If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits? is Erma Bombeck’s timelessly witty look at the hidden side of married life.
Motherhood captures one of the toughest jobs on earth with humor and heart.
The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank is Bombeck’s take on the unforgiving frontier of American suburbia.
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About the Author
Erma Bombeck (1927–1996) was one of the best-loved humorists of her day, known for her witty books and syndicated columns. In 1967, she published At Wit’s End, a collection of her favorite columns. Bombeck would go on to write eleven more books, including The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank (1976), If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits? (1978), and Aunt Erma’s Cope Book (1979). Her books were perennial bestsellers, and helped bolster her reputation as one of the nation’s sharpest observers of domestic life. She continued writing her syndicated column until her death in 1996.
Read an Excerpt
The Erma Bombeck Collection
By Erma Bombeck
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1978 Erma Bombeck
All rights reserved.
If You Thought the Wedding Was Bad ...
Next to hot chicken soup, a tattoo of an anchor on your chest, and penicillin, I consider a honeymoon one of the most overrated events in the world.
It's one of those awkward times when you know everyone else had a better time than you did but you're too proud to admit it.
A Honeymoon Hall of Fame is being established at a resort hotel in the Poconos.
According to publicity, a heart-shaped alcove will feature photos, mementos, and memorabilia of famed loving couples of history and fiction.
To date, they have included a recording of the Duke of Windsor's history-making declaration of love in which he renounced the British throne, early cartoons of Blondie and Dagwood, and film clips of Elizabeth Taylor's weddings.
It boggles the mind to imagine how they are going to determine who will enter the Honeymoon Hall of Fame and for what reasons, but here are a few nominations.
Ruth and Walter, who enjoyed the shortest honeymoon in history. Rum shot Walter in the leg at the reception for fooling around with the maid of honor.
Sue and Ted for the most unique honeymoon in history. While Sue swam, danced, played tennis, and shopped, Ted ice fished, skied, played cards, and drank with the boys. While separate honeymoons don't work for everyone, it worked for Sue and Ted.
Laura and Stewart, the couple who were the greatest sports on their honeymoon. Right after the wedding, Laura discovered Stewart was out on bail for armed robbery, was coming down with three-day measles, was already married, had a son who set fires, and had taken out $75,000 worm of life insurance on her at the reception, but what the heck, as Laura explained, "Honeymoons are always a time of adjustment."
There are a lot of theories as to why marriages aren't lasting these days. The original premise was so simple. All you had to do was promise to love and to cherish from this day forward for better or for worse ... and you asked yourself how bad could it get?
Bad never reaches it to the big stuff. It's always the little things that do a marriage in.
For example, a woman can walk through the Louvre Museum in Paris and see 5,000 breathtaking paintings on the wall. A man can walk through the Louvre Museum in Paris and see 5,000 nails in the wall. That is the inherent difference.
I don't know what there is about a nail in the wall that makes strong, virile men cry. The first time I was aware of this phenomenon was a week after my husband and I were married. I passed him in the kitchen one day while carrying a small nail and hammer.
"Where are you going with that hammer and nail?" he asked, beginning to pale.
"I am going to hang up a towel rack," I said.
He could not have looked more shocked if I had said I was going to drive a wooden peg into the heart of a vampire.
"Do you have to drive that spike into the wall to do it?"
"No," I said resting on the sink, "I could prop the towel rack up in a corner on the floor. I could hang it around my waist from a rope, or I could do away with it altogether and keep a furry dog around the sink to dry my hands on."
"What is there about women that they cannot stand to see a smooth, bare wall?" he grumbled.
"And what is there about men that they cannot stand to have the necessities of life hung from a wall?"
"What necessities?" he asked. "Certainly you don't need that mirror in the hallway."
"You said that about the light switches."
His eyes narrowed and I had the feeling he was going to zap me with his big point. "Do you realize," he asked slowly, "that there is not one single wall in this house where we can show a home movie?"
"Radio City Music Hall only has one," I retorted.
And so, the nail versus the bare wall has gone on for years at our house. He wouldn't hang a calendar over my desk because in twelve months the nail would become obsolete. He wouldn't hang the children's baby pictures because in two years they'd grow teeth and no one would recognize them. He wouldn't let me put a hook in the bathroom so I wouldn't have to hold my robe while I showered. He wouldn't let me hang a kitchen clock anywhere but on a wall stud (which happened to be located BEHIND the refrigerator).
Sometimes you have to wait for revenge. Yesterday, he reported he ran over a nail with his car.
There's an object lesson here, but I wouldn't insult anyone's intelligence by explaining it.
To love and to cherish from (his day snoreward ... forward. Why doesn't anyone think to ask? Snoring could be a real threat to a marriage, especially if it's a snore that blows lampshades off the base, pictures off the wall, and makes farm animals restless as far as fifty miles away.
The loudest snore, according to the Guinness World Book of Records, was measured at sixty-nine decibels at St. Mary's hospital in London.
Until last night.
That's when my husband broke the record by sustaining his breathing at a rousing seventy-two decibels. Seventy-two decibels, for the innocent, is the equivalent of having a cannon go off in the seat next to you in the Astrodome.
"Hey Cyrano," I yelled, "wake up. You're doing it again."
"You woke me up to tell me that! If I've told you once I've told you a thousand times, I do not snore. I'd know it if I did."
"That is the same logic used by the man who said, 'If I had amnesia, I would have remembered it.'"
"What did it sound like?"
"Like the Goodyear blimp with a slow leak."
"Well, what did you expect? A concert?"
"Maybe I'll try what Lucille Farnsward tried when her husband's snoring drove her crazy."
"What's that?" he asked sleepily.
"She just put a pillow over his face."
"Good Lord, woman, that would cause a man to stop breathing altogether."
"Well, she hasn't worked the bugs out yet, but she's onto something."
"Why don't you roll me over on my side?"
"I did and you hit me."
And so it went, all through the night.
Frankly, I'm sick of all the therapist remedies that never seem to work, like self-hypnosis, earplugs, and rolling the snorer off his back. These are the only remedies that bear consideration.
Get the snorer out of his own bed and into a strange one ... preferably in another state.
This one works as well as any I've tried. Just as you are both climbing into bed, get every nerve in his body on alert by offhandedly mentioning, "The IRS called you today, they'll call back tomorrow."
Some experts believe you have to get to the root of a husband's reason for snoring. It has been suggested a person snores because he is troubled, his dentures don't fit properly, he indulges in excessive smoking or drinking, has swollen tonsils, or suffers from old age.
Don't you believe any of it. A man snores for one reason alone ... to annoy his wife. And if that doesn't do it, he'll resort to some other ploy to drive her crazy ... the Sorry-I'm-late syndrome.
There are no records to prove it, mind you, but I have every reason to believe my husband was an eleven-month baby.
And he's been running two months late ever since. Through marriage (and bad association) I have become a member of that great body of tardy Americans who grope their way down theater aisles in the dark, arrive at parties in time to drink their cocktails with their dessert, and celebrate Christmas on December 26.
Frankly, I don't know how a nice, punctual girl like me got stuck with a man who needs not a watch but a calendar and a keeper.
Would it shock anyone to know I have never seen a bride walk "down" the aisle? I have never seen a choir or a graduate in a processional? I have never seen the victim of a mystery BEFORE he was murdered. I have never seen a parking lot jammed with people. I have never seen the first race of a daily double, or a football team in clean uniforms.
The other night I had it out with my husband, "Look, I am in the prime time of my life and I have never heard the first thirty seconds of the 'Minute Waltz.' Doesn't that tell you something?"
"What are you trying to say?"
"I am trying to say that once before I die I would like to see a church with empty seats."
"We've been through all this before," he sighed. "Sitting around before an event begins is a complete waste of time when you could be spending it sleeping, reading, and working."
"Don't forget driving around the block looking for a parking place. I don't understand you at all," I continued. "Don't you get curious as to what they put into first acts? Aren't you just a bit envious of people who don't have to jump onto moving trains? Aren't you tired of sitting down to a forty-four-minute egg each morning?"
"I set my alarm clock every night. What do you want from me?"
"I have seen you when you set your alarm clock. When you want to get up at six-thirty you set it for five-thirty. Then you reset it for six and when it goes off you hit it again and shout, 'Ha, ha, I was only kidding. I got another half-hour.' You reset it for six-thirty at which time you throw your body on it and say, 'I don't need you. I don't need anybody.' Then you go back to sleep."
"I just happen to believe there is no virtue in being early. What time is it?"
"It's eight o'clock. You're supposed to be at work at eight."
"Yes, lucky, I've got twenty minutes to spare."
Never in my life will I hear the "Star Spangled Banner" being played. I've also had to adjust to a man who does not know how to live in a world geared to leisure.
It's a common problem. A lot of women are married to workoholics and the trick is to get them to take two weeks off a year and just relax. Sounds simple?
I took my husband to the beach for two weeks where he promptly spread out a large beach towel, opened his briefcase and began to balance the checkbook.
I took him to a fancy hotel in a big city where he spent the entire week tinkering with the TV set trying to get the snow out of the picture.
Once I even took him to a nightclub where scantily clad girls danced out of key. After one came over and propped herself ceremoniously on his knee and tickled his chin, he turned to me and said, "We really should have the fire insurance on our house updated."
A friend of mine suggested I take him camping. "There is nothing like the wilderness to make a man relax and bring him back to nature." What did she know?
After three days in the wilderness, he had rotated the tires, mended three water mattresses, built a bridge, filled eight snow-control barrels with cinders, and devised a sophisticated system to desand everyone before they entered the tent.
He went to the library to check on how the river got its name, wrote a letter to the editor of the local paper, read the lantern warranty out loud to all of us, organized a ball team, and waxed the tent.
He alphabetized my staple goods, painted the word GAS on the gas cans, and hung our meat from a tree to make it inaccessible to bears and humans. (Raccoons eventually ate it.)
After that experience, I told him, "Face it, Bunkie, we are incompatible."
"Why do you say that?" he asked.
"I'm a fun-loving, irrepressible, impetuous Zelda, and you are a proper, restrained, put-your-underwear-on-a-hanger Dr. Zhivago."
"I have a good time," he said soberly.
"Do you know I'm the only woman in the world to wake up on New Year's Day with nothing to regret from the night before? No gold wedgies scattered on the stairway, no party hats on the back of the commode, no taste in my mouth like a wet chenille tongue? Only the memories of Father Time dozing over a warm Gatorade. I have had more stimulating evenings picking out Tupperware."
"That not true," he said. "What did we do last New Year's Eve?"
"From seven to eight-thirty I picked bubble gum out of the dog's whiskers. At ten-thirty you fell asleep in the chair while I drank unflavored gelatin to strengthen my fingernails. At ten-forty-five I went to the refrigerator for a drink. The kids had drunk all the mix and the neighbors had cleaned us out of the ice cubes. I poured two glasses of warm Gatorade, returned to the living room and kicked you in the foot. You jerked awake and said, 'Did you know that at midnight all horses age one year?'
"At eleven-forty-five your snooze alarm went off. You clicked your fingers while Carmen Lombardo sang 'Boo Hoo,' flipped the porch light on and off twice, and shouted, 'Happy New Year.'
"I wish we could be like Dan and Wanda."
"What's so great about Dan and Wanda?" he asked.
"Wanda tells me she and Dan have meaningful conversations."
"Big deal," he yawned.
"It is a big deal. Have we ever had one?"
"I don't think so," he said.
Finally, I said, "What is a meaningful conversation?"
"You're kidding! You actually don't know?"
"No, what is it?"
"Well, it's a conversation with meaning."
"Like an oil embargo or Paul Harvey?"
"What about them?"
"What about who?"
"The oil embargo and Paul Harvey."
"It doesn't have to be a conversation about the oil embargo and Paul Harvey," he explained patiently. "It could be a discussion on anything in your daily schedule that is pertinent."
"I shaved my legs yesterday."
"That is not pertinent to anyone but you."
"Not really. I was using your razor."
"If you read the paper more, your conversation would be more stimulating."
"Okay, here's something meaningful. I readjust yesterday that in Naples ... that's in Italy ... police were searching for a woman who tried to cut off a man's nose with a pair of scissors while he was sleeping. What do you think of that?"
"That's not meaningful."
A few minutes later I said, "Suppose it was the American Embassy and the woman was a spy and the nose, which held secret documents about an oil embargo between Saudi Arabia and Paul Harvey, belonged to President Carter?"
"Why don't we just go back to meaningless drivel?" he said.
"Which reminds me," I said. "Did you read that article in the magazine where it said married people are unable to respond to their differences and that is why they become frustrated? It's called the old I-don't-care, it's-up-to-you or I-will-if-you-want-to blues. You do that a lot, and I never know how you stand on things."
Excerpted from The Erma Bombeck Collection by Erma Bombeck. Copyright © 1978 Erma Bombeck. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsIf Life Is a Bowl of Cherries, What am I Doing in the Pits?,
1. If You Thought the Wedding Was Bad ...,
2. The Mother Mystique,
3. Who Killed Apple Pie?,
4. The Varicose Open,
5. Profile of a Martyress,
6. "Have a Good Day",
7. "Warning: Families May Be Dangerous to Your Health",
8. There Ought to Be a Law ...,
10. Fashions and Fads That Underwhelmed Me,
11. How to Speak Child Fluently,
12. "Travel Is So Broadening I Bought a Maternity Dress to Wear Home",
13. The Trick Is Knowing When to Laugh ...,
14. I'm Laughing So Hard I Can't Stop Crying,
1. So You Want to Be a Mother?,
2. Donna (Donna Reed Show), Harriet (Ozzie and Harriet), Barbara (Leave It to Beaver), Shirley (Partridge Family), Marjorie (Make Room for Daddy), Jane (Father Knows Best), Florence (The Brady Bunch),
5. Everybody Else's Mother,
6. The First Day of School for "The Baby",
7. Pacifier Pioneers,
8. Who Are Harder to Raise—Boys or Girls?,
12. Louise and Estelle,
13. How I Spent My Summer by Laura Parsons. Age 11,
14. The Five Greatest American Fiction Writers of All Time (Who Just Happen to Be Mothers),
16. The Special Mother,
18. ¿Se Habla English?,
20. Two Be or Not Two Be,
22. Born to Crisis,
24. Stepmothers with Bad P.R.,
26. Five Classic Motherhood Speeches,
30. If You Can't Stand the Heat ... Turn Off the Stove,
31. "Every Puppy Should Have a Boy",
34. "Don't You Dare Bleed on Mom's Breakfast",
35. "Is Anyone Home?",
36. Primer of Guilt "Bless Me, Everybody, for I Have Sinned",
38. "Do I Have to Use My Own Money?",
39. The Spirit of Christmas ... and Other Expenses,
The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank,
1. Station Wagons ... Ho!,
2. Major Battles Fought in the Suburbs,
3. The Great Plastic Rush,
4. Hazards of Suburban Living,
5. The Heartbreak of Psuburbaniasis,
6. Ya Got Trouble,
7. It Comes with the Territory,
8. Law and Order,
9. Put Your Winnebagos into a Circle and Fight,
10. Super Mom!,
11. The Volunteer Brigade,
12. "By God, We're Going to Be a Close-Knit Family if I Have to Chain You to the Bed!",
13. Postscript to Suburbian Gems,
A Biography of Erma Bombeck,