WHAT WOULD ERMA SAY?

Posted April 20, 2012 by Kathy Whitham
In recent weeks, the American news media has covered a number of women's issues that have been argued about for as long as I can remember. Topics such as the work ethics of stay-at-home moms, equal pay for equal work, contraception, and even rumors about celebrities having "work done" have ignited heated debates throughout the country. Politicians, journalists, and TV talk show hosts are throwing around buzz words that sound like titles of new video games or reality shows: The War on Women, The Gender Gap, The Mommy Wars.

Although these are serious matters, I can't help but wonder what Erma Bombeck quotes (my favorite female humorist) would say in response to all this political banter. A wife, mother, syndicated columnist and author of 15 bestselling books, Bombeck was the ultimate voice for women from the early 1960s until she was taken from us too soon, exactly 16 years ago on April 22, 1996.

I imagine that after hearing a certain notorious radio talk show host call a smart young woman a derogatory name because she spoke in favor of insurance coverage for contraception, Erma might put him in his place with one of her famous quotes: "Sex is only a three letter word so how can it be dirty?" She did, after all, write a book called "Motherhood: The Second Oldest Profession." In response to the myth that stay-at-home moms don't do any real work, perhaps Erma would've scoffed and said in support of hard-working mothers everywhere, "Housework, if done right, can kill you".

Actress and humanitarian Ashley Judd recently made the headlines when she wrote a rebuttal to the gossip media's insulting claims that her "puffy face" was proof she'd had cosmetic surgery. Judd, whose face had become swollen from sinus medication, wrote an essay discussing the negative effects of institutionalized misogyny on all women, not just celebrities. I agree the tabloids place way too much emphasis on women's wrinkles and weight, so wouldn't it be great to fire back with humor? To all the gaunt Hollywood starlets worrying about their abs and thighs as they nibble on arugula and sip green tea, I can hear Erma's warning now: "Seize the moment. Think of all those women on the 'Titanic' who waved off the dessert cart"! Erma Bombek quotes share her own experiences: "I've been on a constant diet for the last two decades. I've lost a total of 789 lbs. By all accounts I should be hanging from a charm bracelet!"

Bombeck was a master at combining exaggeration and truth to make people laugh at themselves, and she was always willing to laugh at herself too.  But along with her hilarious one-liners, Erma's famous quotes include eloquent wisdom for parents such as "a child needs your love more when he deserves it least".

And since we're speaking of women's issues, a noteworthy Erma Bombeck quote (she was an advocate of the Equal Rights Amendment), is a message still relevant for young women today: "We've got a generation now who were born with semi equality. They don't know how it was before, so they think, this isn't too bad. We're working. We have our attaché cases and our three-piece suits. I get very disgusted with the younger generation of women. We had a torch to pass, and they are just sitting there. They don't realize it can be taken away. Things are going to have to get worse before they join in fighting the battle."

My absolutely favorite Erma Bombeck quote inspires me to live every day to the fullest: "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' ".  Sadly, I'll bet Erma still had decades of talent left to share at the end of her life, but the quippy famous quotes she left are gifts to remind us that no matter how grim things seem, "If you can laugh at it, you can live with it."


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