Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Winners, Losers, Erma, and Playing Chicken

Well, the news came out today, and I did not win or place in the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition. I did show, though, as is, "I showed up, did the work, turned it in, and feel good about it." 

If you have a moment, check out the winner's entry. Tracy Beckerman is funny, and she is also inspiring, as she makes her living writing and performing humorous stuff about real life in a family. Tracy, I'm going to keep at this, and hopefully someday, we can meet at a writer's workshop and share some true-life tales over cocktails.

In addition to being funny and inspiring (as mentioned), Tracy is also very lucky, not because she won the competition—her talent made that well-deserved—but because she writes that she started growing chin hairs at the same time as her teenage son. That late? Really? She is definitely not Italian, I say as I pluck-pluck-pluck between keystrokes.

Whenever I do creative work, I hope it is well-received, and with so many entries to the competition (853), it is impossible to know how my work stacked up. Did the readers laugh? Did I make it to a second round? Was there something significant that stopped folks from enjoying it as intended? That is the hardest part about the kind, but short, rejection: no feedback. Next year, I'm going to have to sign up lickety-split for the Erma Bombeck writing workshop (which sold out within hours), and soak in some insights.

Until then, I'll take comfort in knowing that I did what I could, and I am pleased with the work. I'll share it here, too, and hope that you enjoy it.

For those curious about the writing parameters, the stipulations for the entry were a) it was to be humorous, b) it had to be 450 words or less, and c) it could never have been published before, even on a personal blog.

Chicken Is Served

My husband spent the better part of two weeks away for business this past month. During that time, I realized: the natural give-and-take of a modern, married couple, tasked with keeping a house while raising a family, had become for us an elaborate game of household-chore chicken.

Not familiar with this game? You might be the type who thrives on straightening up. I've never had that blessed affliction, nor has my husband.

I am a self-confessed, horrible housekeeper. At forty years old, you'd think I'd have figured out a system by now. I'm better than I was at twenty, but not by much. I'm like a housekeeping toddler—just because I can stack blocks doesn't mean you should hand me the china.

Added to my ineptitude is my utter shock that taking care of a house is my job. I was born in 1973, and raised with the understanding that everything Marlo Thomas and her friends promised in, "Free to Be, You and Me" was a given. My interpretation of gender equality was that my job was to pursue whatever fascinating work I chose, and to never assume that there were limits on my potential based upon stereotypical assignments of "women's work."

I'm not exactly sure who I thought was going to vacuum in my grand liberation. My mom, a graduate-educated speech therapist with a great career herself, certainly did the brunt of cleaning in my childhood home in Wisconsin. I guess I assumed that poor mom was pre-Marlo, and despite being married to my feminist father, still needed to live out part of some patriarchal social contract she'd inherited.

I managed to scrape into adulthood with little sense of how to keep things neat and tidy, or in any way imbued with the "feminine touch" advertised in 1950s ladies' magazines. To quote my husband, "You were socialized to run the free world, not the house."

I'm lucky, as he believes in an equitable split of housework, too. Because neither of us has the organizing bug, however, we've never figured out the hows or the whens of our split, so frequently, dishes sit, clutter piles up, and laundry remains in various stages of completion in baskets scattered on the floor.

We never speak of these unfinished bits: we just circle them, wondering who will run out of socks first, and make a move. Chicken: when you flinch, you lose.

I missed him while he was out of town, but I noticed that the house got much neater in his absence. Because I couldn't play household-chore chicken, I spent my evening free time another way: actually picking up.

So, while togetherness is wonderful, in our house, "Cleanliness is next to loneliness."


  1. LOVE. I am cracking up about this. It is all exactly true to my entire life experience. And sadly, I'm ten years older than you and have made no significant headway in the matter. Oh well, even if our homes are disorganized and chaotic, at least we're free to be.

  2. Love it, Kori!!! and you described our method perfectly ;)

  3. So true...and I way prefer cleaning when no one else is home.