In April of this year, I–along with 349 other writers–attended the biennial affair known as the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop. If you find yourself asking who Erma was, you should bounce your butt onto Google to find out. (You can also Bing it…I really love to Bing sh*t.)
While there have been tens (or hundreds) of thousands of words in tribute to the conference and its all out, balls out, awe-filled-fan-fecking-tastic-ness (the sessions, the presenters, the wine glasses, the CAKE, and “You Can Write!”), I encountered something else quite wonderful in the midst of it all. Of the approximately 345 women–because somewhere, someone asserted that there were 5 men in attendance–I did not encounter a single “Mean Girl” moment.
What I did observe and discover, was the reality that this many women are capable of having different perspectives and opinions, yet in the context of these workshops they did not divide us. Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, or non-religious… Conservative, Liberal, or in-between…these things were secondary to the primary purpose of this gathering: to support and encourage ourselves and others in the writing world; and to have as much dessert (or wine) as possible, and not fear additional charges being incurred on the “weight-sensitive” flights home.
The wine is where the Barrys come in…
On Saturday night, after an exhaustive day of sessions and taking in so much information that I’m pretty sure my brain leaked out of my left ear…I was seated with the darling and devilish dames of Table 27. (You Bombeck Babes know who you are) At some point between my second (or third) glass of wine, we were sharing stories of “Mean Girls” in our lives…and some even confessed to a time when we may have been mean…through the bonding, and Chardonnay, it dawned on me that I owed someone in my past an apology.
In the sixth grade, I had a boyfriend named Barry Mandell. Barry was a sweet and somewhat Potsie-esque boy who, at recess, asked me to “go with” him. That’s what we did in 1977, we would “go with” someone. Too young to drive or really “date,” “going with” was the closest thing to commitment we had. So for a while, (a few weeks, or months) Barry was mine, and I was his.
Also in our class was a girl named Missy Henry. Missy was everything I wasn’t (so I thought). She had long, pretty hair, and enough command presence in our class for people to pay attention to her. She also had a colossal crush on one of THE most romantic crooners of that day, Barry Manilow; this was no secret. Missy was blatantly in love, and would one day be Mrs. Barry Manilow. (um…okay)
Despite having higher than average I.Q., my capacity to be an idiot should never be underestimated: one day, the class gossip–because every class has one–came to me feigning worry for me, and my beloved Barry. “Missy is in love with him…I heard her say she it. She’s even doodled his name with hers in her notebook.” It was accepted truth that Missy got what Missy wanted (at least that’s what I thought), and so, I could see the writing on the wall. She would get Barry, and I didn’t stand a chance, I just didn’t. So, I did the only thing that I could, which was to publicly break up with him before he could break up with me.
Storming onto the four-square court at lunch, I shouted at Barry in front of the entire 6th grade, “If you and Missy want to be together, go ahead, be together! That’s FINE WITH ME!” (It clearly wasn’t)
Wherein I punctuated my humiliation with a swift kick to Barry… in the place that one ought NEVER kick a boy…then I stormed away. While I cried quietly by the classroom door, a confused and contused Barry struggled to breathe…and also understand what had just happened.
What neither of us knew was that it was all a huge mistake:
- Missy loved Barry MANILOW.
- I was “going with” Barry MANDELL.
- The difference between the two was lost when the the class gossip thought she had something juicy to tell. (I’m betting she now works for National Enquirer)
Sadly, I didn’t figure it out until the next year, and by then I had moved away, so I never did get to make amends with my Barry.
Shoot forward 30+ years into the future; to me and the rest of the gals at Table 27. The wine I consumed prevents me from accurately quoting them, but the gist of it all is; I owe Barry a long overdue apology.
Thanks to modern technology, and social media…along with the wine and wisdom at Table 27, my table mates found Barry online. When presented with the picture, I confirmed it was him; much to the delight and uproarious laughter from rest of the table.
So, I sent a friend request to him (twice), but it was not accepted. I’m not sure if it’s because he doesn’t remember me, or worse, because he does. I sent a message telling him who I was, and that I wanted to apologize. Either way, I have reached out earnestly to make amends, and that’s the best I can do.
I will hold Barry and the Bombeck Babes from Table 27 with equal measures of fondness and gratitude. With love, kindness, and a little wine…we can make everything all right.
I can’t wait for 2016…