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    Bridge Ladies Sometimes I think a meteor could strike the earth and wipe out mankind with the exception of my mother’s Bridge club — Roz, Bea, Bette, Rhoda, and Jackie — five Jewish octogenarians who continue to gather for lunch and Bridge on Mondays as they have for over fifty years. When I set out to learn about the women behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, and most of all the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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Valium Would Have Helped That Bash

That's me in the middle. Back in the day.

I’m thinking about throwing a 10th birthday party for the revised and updated Forest for the Trees when it comes out. Who would I invite? Clients? Editors? Commenters? (Notice I don’t mention friends because I don’t have any. Everyone in my life is connected through writing except Jenny Chan.)

Book parties? What’s worse than being locked up with a bunch of writers? I’ve always had a love hate thing with literary gatherings. When I was single, I went in the hope of getting laid. Now, there is almost no incentive. I never know what to wear — and it shows. An existential dread envelopes me as the date nears and I transfer that anxiety into a marathon hate-fest about the host and hostess as well as most of the guests. I can’t have more than one drink or I say things I regret. And worst of all, I sometimes glom on to one person and monopolize him or her. I’m so ashamed. I can tell when the person wants to make a clean break, but I keep yammering on about how much the business has changed, or the Gladwell phenomenon, or the Kindle. FMD.

Wallflowers? Party animals? Tell all!

39 Responses

  1. re: the party

    you’d better wear a wrap around dress, your wedding ring and talk statistics (linear regression).

    i’d drink too much red wine and laugh too loud and regret it in the morning. that’s how i roll.

  2. Always the misfit who wants to throw verbal matches at the well adjusted cheerleaders, but settles for a perch on the sidelines from which to scowl.

  3. I HATE those kinds of gatherings! After I say, “Fine, thank you,” I don’t know what to say next. I’d rather clean the restaurant/hotel toilet with my bare hands than have to stand there, pretending to care about what the other person is droning on about. Mostly, I pretend the inside of my head is a jukebox and I listen to the top ten.

  4. Literature and Loathing. I’ll be the one in the corner belting down my second Chardonnay, waiting for a break in the clickety-clack so I can GTFO. Don’t you hate it when you’re about to leave a party (you arrived early so you could exit early) and people say, “But you just got here!”

  5. Ohmygod. I do the exact same thing leading up to social events. Freak out and decide that I hate everyone who will be in attendance so why the hell should I go?

    Why is it that my actions suddenly feel much more validated now that I know Betsy Lerner suffers from the same neuroses?

    Why am I ruminating on this instead of writing that article that is due on Monday?

    Gah.

  6. It would be amusing to gather all of Betsy’s commenters in one place.

  7. Would it be wrong to wear a disguise to your own party?

  8. You definitely need to have the party, and invite commenters. Duh.

    Guess I’m the writer anomaly. I’m not quite the party animal I once was (voted Best Party Giver in high school, which apparently wasn’t the sort of accolade most colleges were seeking). I still enjoy the occasional bash, but I don’t bogart the joint anymore.

  9. You’re looking at this from the wrong point of view. As a writer, who better to observe everything that’s going on? Listen to what other people are saying vs stressing over coming up with non-stop, brilliant verbage all night. Use those writer skills to pick up on the other person’s interests – because they will be more than happy to tell you about their work, places they’ve been, what they like to eat, etc. Chances are you’ve seen, done, read something relevant to it. A well placed question is good for a lot of mileage and you walk away looking brilliant with less effort. And sometimes you hit the jackpot and find someone truly interesting in the most unusual of packages and it really doesn’t take so much effort. As for the others…well, it’s a business thing. Just don’t tell them you think they’re an asshole and you’re golden.

    I once had to give a formal toast in front of a room full of people in the middle of St. Petersburg when it was still the wild, wild east. After pounding vodka shots with Boris, et al. The host: Victor Smirnoff of the big, golden front tooth. The only thing running through my head: Wow, vodka gives me a Russian Attitude! Still can’t write this without laughing. You can do this.

    Valium doesn’t hurt.

  10. I noticed that whenever I go to a glitzy party and spot a frumpy, awkward, shy person, I LOVE that person. So then I realized it was okay to BE that person. Which I always am.

    Then I realized that it is AWESOME when people drink too much and say things they shouldn’t. How boring when people are constrained! So yeah, be that person, too.

    Think of yourself as adding valuable texture to a party. In my case, cat fur, frizzy hair, out-of-context remarks. Imagine how happy other awkward-feeling people are to see you shoveling in the chips and dip.

  11. I’m with re. It’s totally awesome when people drink too much and say what they really think.

    That is basically my life plan.

  12. Though I guess it’s easy for me to say that when I’m not cool enough to have been invited to a book party yet.

  13. I do this with *every* event. Family holidays, tailgate parties (with my very good friends!), vacations – does not matter. I hate everyone, I don’t want to go, I have nothing to wear, I am too fat, I am too tired, I would rather stay in with the cats, I am totally going to write a first draft instead, or maybe clean the stove. Everyone else will be drinking/successful/charming/skinny, everyone else will look like they’ve slept, nobody wants me there, everyone hates me. It’s awful. Since I (had to) quit drinking, enduring these kind of events is even worse, because at least when you are drinking there is a plausible excuse for why you have no filter between your brain and your mouth.

  14. I love parties as they equate to archeological digs for me. I also agree that the most outrageous commenters are the ones that keep the night interesting.

  15. I just love walking in to a room full of people I don’t know. It brings out the best in me. And I have a knack for finding the Australian in the room, to whom I can recite my Strine version of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. Yes, you can say that I’m the life of the party.

    I’d be happy to come to a FFTT party and add value.

  16. I mean to ask: I know that’s the Bright LIghts Big City guy in the middle (above): who the hell are those other two?

    • Gary Fisketjon-KNopf
      Morgan Entrekin-Grove Atlantic
      I love these guys, btw.They’ve published some greats.

  17. I hope that perky Springchicken hasn’t discouraged the beautifully bitter August from commenting. August would know what to say, wear, and ingest at a party. I never go to parties, or weddings, or funerals. I just stay in my apartment and drink my own urine. Oh wait, that was J.D. Salinger. I just stay in my apartment.

    • Killer comment. I’m still cracking up.

    • I think you’re giving me way too much credit SJB. I don’t think all the perk in the world could scare away August.

      Some springchickens just enjoy the occasional cock fight and who could be a better sparing partner than August?

  18. wallflower…and I talk on about boring things, too, and drink too much, and so on and so forth. The absolute worst parties are the ones my friends insist on throwing where everyone goes to a restaurant for dinner and you’re more or less stuck for the whole evening smiling fake smiles, trying to think about what to talk about with the person next to you, spending twice as much as you actually owe…etc etc.

  19. I’ll go. It beats picking up the kids lousy LEGOS off the toy room floor a-n-d I’ll even venture to guess that there’s FOOD other then Bunny pasta. So yeah. No problem. I’ll be the one behind the Darth Vader mask if you want to come over and hang.

  20. One drink causes your rosacea to flare up? I’m sorry, Betsy.

  21. For me a fun book party is one where I’m not working, there is plenty of booze and at least one friend I can make snide comments about the other guests to. And of course I wear a wrap dress and heels. I don’t get to go to any book parties anymore because I live in Seattle and even though I always bitched about them when I lived in NY, I miss them!

  22. This isn’t what Betsy asked, but the kind of book event I always enjoy is the kind that includes some kind of reading or presentation. Everybody, wallflower or social animal, new in town or old pro, stay all night or leave early, can take away at least that one thing from the party: some experience of the book itself and of its creator. Really, that’s what I most want from an author–some contact with the work.

    Does this go without saying? Or is Betsy really considering a party without a reading?

    If some variation on the reading idea is needed: you can ask someone else to do the reading for you (sounds strange, don’t think I’ve ever seen it, but seems worth trying if you get someone with a good voice), or you can arrange a “talking with” event, a sort of interview situation (haven’t been to one of these either, but they’re becoming more common).

    • I’ve been to readings (yawn) and interview situations (bigger yawn).

      Three words: Commenter Talent Show.

      I’m told I have a pretty good fake Australian accent…

  23. i always say things i regret in a crowd…thought it was booze so my therapist suggested i take a klonopin (valium-lite) instead of drinking but i still drink and run my mouth but it’s all slurry so there’s that…but then i find myself in social gatherings where i’m not drinking, parent’s night at the lower school for instance, going on about my period or how penetration’s overrated or some equally inappropriate topic to the banker standing next to me, so i’ve decided it’s some form of tourettes where i blurt paragraphs instead of words…

    • You might want to start using a pseudonym.

    • I wish you were at my kid’s parents’ night. I think I might have some form of tourettes, too, now that you mention it. Penetration, however, not overrated. Did I just blurt that out?

    • I live in a liberal state. You’d have to do better than that to shock us.

      • I meant a pseudonym in regards to her drinking while also taking klonopin. Her psychiatrist might be reading this blog.

  24. It took me 40 years to realize I hate parties. Despite that, I’m still compelled to attend one every now and then. Nothing to wear, nothing to talk about, can’t snarf all the food I want, gave up booze, can’t sneak a cig, and I always, ALWAYS grow a ginormous zit in some really conspicuous spot on my face.

    That said, if I lived in NY, if you had a book party, if you invited me, despite not knowing me at all and I might be a dead bore, or sell Amway, I would show up, just because I’m nice.

    Awkward, poorly dressed, with adult onset acne – but nice.
    I’m southern – I can’t help it.

  25. Bring a book in your purse and take an extended reading break in the bathroom mid-party. Always charges me back up again.

  26. If it’s your party then everyone will be fawning over you all night, Betsy, and you won’t have a chance to feel awkward, or monopolize one poor schlub, who can’t escape you. It’ll be you, you, you, every second. I know, I can’t stand that shit either.

    On second thought, have the party because it’ll be good for the book and then do what Mandy said: hide in the bathroom reading.

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