Erma Bombeck’s Advice on Loss of Identity

I’m reading Forever, Erma, a collection of Erma Bombeck’s columns from throughout her career. One in particular caught my eye.

“Lost Identity” originally published September 18, 1965 in response to women asking Erma her opinion on how to find their lost identity. In the column she light-heartedly explains her own view of personal identity and how easy it is to feel question it when you are commonly referred to as so-and-so’s wife or mother.

Erma discusses the difficulty housewives (remember, this was 1965) have in taking time for themselves to be their own person.

Her approach to resolving this for herself one day was this:

What I represent to other people isn’t half as important as what I represent to myself. One day as I stood studying my reflection in the skillet lid, I plopped it down, went back to the bedroom, put my hair up in curlers and changed my dress. I put a dab of perfume behind each ear and returned to the kitchen. When asked where I was going, I snapped, “I’m going out to the garbage can all by myself!” No one understood. But I felt better.

I’ve definitely had days where I dressed up a bit to alter my own mood. It does wonders for the ego, I think. When you feel good about how you look, you walk taller, feel more confident, and generally can relax and be yourself.

Erma later says that she likes to think identity “isn’t lost at all–just buried temporarily under a stack of ironing, a book that needs covering or a basket of mending.”

All I could think after reading her column was “oh my goodness, I never covered stepson’s math book!” Maybe I should read it again.

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