Sunday, October 13, 2013

Two Inspiring Women (One Real, One Fictional)

Originally Posted - THURSDAY, AUGUST 6, 2009

Revised: September 2013

For some reason, today I sort of meandered down the road of recalling people who have most inspired me. The first two names that popped into my head were Erma Bombeck and Mary Richards.

My self-image as a kind of literary type would love to have those first two names be Germaine Greer and Lucy Maud Montgomery (the author of the Anne of Green Gables books), who were authors who inspired me. [I would be willing to bet this is the first time those two ladies names have appeared in the same sentence and I bet they'd both love that!]

But, my heart remembered Erma Bombeck and Mary Richards, first.

Upon reflection, I have to admit that my heart did a bang-up job of dredging up the two people who I most wanted to be when I was a young woman.

First, I (and most other girls I knew) wanted to be Mary Richards. She was pretty. She had a totally awesomely cool apartment. She was a single, career woman living alone in a city. She was a writer. She was everything I wanted to be. I don't think I missed one episode of the Mary Tyler Moore Show during its entire run, and I probably watched most of the reruns. A lot of my friends were similarly inspired by that show. Mary Richards was a free-spirited woman who was not a bra-burning radical. She offered a sort of middle way for women who did not necessarily want to pursue a life of marriage and motherhood, but who also were not particularly radical.

My adulation for Erma Bombeck is a little more difficult to explain. I never had any intention of getting married or having a family. (I ultimately did both, but it was not part of the plan. I was going to be Mary Richards, remember?) I didn't want to be a mom living in Dayton, Ohio, writing about laundry and cleaning products. The things about Erma Bombeck that lit me up and inspired me were that she was honest and she was funny ... and she was from suburban Dayton, Ohio, which I took to mean you didn't have to be an anorexic, Bryn Mawr educated woman living in New York to be a literary success. (That was important because I was a fat, small town kid from rural Ohio.)

Women in the Midwest in the 1960's were not encouraged to be honest or funny. Bombeck managed to be both a nice lady and honest as well as funny as hell. Not to mention a fabulous writer.

I wanted to be a humor writer, documenting the life of a single career-woman.

I ended up a married, career-woman, who writes stories. I'm still working on the "funny" part.

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