• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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There’s a Port On a Western Bay

You’re familiar with the idea, I’m sure, that you can’t really love anyone until you love yourself. God as my witness, I am married eighteen years today and I am extremely capable of loving others while still hating myself. I had a lot of time to think today, five hours to be exact, while retrieving the car from New Jersey. I mostly thought about my idea for a screenplay, never getting past the first eight scenes. I also thought about how much I hate certain people. I wasn’t actually thinking about how much I hate them, but rather replayed scenes and conversations when I felt wronged or betrayed.

Then Freebird came on the radio, and it seemed brilliant as the sun broke through a pyramid of clouds over Bridgeport. Am I really eighteen years married? During a period of severe depression, my mother told my husband that I was a lot of work, but that I was worth it. Am I a lot of work? I’ve always hated the idea that marriage or any relationship is work. Work is trying to understand a royalty statement, or pitching a book for the 29th time, or reading the 6th draft of a book, or renegotiating the Pitney Bowes lease. Am I wrong? Suddenly, I’m starving. Though I know you don’t read my blog, happy anniversary my love.

What does any of this have to do with writing?

28 Responses

  1. First of all, I need all of those dresses. Love. Secondly, I used to hate that “love is work” stuff. Until I had to work. After which I heard a family member who I love in spite of himself (to put it lightly) describe how he was so happy in his marriage because it’s so easy. I guess hearing a known emotionally lazy person make that claim really put it into perspective. I don’t ever want my husband to think I’m in it because I don’t have to do anything.

  2. Happy Anniversary.

    The irony is, I ordered your husband’s memoir and just received it in mail today.

    And what do relationships have to do with writing? Everything.

  3. For me, because I have recently embraced my Texas upbringing and gone back to listening to country music (I refuse to embrace the early dose of Barry Manilow, though), it was “Still the One” as the sun broke through the clouds and I was grousing about all the other things that are “wrong” in my life, the deadlines, the laundry, the hallway full of a year’s worth of mittens and snowgear for four young but active kids (in other words, about nothing) while I, um, drove to a friends’s house to start on a long bike ride.
    Of course, then I hated myself for my massive lack of gratitude and appreciation even while I sang along.

    Maybe people who don’t write don’t do that sort of thing.

  4. Happy anniversary, firstly. For us, it’s been 13 years although I swear it feels much much shorter than that.

    All of that has everything to do with writing, because isn’t writing just a combination of life experiences, stirred in a bowl, with some thought and time as seasonings, and then dished out with words and paragraphs and things like chapters?

    I don’t really know, I haven’t written a complete book yet, but intend to.

    I say, write on! And live on, in the meanwhile. 🙂

  5. Always loved the song Freebird, even when the men in my life were using it as an annoying anthem.

    And I like that your mom speaks to your husband about you, like he belongs to her. My mom (even after my 17 years of marriage) still seems to consider all the men her daughters are married to as temporary visitors – no matter how many decades they’ve been around.

  6. Congratulations on the milestone. I just celebrated my 14th last month. And fwiw, I think a strong marriage has everything to do with writing, the sturdy axis that allows the creative cogs to whir, the loam that nourishes the taproot.

    Like all structures, marriage is imperfect, but it opens up the space to engage, to ponder, to push forward. And children add their own depth and beauty to the mix. Just wonderful.

  7. The other day I was driving to Chicago and had to stop to pay a toll. After I tossed my coins in the thingie the attendant looked me straight in the eye and said with a lotta feeling, “Good job.”

    Same to you, Betsy.

  8. i think of my marriage (or my husband) as the non-crazy side of me, even though i keep talking about writing a marriage memoir titled, “There’s No Such Thing as a Good Marriage, Only a Long One.”

    i wrote a column about this very topic and got called out by a reader for having food issues. (http://amywroteit.wordpress.com/2010/02/06/1478/). not sure how to tie all the parts together–marriage, food issues, and all that you share with your readers–but i think you get the gist of it.

    happy anniversary. i wish you another 18 years of a loving marriage that gives you plenty to write about.

  9. Relationships are work. Hard work. I’ve never met anyone (in a long-term, successful one) who doesn’t agree, wholeheartedly. Everything worth having takes work. And I’m not talking about the beauty in a snowflake or a baby’s smile, or driving in a car to an 80s anthem song–that’s gratitude for life, and makes the day-to-day enjoyable, at least for short, crystalline moments, But there’s no fucking free lunch; life sucks, get a helmet, and a bunch of other aphorisms.

    But you already knew that.

  10. Also, I spend an inordinate amount of time replaying scenes and conversations where I felt wrong or betrayed. Now playing: a long, excruciating dinner at a university faculty club, from TWO YEARS AGO, where I was snubbed–hard–by a former mentor, in front of a whole herd of successful female writers.

  11. Ack, I felt wrongED, obvs.

  12. if you make a distinction between working and trying (since there is no try), this lyric seems true to me: the times that we were happy were the times we never tried.

  13. Oh, no, a Yoda quoter.

    There is try. I do it all day long and even in my dreams.

  14. Sally, I think you know Yoda’s response to your comment!

    Betsy, ps: happy anniversary! Eighteen years is awesome.

  15. Happy Anniversary!

    After 14 years of marriage, it still isn’t work being with my husband. (he may have a different perspective) He makes me laugh until my ribs hurt, every single day.
    Being married and loving him is the easiest part of my life.

  16. living/loving consciously is hard work. the payoff is worth it. so is the sex!

    • Which means that living/loving self-consciously makes for fantastic masturbation.

      I am so there.

      I wonder if there’s a market for a book like ‘He’s Just Not That Into You?’ Called ‘You Are a Lot Of Work.’ I see it as a a brief, breezy read aimed at destroying women’s self-esteem.

  17. I have a teenage marriage too, one that so far has survived my relentless doubt. When you don’t trust people in the general it is a kind of heaven to make a home with an individual you can trust.

  18. Oh wow, I used to HATE when people threw that “don’t love yourself can’t love others” line. People just regurgitate old sayings without even stopping to think about how ridiculous they are.

  19. Happy anniversary! Is marriage work? Maybe sometimes, but it’s often the best story fodder I can find.

  20. Happy anniversary Betsy! Congratulations. I think long term relationship of any kind are work. I’ve put a lot of work into my relationships with my sister and father (my mother is a saint, what can I say?) and I know they’ve put work into their relationships with me and it’s paid off for all of us. PEOPLE are hard work. Some are worth it, some aren’t. The most difficult thing sometimes is making the distinction between the two

  21. When are we getting to the brandy? That was kind of like false advertising.

  22. Happy Anniversary! 18 years: was 1992 really that long ago?

    When people tell me that marriage is work, I ask them to rephrase that to me because I don’t understand: tell me what you think marriage is without using the word “work”.

    I don’t really care what their answer is to that — I have no interest in other peope’s marriage philosophies. I just like to call them on their lazy use of language.

  23. To The Real Betsy Lerner: Congratulations on 18 years! I hope that qualifies for a swanky dinner out and a good shag.

    And to everyone here who is happily married: I am so jealous. I married a man who never stopped dating the entire time we were together and who also constantly drained our finances (well, dating costs money, lol).

    We’re divorced now. Hooray!

    I just wish I had done a better job at vetting husband candidates. Ah well…..coulda, woulda, shoulda.

  24. My husband just found a weird pile of shit in the back yard, I sniffed it to verify it was some weird kind of shit, then worried about if I would get some weird kind of disease…..our 24th anniversary is Sunday. The man’s a saint ’cause I’m basically a whack job. Happy anniversary, Betsy…..the way I see it is, if we’re “a lot” of work and our guys are still around, we must be – at the least – entertaining.

  25. Congratulations. Staying married for eighteen years may not be work, but it is an accomplishment. Relationships aren’t work; I’ve had dozens of them. It’s the willingness to (finally) shut my mouth and not bitch about every little thing that’s work. Once I figured that out, marriage became easy.

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