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Literature / If Life is a Bowl of Cherries — What Am I Doing in the Pits?

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If Life is a Bowl of Cherries — What Am I Doing in the Pits? is a 1971 book by American humorist Erma Bombeck. The book has undergone a number of reprints since its initial publishing.

Erma tackles domestic life, from awkwardness at the wedding to the experience of motherhood to family law and order (or lack thereof) to matters outside the house door like game shows and failed fashions. Readers will find everything from hilarious hijinks from the travails of everyday life to more grounded reflection on serious matters.

This book includes examples of the following tropes:

  • …And That Little Girl Was Me: In the more serious last section of the book, Erma lists a number of famous people (like Margaret Mitchell, Shirley Temple Black, and Grandma Moses) who didn't get started on their new careers until later in life. Then she mentions another woman who decided she would do more with her life than scrubbing faucets because she felt she needed further fulfillment. Finally, she reveals she meant herself.
  • Caretaker Reversal: Erma contemplates the reality that parent and child switch roles as they get older in the more serious last portion of the book, from things like the child advising the parent about clothing and social niceties to seeing that she gets to doctor's appointments and throwing her arm in front of her mother after hitting the brakes hard.
  • Coincidence Magnet: Used to having incredibly bad luck, Erma is unnerved when everything goes right for a whole week: all her children are well behaved, the car has no mechanical problems, no financial disasters strike, she gets a shopping cart with all four wheels that go in the same direction, etc. By the end of the chapter she nearly has a nervous breakdown, but breathes a sigh of relief when her teenager rams the car into the side of the house.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Played for laughs in "Register Camera Nuts." Erma expresses concern about becoming a statistic, asks her husband if the camera he's messing with is "loaded", and complains that with the law the way it stands, any child can buy one and deal a nasty shock to an innocent bystander.
  • Faint in Shock: Erma claims to have passed out just before her daughter got her ears pierced.
  • Indestructible Edible: During a sketch about a European vacation, Erma says her husband, in a fit of pique, carved his initials into a hard roll and had it returned to the kitchen. On the flight home, they got a roll with his initials.
  • Pillow Pregnancy: An unintentional example appears in "Fashions and Fads that Underwhelmed Me". Erma wearing a pillow stomach (for girls who want a healthy appearance) caused two men to give up their seats and lift her into them and another to call the police to report a woman in labor. Consequently, the "stomach" was retired to the couch.
  • Rapid-Fire Name Guessing: "Haven't I Always Loved Whatshisname Best?" centers on the embarrassment of forgetting your children's names, which also plagued her mother even when she had only Erma. Ironically, her mother named her Erma because it was short and easy to remember — and still couldn't remember it. This is even more embarrassing/hilarious when you remember that Erma Bombeck was named after her mother.
  • Seduction-Proof Marriage: Erma remarks early in the book that some women are "born married" and act accordingly regardless. Such a woman gives herself away with multiple signs, such as responding by Comically Missing the Point to flirtation at parties, answering bluntly about a pantyhose problem when a handsome stranger asks for a dance, eating onion-laden food when asked out by a Robert Redford lookalike, and bringing her husband when a single man asks her to spend some time and bring a friend. She also considers "Semper Fidelis" her and her husband's "song."
  • Toilet Humor: In one sketch, Erma writes about penning an excuse note to a son's teacher. She goes through two drafts, saying he complained of "stomach cramps" and "urgencies", which her son protests, because that means the teacher will seat him by the door and watch him like a hawk. Eventually, she uses the word "D-I-A-R-R-H-E-A", which he doesn't know. When he asks for a definition, she answers it means he gets the seat by the door again.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: Erma waxes poetic about the sport of tennis, including the fashion. She complains about the lack of pockets in women's clothing in which to store stray balls. Her solution was to stick a tennis ball down her cleavage and go around looking like she had three breasts.
  • Vorpal Pillow: Kept awake by her husband's snoring, Erma says she'll do what a neighbor did to her husband to deal with it: put a pillow over his face. When her husband points out the problem for breathing, Erma says the neighbor lady hadn't dealt with all the flaws in the idea but it might prove useful.