About eight years ago, I was rushing down a carpeted corridor in the Dayton Marriott hotel on my way to the ball room. A nervous first-time attendee of the wildly popular Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop, which happens every other year in Erma’s old Ohio hometown, I hurried toward the ballroom on my way to hear the keynote speaker of the night — humorist, columnist and author of sixteen books, including They Used to Call Me Snow White But I Drifted, Gina Barreca. While shuffling along, I was suddenly startled by the sound of uproarious laughter emanating from none other than the ladies restroom.
Thirty minutes later, I was nibbling my cheesecake when Gina Barreca took the stage for her keynote speech. Instead of remaining behind the podium to deliver her address, Gina grabbed the mic and paced the stage like a standup comedian. I soon learned, that’s exactly what she was. Gina was, quite simply, hilarious.
In what I later came to learn was her characteristic casual style, she talked to the audience of over 400 as if she was chatting with girlfriends. She mussed her hair, paced, strutted, laughed and seemed as if she was winging it, even though we knew her speech had been thoughtfully prepared. She was so good at natural delivery, she even ad libbed tell us about what had happened just before dinner, in the ladies room.
The laughter I had heard coming from that bathroom was because Gina had been in there joking around with a bunch of women while they were doing their business and readjusting their Spanx.
I heard Gina speak again at other events as the years went on. Then in June of 2013, I found myself standing right beside her in a hotel hospitality suite at the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.
“Here, honey, let me pour you a drink,” she said, tipping a wine bottle into my glass. She acted like we were old friends, which was so comforting to me as a relative newcomer to the writing world.
I was winning an award for my blog that year, but I was still so new to column writing. Despite her easygoing presence with me, her credentials were intimidating: Gina was a PhD academic scholar and UConn professor, author of sixteen books, syndicated Hartford Courant columnist, blogger for Psychology Today, and Dave Barry famously said of her, “Very, very funny. For a woman.”
Five years after drinking the glass of wine Gina poured for me, I was sitting at the head table with Gina at another NSNC conference. I had been writing for seven years at that time, and had been elected President of NSNC. That night, I was introducing the winner of our Lifetime Achievement Award, the infamously stoic Maureen Dowd, and I was nervous once again.
But as always, Gina and her natural easy-going humor put me right at ease. During Gina’s hilarious lunch keynote speech earlier that day, a mouse had crossed the stage as if there weren’t 150 people gathered there. Rather than interrupt, of course the mouse became a part of Gina’s expert humor delivery, just like the Dayton ladies room incident had. That takes talent, of which Gina had an abundance.
So when she agreed to review my new book, The Meat and Potatoes of Life: My True Lit Com, I was not only flattered, I was excited to find out what a truly funny comic and renown humorist would have to say. Here’s what Gina said:
“When women tell the truth about their lives, remarkable things happen: we laugh in celebration, we nod in recognition, we pause in reflection and we understand that we’re more alike than we’d ever imagined. Molinari has written a hilariously honest, beautifully engaging and vividly written memoir of her life as a military spouse, the mother of fabulously eccentric and demanding children, and as a woman who has lived multiple lives within her everyday existence. In “The Meat and Potatoes of Life,” the reader will discover insight and revelation, along with the award-winning columnist’s signature wit, on every page. A must-read.”
Wow. This. Coming from the woman who made everybody in that ladies restroom crack up eight years ago in Dayton, Ohio. She’s the real deal, and I couldn’t be more proud that she liked my book. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Gina!