast, impersonal email — who have no interest in going to your Super Bowl party. Not normally church-goers, on Super Bowl morning they will go to church to pray you will cancel your party.

When these people arrive at your front door Sunday, don’t say hello. Instead, hold in front of you a tray packed with hors d’oeuvres and a pile of toothpicks.

“How ‘bout a slab of squid to get Super Sunday kicked off?”

They will be taken aback that, before even saying hello or asking if you can hang up their coat, you will have put squid in front of their faces in almost a confrontational way.

All of the 25 guests will decline the squid. Most will have never tasted it and declined because they thought it was rude of you to offer it at the front door. They will be suspicious you did so just to mess with them.

Let them settle in, take a leak if need be but in the kid’s bathroom, not your master. Nobody messes up your master.

Offer them one beverage: Yoo-hoo chocolate water.

“Thanks, but do you have just a glass of water?” one lawyer who chases ambulances will say.

Tell him: “No, we aren’t serving water.”

“How about some Doritos?”

“Nope.”

“Oh come on, man. Every Super Bowl party has Doritos.”

Staring at his retinas, say: “Not this one.”

As seven of the 25 guests settle in on your uncomfortable chairs in front of your static-infested TV, amuse yourself watching the remaining 22 realize they must stand for the entire five-hour game because you purposely didn’t provide enough chairs.

Circulate through the crowd with another tray.

“How ‘bout a slab of codfish?”

You will hear non-stop “Nos.”

A few of the ladies, just trying to be polite, will jab a toothpick in the cod’s head and put one in their napkins. Don’t provide plates. Make them put the cods on napkins decorated with an oversized cod head.

Once you leave the room to bring on the Yoo-hoos, all will be muttering about what a jerk you are offering squid and codfish as the first foods to try at a Super Bowl party.

“Honey,” one wife will say to her husband. “I told you I didn’t want to go to this party. I want to get out of here. This guy’s a freak.”

“But the game’s starting,” the husband will say. “I wanna watch the game.”

“I wanna get outta here,” she will say.

She will force her husband to get her coat. They will hurry towards the door hoping to slip out before you notice. Intercept them before they get there. Hold in your hand another tray piled high with octopi.

“How ‘bout a half-dozen octopi for the road? Or if you not jones-ing for them now, I would be glad to drop a few in a container so you can enjoy them later?”

“Get out of our way, you codfish.”

“Sorry you’re leaving early. Yoo-hoo.”

— Sammy Sportface

Sammy Sportface is possibly America’s best blogger. He is only mildly interested in the truth. To read his new book, Wipe That Smile Off Sammy Sportface, go to Amazon.com.

A guy’s guide to figure skating

Con ChapmanYou know, eventually, the day will come.

It’s the dead of winter. You live in a four-sport town, but your football team isn’t in the Super Bowl, your NBA franchise is playing for the lottery, and your local hockey team hasn’t been to the Stanley Cup since Lord Stanley croaked.

Your wife or girlfriend turns to you and utters the six words that, strung together in the proper order, bring nausea to the stomach of any red-blooded American male.

“Is there any skating on tonight?”

Your tongue is stuck to the roof of your mouth, as if with peanut butter, because without a rooting interest to guide you, you can’t rattle off a televised sports event of greater significance than a non-title bout in the junior flyweight division of the WBA. Or is it the WBO? WBC?

You’re trapped. And, since it’s Saturday night, you decide to be nice to her — for ulterior reasons.

You hand her the remote and head for the fridge.

Wait — come back. You can learn to stomach figure skating. Really. Just follow these easy “Learn-to-Love Skating!” guidelines:

She’s Not That Into Them. You dread the thought of watching guys salchowing around in sequins and stretch pants. Don’t assume she wants to watch men, or even pairs, however.  For reasons that are unclear down deep, but readily apparent on the surface, women like to watch women. You don’t watch the WNBA, do you?

Look at That Outfit! In case you only pay attention to women’s figure skating when somebody takes a tire iron to an Olympic hopeful’s shinbone, the women’s outfits leave nothing to the imagination, as the foundation undergarment industry used to say.

Pretend It’s NASCAR. Just as some fans go to stock car races for the crashes, and some hockey fans only get excited when there’s a fight, it’s fun to watch skating for the falls. If the networks were smart, they’d zoom in on the point where the panties hit the ice and circle it with a John Madden-model video pen to show the circumference and depth of concave impression. “Looks like Maria must be wearing husky sizes now, Carol!” “I think she’s been g0bbling down too many linzer tortes, Dick.”

Pick a Villain. Pro wrestling promoters learned long ago that it takes a villain to raise the ratings. Katerina Witt was for years the Barry Bonds of women’s figure skating — unloved, even at the top of her game. Then it turned out she was a willing accomplice of the East German secret police, and people really started to dislike her.

If you’re the type that hates dynasties, rag on the current Numero Uno.

Pick a Favorite. The flip side of picking a villain is to select a sentimental favorite — the wide-eyed, white-skated equivalent of the Chicago Cubs.  You can then gush over her every toe loop. Sorry, Irina Slutskaya is taken — I saw her first!

Get Mad At the Judges. Everyone knows that skating is as crooked as boxing. When your favorite skater finishes her routine, take a deep breath as she picks up her teddy bears and long-stemmed red roses and heads to the “kiss and cry” area. Get ready to explode when the scores are announced. “Only 9.8 for artistic expression!” you scream. “She was robbed!” Storm out of the room, check score of Australian-rules football game on the den TV. Pull a nose hair or two until your eyes water, grab a Kleenex and return sniffling to the couch.

The woman waiting for you there will give you a big hug.

— Con Chapman

Con Chapman is a Boston-area writer whose works include The Year of the Gerbil, a history of the 1978 Yankees-Red Sox pennant race, 10 published plays and two novels, Making Partner and CannaCorn (Joshua Tree Publishing). His articles and humor have appeared in magazines and newspapers including The Atlantic Monthly, The Boston Globe and The Christian Science Monitor.

Humor hero

Jerry Zezima(Editor’s Note: Jerry Zezima is the president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. In NSNC’s February newsletter, he pays tribute to Erma Bombeck.)

Erma Bombeck was the mother of all humorists. Also the mother of three children, Erma had a legion of fans in women who identified with her funny take on what she called “the second-oldest profession.”

But she didn’t appeal only to women. A lot of her readers were men. One of them was yours truly. Along with Art Buchwald and Robert Benchley, Erma was one of my humor heroes.

Thirty-one years ago, when I began writing my nationally syndicated humor column for my hometown paper, The Stamford Advocate in Connecticut, I used Erma as a model — except, of course, I had a husband and father’s perspective.

Eventually, I found my own voice, which didn’t do much good because I am singing-impaired. Still, Erma has continued to be a great influence, not only on me, but on just about every other newspaper humorist, man or woman, of the past half-century.

I am writing about Erma for two reasons: February is the month of her birth (Feb. 21, 1927, was the day she entered the world), and it has been 20 years since she died (she left us on April 22, 1996).

As president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, I am proud of the partnership between the NSNC and the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, which will hold its biennial conference March 31-April 2 at Erma’s alma mater, the University of Dayton in Ohio.

The workshop, organized by Teri Rizvi, executive director of strategic communications at UD, is sold out, but you should still check out the EBWW’s website at humorwriters.org.

NSNC Vice President Lisa Smith Molinari will represent our organization at the EBWW, where I was a faculty member in 2010. That same year, NSNC member Tracy Beckerman was included in a CBS News Sunday Morning story on Erma and the workshop.

Erma began writing her column, “At Wit’s End,” in 1964, at age 37.

As she famously explained, “I was too old for a paper route, too young for Social Security and too tired for an affair.”

For the next 32 years, Erma wrote about family foibles like nobody else before or since. Her nearly 4,000 columns alone would have been enough to secure her legacy, but Erma also wrote a dozen books, most of them bestsellers. In addition, she was a popular public speaker who filled auditoriums and lecture halls with fans, young and old, who read and loved her.

Erma, who disdained computers and wrote on a typewriter, also became a multimedia star.  For 11 years she was a correspondent on Good Morning America. She frequently appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. One of her books, The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank, was made into a TV movie. And she wrote and produced a short-lived sitcom, Maggie.

She was the epitome of what we want to accomplish at this year’s NSNC conference, June 23-26 in Los Angeles, which is to help our members turn their columns, blogs and books into films or TV shows.

It’s a long shot, to be sure, because none of us has the national audience of Erma, whose columns ran in some 900 newspapers. But we can look up to her, not just professionally but personally, because Erma was, by all accounts, as wonderful, modest and delightfully funny in person as she was in her work.

When she died in 1996, of complications after a kidney transplant, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Ellen Goodman, who also won the NSNC’s Ernie Pyle Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008, wrote: “A lot of columnists write words to end up in the Congressional Record or on the president’s desk or at the Pulitzer Committee’s door. But Erma Bombeck went us all one better: Her words won her the permanent place of honor in American life: the refrigerator door.”

But fittingly, it was Erma herself who best summed it up: “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.'”

Erma Bombeck sure did.

— 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 Best,  Leave 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 currently president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

Advice to younger women: RUN

Elaine AmbroseA young reporter requested an interview about what advice I would give to younger women. I assumed my wisdom was needed because I’m older and still dress myself and use the toilet unassisted. Picking my brain through the cobwebs required the gumption of a valiant explorer, so I agreed to the conversation and scheduled a meeting at my favorite coffee shop.

In the olden days of my early journalism career, I conducted interviews using a legal pad and pen. I always carried a dozen extra pens because they would consistently run out of ink the moment my subject started to cry about the pending book or government plot or non-fat recipe that would change the world. After the in-depth investigative reporting, I would hurry back to my jobs at the TV station or magazine office to type the story on a manual typewriter. I am a dinosaur.

The interviewer appeared to be only 12-years-old and cheerfully ordered a grande, iced, sugar-free, non-fat, vanilla macchiato with soy milk. My hazelnut latte suddenly seemed boring and old-fashioned. She opened her laptop and said, “Let’s begin.” I sipped my coffee with feigned sophistication.

“What is the most important bit of advice you would give to a young woman today?” Her fingers arched, ready to pounce on the keyboard.

“Run,” I answered.

She stopped mid-peck, slightly irritated, and looked at me. “Could you elaborate?”

A certain smugness bounced through my aging brain. I had all day. She was on deadline.

I settled into my chair and assumed the mindset of a revered guru leading the fresh fledglings to the mountaintop. I imagined being the blind master giving instructions to David Carradine in the 1970s show “Kung Fu.”

“Ah, watch and learn, Grasshopper.”

Again her finger stopped and I received the look of confused pity. I decided to elaborate in a more conventional way. Here is the summary of my remarks.

Young women need to run. They should rush to take advantage of every opportunity, and if they can’t find what they want, they should create their own. Youth provides energy and risk-taking ability that diminish through the decades.

Young women should run away from negative influences. They can’t allow their amateur exuberance and desire to please everyone to cloud their common sense. There are awful people in the world who want to hurt them, steal their resources and leave them wounded. It took me too long to discover that fact.

Young women should run together. Other female friends can share the load, join in life’s celebrations and bring dessert after a calamity. Some young women will be fortunate to have comrades that last for several decades. I have a core group of college friends, and we have shared the important events of our lives: weddings, births of our children, births of our grandchildren and the deaths of our parents. We’ll probably end up playing poker together at some senior citizen center.

Young women should run alone. I can’t run anymore due to a knee injury and because I don’t want to run. But, in a symbolic way, running alone means a woman can survive using her own talents, resources and determination. When times get tough, and they will, she must pick up a sword and slay the dragons on her own.

I finished my dissertation and coffee at the same time. The interviewer raced to add the last sentence and save her article. Suddenly she gasped with alarm. Her computer froze, and her work was lost. I handed her some paper and a pen.

“Shall we order more coffee?” I asked.

— Elaine Ambrose

Elaine Ambrose is an author, syndicated blogger and humorist from Eagle, Idaho. She writes for several sites including The Huffington Post, BlogHer and Midlife Boulevard. One of her viral posts on The Huffington Post became one of the most-read posts in the site’s 10-year history. Another blog won a 2015 BlogHer “Voices of the Year” writing competition. Her book, Midlife Cabernet, won two national humor awards, and Publishers Weekly wrote that the book is “laugh-out-loud funny.” She is the author of eight other books, including Menopause Sucks. Elaine will present two workshops at the 2016 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. Preview her books, blogs, events and writing retreats at www.elaineambrose.com.

Me vs. the Koch brothers?

Kate MaharIt started innocently enough —  a contribution toward the campaign of my favorite presidential candidate.

I made a small donation through PayPal and was feeling pretty righteous. Little did I know that I had opened a can of worms that now wiggle into my Outlook inbox almost hourly.

I’m going to leave names out of this, but you may be able to guess who I’m supporting before I’m finished here. I’m not asking for discussion about who might best serve our country, so just zip it if you figure it out and disagree. That’s not the point, okay? I’ll bet you’re getting similar emails from the various groups supporting your candidate and cause, too, right?

Dear Kate –

Wall Street is terrified of our campaign, Kate. We don’t want their money (the billionaire class) and we don’t want their super PACs. So this is your chance to contribute to help us win.

Oh, dear. Well, who likes Wall Street? Or billionaires, right? This is my chance to stand up to the corrupting influence of corporate greed, so I pull out the credit card I only use for online purchases and send them a few bucks.

Dear Kate,

I’m sorry to bother you this morning, but we just got some AWFUL news.

The Koch Brothers are planning to host a MASSIVE fundraiser this weekend with hundreds of their anonymous right-wing allies. If we’re going to fight back against their flood of corporate cash, we need to go on the offense.

Crap. The dreaded Koch Brothers? How can I help? Lucky for me, the website remembers my credit card information and, with a sigh, I contribute a little more. But wait. Another email just arrived urging me to stand behind gun-control initiatives.

Dear Kate –

Blah blah blah . . .

• Protecting the gains we’ve made under President Obama

• Electing a gun violence prevention majority in the United States Senate

• Flipping state legislatures and winning ballot initiatives to increase the number of states that have expanded background checks since Sandy Hook

With elections just about underway, it’s time for you to renew your commitment to…

Well, I’m not ashamed to admit that I am pro-gun control, and I hope this will be an important issue to whoever governs the country next, so I make another donation. I know the next Capital One bill isn’t going to be pretty, what with all the donations and after-Christmas sales at Coldwater Creek and Wayfair.com., but it’s worth it.

Kate –

It’s the official start to all of the 2016 elections and the stakes couldn’t be higher for those of us fighting to make our communities safer from gun violence.

Uh oh. I really, really care about gun control. What if this group is better at achieving the objective than the other one and really warrants my support? Will it kill me to send, oh, another 20 bucks? I think I can manage.

Dear Kathleen,

Big news in the fight to protect bees: The Environmental Protection Agency just released a stunning new report admitting that popular neonicotinoid pesticides are partially to blame for the massive bee colony collapse.

Wait. Bees? How did I get on the EPA list to protect the bees? Is my email address now on some soft-hearted, green-loving liberals list, or do they know my favorite breakfast is a wheat bagel thin with a smear of chunky peanut butter and a little honey on top? Even the NRA has to like bees. If you haven’t read up on the bee problem, please do so the minute you finish reading this. And please sign the petition and contribute to the cause — like I did.

Hi there,

Blah blah, we make history by electing pro-choice women, and we’re ready to do it again in 2016. We’re committed to making sure a woman is at the top of the ticket, and we’re already recruiting women to run for office up and down the ballot — from Senate to city council.

Yes, you guessed it. I like bees, am in favor of gun control and am pro-choice. How can I not support women running for office who share my beliefs? Now, where did I put that credit card…?

And let’s not even start with Soi Dogs and the American Heart Association and my local food bank. I thought I would retire next year, but frankly, my social security benefits won’t begin to cover the causes that need me, let alone pay the bills.

I’m starting to the feel the pressure and while it’s just a thought, do you suppose the Koch Brothers could be persuaded to make a handful of donations in my name for a few of my favorites? They’d hardly miss the cash.

— Kate Mahar

After years of writing everything from trade journal articles on fork lifts to executive speech copy, Kate Mahar is semi-retired from her freelance writing and event planning business. She’s finally spinning stories for the sheer joy of it, writing her first novel and creating humorous posts for her blog, www.katemahar.com. Kate and her two dogs, Mick Jagger and Little Richard, are living happily ever after in beautiful Willoughby, Ohio.

Love at first fright

Mary Roberson WiygulIt was my seventh grade year, and fall had cast its spell on everyone in the booming metropolis of Pope, Mississippi (population 246).

At school we were busy planning our annual Halloween carnival. A cakewalk, games, pony rides and even a marriage booth had all been planned, but the most anticipated attraction every year was the haunted house.

Usually the excitement that surrounded this carnival staple was prompted by the idea of being scared out of our minds, but this year there was a different sort of electricity associated with it. This was the year the “power couples” in eighth grade issued an edict: you must enter the haunted house with your boyfriend/girlfriend, and you must kiss.

This wasn’t a big deal for the couples of eighth grade. Most of them had been locking lips for quite some time. Actually, it didn’t really affect most of the lovebirds in seventh grade, either. The majority of them had kissed at least once and had moved on to practice makes perfect. There was only one couple left who had yet to cross that threshold: my boyfriend and me.

The only practice I had ever had at kissing was with the mirror at home; so needless to say, I was petrified. My boyfriend, on the other hand, had kissed a girl in first grade, so he was experienced. Feeling that communication was key in our relationship, I confessed my apprehension about my lack of skills to my dearly beloved. He was quick to console me.

“I got this,” he said with an upward nod.

Young and in love, I trusted him. After all, he was my man.

The day of the carnival the excitement was palpable. Consumed by a tidal wave of dread and teenage angst, my mind raced. What if I don’t do it right? What if he doesn’t like the way I kiss? What if… And then it was too late. The bell rang dismissing us for the carnival.

I got caught in the mad dash like a salmon swimming upstream and before I knew it, I found myself in the gym. There was my boyfriend, standing right in front of the haunted house. I took my place in line next to him behind five other couples, and before I could chew the flavor out of my Wrigley’s spearmint gum, it was our turn.

Holding hands, we stepped into the netherworld of the transformed locker room. Before the doors even shut, he went in for the kill. Right there between dead prom girl and teenage wreck victim, with the love song of the chainsaw playing sweetly in the background, and perfect strobe lighting, he kissed me… and missed. The kiss he had intended to land right in the center of my lips glanced off the corner of my mouth and slid down my face.

Relieved, I followed him through the depths of hell until we emerged once again into the gym. Avoiding eye contact, we stood in silence.

Then he spoke, “Darn strobe light.”

Sparked by the passion with which my man delivered this heartfelt diatribe, I was reminded of something Momma always told me.“If at first you don’t succeed, dust ya tail off and try it again.”

Without even looking his direction, I asked, “Wanna try again?”

“Yep,” he replied.

And off we went.

The second time, we got it right.

— Mary Roberson Wiygul

A Mississippi native, Mary Roberson Wiygul has taught in the public school system for more than 20 years. When not teaching, traveling or spending time with her family, she loves to write personal essays, short memoir pieces and poetry. She is currently a feature writer for Southern Sass Magazine, and her work has also been featured in Southern Roots Magazine and Magnolia Quarterly.

Newton to toss 500 footballs at Super Bowl

Sammy SportfaceCam Newton will toss 500 footballs into the Levi’s Stadium grandstands during next week’s Super Bowl.

While his Carolina Panthers teammates play defense, the team’s quarterback will heave the official NFL footballs, priced at $500 each, into the stadium crowd.

The balls will be housed along the Panthers sideline in a yellow moon bounce. So throughout the game fans can watch the 500 footballs bounce up and down like popcorn in a popcorn popper, view Newton sticking his head into the bounce, grab one ball at a time, and throw them short and low and far and high into the night. He will toss about half into the lower deck and attempt to rifle the rest into the upper deck, though that may be unrealistic because NFL football stadiums are big.

“I figure during those defensive possessions I have time to spin about 25 balls into the stands,” he said this morning while flying to San Francisco, the site of this year’s annual Freak Show. “With all the commercials during the Super Bowl taking up much more time than action on the field, I figure I can get most of them out of the moon bounce and into fans’ hands by halftime.”

The novel idea was hatched this week in the NFL’s headquarters office, which sits atop Manhattan’s skyline. Newton has been handing a football to one person in the stands after every touchdown he has scored this season and it’s being well received by the public at large.

“We figure the Super Bowl is going to be a snore so wanted to do something different to make the fan experience worth the $25,000 we charge per ticket,” the league said in a prepared statement.

On conference calls this week with Newton and NFL suits, there has been quite a bit of discussion about where Newton should throw the balls so that as many fans throughout the stadium can have a chance to catch one.

They settled on this scenario. From the Panthers sideline he will throw a hundred or so to fans on that side of the field.

But this is where it gets tricky. From the sideline while the Panthers are hitting Peyton Manning as he heaves fluttering ducks, Newton plans to chuck the ball across the field, over the heads of the Broncos players and, if he has enough arm power, into the lower deck of fans behind their bench.

There are two challenges with this that have yet to be resolved. The first is that receivers and defensive backs may get distracted by two balls flying through the air at the same time in perpendicular directions. This will create confusion in the passing game.

The second challenge is that if Cam doesn’t throw the ball far enough he may hit Broncos players — or even coaches — standing on the sideline. Or his throws might be so short they would hit Peyton Manning in the head or back or something like that.

However this gets resolved, Newton’s goal of 500 passes will be achieved because the league and Newton have committed to do this and don’t want to stain their credibility. They have an overwhelming desire to bring novelty and less boredom to the Super Bowl.

Being fair to everyone, Newton will save the last 100 balls for special purposes. He will show respect to fans in the end zones by firing 25 at each of the two sides of the field.

The end zone hurls will be timed either for when the action is taking place on the opposite side of the field so as:

a) not disrupt action;

b) to give fans something to watch besides commercials and dull and disruptive football; or

c) during extra point kicks that are made 93 percent of the time so lack dramatic tension.

During the half-time show, Newton will fire 50 at the featured band, “Cold Play.” At least half of them will be aimed at the drummer’s biggest drum because he may be able to puncture it and mess up the concert.

“It will be a cold play on my part,” Newton admits.

Priced at $500 each, the total outlays to buy the 500 balls will be something like $50,000. The NFL insists Newton pay for the balls because it is a dictatorship more focused on gauging prices of this upcoming event’s 30-second ads, upping the price today from the usual $5 million to $10 million.

As long as it can display its logo, the NFL did agree to pay for the moon bounce rental cost of $100.

— Sammy Sportface

Sammy Sportface is possibly America’s best blogger. He is only mildly interested in the truth. To read his new book, Wipe That Smile Off Sammy Sportface, go to Amazon.com.

Valentine’s Day dance

Myron KuklaValentine’s Day has always had a special place in my heart among holidays. That’s because I learned some very important lessons about life one Valentine’s Day many years ago.

One was a lesson I’d never forget: girlfriends cost money.

You have to remember this happened in a time before political correctness, a time before the Equal Rights Amendment, a time before I had a job and money.

I was in the sixth grade and just coming out of that awkward stage where boys think it’s fun to show girls bugs and moving into that next stage where guys do other stupid things instead.

There was this girl, Rosemary, who used to wear her beautiful brown hair in ringlets that were popular in the days before orange hair. I had admired her from afar since we were in the fourth grade. Well, it wasn’t that far afar. We sat beside each other in class.

I actually had decided in the fourth grade to ask her out, but had waited a few years so as not to appear over-eager.

Our school that year was throwing this big Valentine’s Day dance in the gym. It was to be the social event of the season for all the sixth and seventh graders.

Somehow, I managed to talk to Rosemary without a bug in my hand and asked her to the dance. And with the faintest hint of blush on her cheeks, and a demure smile on her face, she agreed.

I was the happiest boy in St. John’s School that day. I literally floated home on air, carried by cherubs while Cupid tossed rose-petal hearts before me.

Sauntering into our house, I announced as casually as I could, that I would be going to the school dance on Saturday with Rosemary.

“You’re going to have to get her a corsage,” said my father, not looking up from his evening paper. “Girls like corsages.”

This was something I hadn’t planned on. Unwise as I was to the ways of the world, I didn’t realize the guy had to pay for the girl’s dance corsage. I just assumed corsages came with the girl. What a dumb system, I thought.

On the day of the dance, I pulled out my life savings of $5.78, which I had put away to buy a pocketknife. “Oh, well, this is for the love of your life,” I thought, stuffing the money into my pocket and heading out for the florist shop.

Now I have to say on a scale of 1 to 100 of the most useful things in the world, flowers hadn’t ever made my list. Entering the florist shop that day I had no idea of what kind of flower I should buy her. Luckily, the florist seemed to know something about flowers and recommended I buy a red-tinted chrysanthemum with my school’s letter on it.

“She will love it,” he advised me. It’s a good thing he was there to help, because, left to my own instincts, I probably would have bought her a flowering shrub.

The corsage cost $2, which was a lot cheaper than a flowering shrub, and I felt pretty good as I headed home with my tissue paper wrapped, red-tinted chrysanthemum in its heart-covered florist box.

Back at home, with all of the naive delight of a schoolboy, I showed my mother the corsage and she said: “Did you remember to get some candy for her mother. They like that, you know.”

It still amazes me that as wise as my parents were in the social graces of the day, it never occurred to them that I had no money to pay for these things.

Trudging down to the local corner store — with the remainder of my pocketknife fund — I bought not one but three boxes of candy — one for Rosemary, one for her mother and one for my mother. I wasn’t taking any chances this time, unless Rosemary’s father was also owed some sort of Valentine tribute. If so, he was out of luck.

My dad drove me to Rosemary’s home to pick her up. I have to say she was a dream in her organdy taffeta party dress, and with as much aplomb as I could muster, I distributed the gifts. I even pinned the corsage to the top shoulder of her dress without causing her any pain.

I’d like to say the evening was a huge romantic success. Actually, for most of the evening, the girls huddled on one side of the gym comparing chrysanthemums while the boys stood on the other side complaining about how much this dance had cost them. It was my guess that this one evening had thrown the pocketknife industry in our town into decline, if not outright collapse.

As the evening wound down to its final dance, I found myself at last alone with Rosemary, dancing to a slow song in a dimly lit corner of the gym. As the strains of the last dance came to an end, Rosemary looked up at me and said, “Thank you,” and gave me my first kiss.

And at that moment, I learned there were more important things in life than pocketknives.

— Myron Kukla

Myron Kukla, a Midwest freelance writer, is the author of several books of humor, including Guide To Surviving Life. He is also a regular contributor to the Erma Bombeck writing forum and has several humor pieces in Not Your Mother’s … books. Visit his webstore at squareup.com/store/myronkuklabooks.

Reflections of Erma