At some point in her life, a woman will go the "self-improvement" route. The purpose is to get a woman out of the house, give her a goal or a dream to hang onto, and focus a little attention on herself for a change. In short, it gets her out of the proverbial rut. But one of the hazards of self-improvement is that people overdo, and before you know it, they're taking themselves seriously.
Myrtle was a real golf enthusiast. We met her in a six-week golf clinic at the YWCA. To the rest of us, golf was something to do with your hands while you talked. With Myrtle it was different. Whenever we got a foursome together, it was always Myrtle who insisted on keeping the scores in ink. Her clubs were never rusted or dulled by wads of bubble gum. (She was horrified the day I found a pair of child's training pants in my golf bag.)
She always played by the book. This was upsetting. We used to try to jazz up the game a bit. For example, if you forgot to say, "Mother, may I?" before you teed off, you had to add a stroke. If you clipped the duck on the pond and made him quack, you didn't have to play the sixteenth hole at all, and if you had more than fifteen strokes on one hole, you didn't have to putt out. This used to drive Myrtle crazy. She never understood why we allowed each other five "I didn't see you" swings in one game.
Then one day she arrived at the course, bubbling with excitement. "I've found a way to take points off my score," she said. (At last, we thought, she's going to cheat like the rest of us.) "I have just read this article by a British obstetrician who says pregnant women play better golf than women who are not pregnant. He conducted this extensive survey and discovered golf scores were bettered by ten or fifteen strokes."
"But surely," we gasped, "you're not seriously considering . . ."
"If the road to motherhood is paved with birdies, pars, and eagles," she answered, "call me Mom."
The first few months of pregnancy, Myrtle wasn't too sensational on the golf course. She was nauseous. Her normally neat golf bag was a mass of soda cracker crumbs and once when I offered her a piece of cold pizza, she quit playing. Right there on the fifth hole, she quit.
During the early fall, she had a bit of trouble with swollen ankles, so her salt intake and her golf games were kept at a minimum. "Just wait until spring," she said. "I'll be the talk of the club." She was. When Myrtle tried to tee off, it was like trying to land on an aircraft carrier without radar. She couldn't see her feet, let alone her ball. To be blunt, she was too pregnant to putt.
Last week we dropped by Myrtle's house en route to the golf course. (She'll resume play when the baby is older.) We talked about the good doctor's survey. "Who is this man?" asked one of the girls. "A medical doctor," Myrtle insisted, "who has done extensive research on women golfers. Here is the picture and the clipping."
We looked in disbelief. There was no doubt in our minds. He was the same man who played behind us the day we dodged the sprinkling system and made the rule that if you got wet, you had to drive the golf cart in reverse back to the clubhouse.
Boy, men sure are bad sports.
- Erma Bombeck, At Wit's End, Nelson Doubleday, Inc., 1965