Who I Want To Be


I’m trying to find the right combination of words to describe my weekend workshop and am coming up short

I spent quality time with some amazing writers. I spent quality time with my friends. With my tribe.

The Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop is filled with hundreds of humans going out of their way to be supportive, welcoming, and friendly. The sessions were engaging and informative. I also embarrassed myself in front of Cathy Kinney. She played Mimi on the Drew Carey Show. 

I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have at least one embarrassing moment.

I’ll tell you about that in a minute.

Friday night, we listened to Rita Davenport speak.

Mostly, I get bored when people talk for more than 10 or 15 minutes, but damn, Rita Davenport was hilarious. Also, she told a story which ended in her revealing that she is Jolene. As in Dolly Parton’s Jolene.

I frantically texted Randy: Dude, Jolene is speaking right now. Jolene Jolene Jolene Jolene. That Jolene. Not even kidding. Also, Maureen McGovern just sang a song. You know, she sang There’s Got To Be A Morning After.

Randy: Cool about Jolene.

Randy: There’s Got To Be A Morning After is a terrible song.

Me: Still…

After Rita spoke, I sat with other contributors to Laugh Out Loud: 40 Women Humorists Celebrate Then and Now Before We Forget.

I signed books, you guys. Like a real writer.

I’m not going to lie, it was surreal as fuck. And a kick. Michelle Poston Combs Book Signing Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop

Also, a few people brought me drinks and, by the time the signing was over, I was slightly toasted. Perhaps “medium” toasted. No more than medium because I didn’t feel too hungover Saturday.

I’m not sure how this happened, but I found myself with a few of my friends heading to the 6th floor for a private party.

That’s where I saw Cathy Kinney and Cindy Ratzlaff. I’m not sure of all the things I said to them, but I’m reasonably sure I sort of drunkenly described the book I’m working on to Cindy Ratzlaff. She was an editor with Simon and Schuster for years. She was very kind.

I had one of those moments when I woke up Saturday when you remember stupid shit you said the night before and more than anything wish you had a time machine so you could go back just a few hours and staple your own lips shut.

When I saw them on Saturday, they both hugged me and told me how much they enjoyed speaking with me. Again, they were very kind.

Nearly all 72 hours were perfect.


Like I said, the atmosphere felt like cotton candy and love. My anxiety wasn’t too high and while I was exhausted at the end of the day, I enjoyed being around all the people.

There was one moment, however, that harshed my Erma buzz.

I attended a session and the presenter had us do some timed writing exercises. She broke us into two groups and asked us to describe an image in five words. Half the room had to describe the image in a positive way and the other half negative.

The image the presenter chose was of a heavily tattooed young woman in a pin up outfit. The whites of her eyes were tattooed and she had writing across her forehead. All in all, pretty extreme body art.

We were asked to read our responses out loud. The woman sitting behind me read a few of her “negative” list.




She spit these words out with contempt. I could feel her words. I could feel her words sticking into the back of my neck. I heard this woman describe another woman with loathing and disgust. It hurt. It hurt to listen to the anger in her voice.

I had been surrounded by love and acceptance from hundreds of people for hours at this point. I felt safe and warm in my cocoon. I didn’t realize how vulnerable I was until hearing this woman talk ugly about the tattooed girl.

I made a note in my Erma notebook:

Never become a person who would describe another human as grotesque or disgusting or repulsive based on their looks.

If the person’s actions make them grotesque or disgusting or repulsive, then have at it.

This was one of my only notes. Which was better than 2 years ago, when I made one note the entire weekend. “Chump lady”. I have no idea what it means. 

I know who I want to be. I know who I am.

I am a person who treats you with respect and acceptance. Until you say or do something horrible. My patience for judgmental or cruel people has worn away.

I guess I’m not sorry it happened. Listening to that woman speak so cruelly reminded me to consider who I am and who I want to continue to be. I guess it was a jabby, ugly little gift.

And only a short time after that session, I reconnected with my friends, and they were the balm I needed. Holy shit, you guys, I laughed so much with my friends. My face just stopped aching about 10 minutes ago. 

I have to wait two years before I can go again.

I hate waiting.

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  • I’m s glad you stuffed all those feelings down and came two years ago.

    That’s my book you’re signing in the picture. I LOVE it. And I’m still waiting for pictures though…

    Add a link to the book to this post so everyone else can get it.


  • I love the accept and trust first principle. It works for more than humans. It works for situations, too. Accept this will be okay until it proves you wrong.

  • What about when you almost went up and told the woman who introduced Karen Walrond how amazing you thought her presentation was? Come to think of it, I guess that wasn’t an embarrassing moment because you didn’t do it, but it had some serious potential… 😀

    • It was bizarre because my usual defenses were lowered and it was like I could physically feel her words. I’m using it as a reminder of who I want to continue to be, because I have an ugly side and I don’t like it.

  • It takes a lot of work to know who you are and what you want, but when you’re willing to make that effort there should be some reward. That’s what makes all of this–well, most of it; I’m not thrilled about the judgmental woman, but I like how you handled that one moment of your buzz being harshed–so fantastic. You’ve put in the work and you’ve gotten some reward.
    And meeting Jolene was kind of a special bonus.

  • Well, I will admit to being less tolerant toward Republicans these days, but garden variety weirdos? And picturesque ones at that? Those are my tribe, inasmuch as I have a tribe, so I would naturally want to stick up for the girl with the tattoos also.
    No accounting for taste and all, but manners? They sort of make the world go around, and that girl is a human being.
    Very glad you had a good time, and I’m right there with Randy about the morning after song, it really sucked, and the radio wouldn’t stop playing it…

  • Tooooooo cool 🙂

    And I hope that the ‘negative woman’ was just throwing her heart and soul into the assignment, didn’t want the negative side, but since she was there to learn…

    Yeah. Right.

    The Universe wanted to make sure you remembered that your you was the better woman. That your stance, points to ponder and summations were who you want to be and that woman was your confirmation.
    The Universe is funny like that.

    And, you didn’t have to staple your lips together for your Morning After!! Yay for friends who save you!!

  • Sorry, I’m stuck on your “chump lady” note. Probably because I’ve got dozens of equally cryptic notes floating around.

    Is it possible you were drunk or in a hurry or writing surreptitiously and you actually saw chimp woman? I’m not sure quite what that would be, but the possibilities are stacking up… maybe she had a chimp, or walked like one, or maybe she was really hairy and wearing a diaper? Or maybe she had bright orange hair all over her body and you temporarily confused orangutangs and chimps? (bit of a reach, that one… give me a minute, I can do better.)

By Michelle


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