• Bridge Ladies

    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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Hello, It’s Me

No more hiding behind email. When I have to have a talk, I’m picking up the god-damn phone. In the first place, you find out what the person is thinking, feeling, you can gauge their reaction. Plus you grow balls when you don’t sit there like big pussy typing out some apology or avoiding a confrontation.

I remember when I lived alone, about as lonely as you could be, and the phone would ring and I couldn’t answer. It was like breaking a seal. I became extremely phone phobic. Before the days of answering machines, I could stare down any motherfucking ringing phone. Then, ironically, I entered the work world as the receptionist at Morgan Stanley’s corporate library. Fourteen or so lines for every department. At first, I was freaked out. Then I got the hang of it. Later, there were days when I thought I was dancing on my console. (Of course a joint at lunch followed by three chipwiches might have been partly responsible.)

Fast forward to email and life behind the screen. This really gives writers an edge because they know how to manipulate through language. I could kiss myself for all the bullshit notes I’ve concocted. True beauties. And so, dear love, I must relinquish you as a tool for evil. I must pick up the phone and find my human chord. One of my clients has the best Boston accent which she lays on thick for me, another yawns when she lies, I can tell when another is high (again), and when one is depressed (again). Jim Carroll wheezed through his high Bronx accent and man do I miss the sound of his high, tinny voice.

30 Responses

  1. I’d much rather talk on the phone than email. Email leaves a big fat trail but I can always deny that I said something. “Oh no, that must have been so-and-so.” As for accents, I am just beginning to see mine as a blessing as it is so West Texas oil-dripping thick that my words ooze. I’ve heard from good sources, though, that it is unique enough to garner a couple drinks in bars up north.

  2. I don’t answer the phone because I’m afraid someone might have died and I won’t have time to think of an excuse to avoid the funeral.

  3. Mmmmm chipwiches! My personal munchie of choice.

    And it was indeed a sad day for the world when Jim died.

  4. Like so many other areas of my life, I’m schizophrenic about the phone. Mostly, I hate talking on the phone and avoid it at all costs. Except when I don’t, and then I’ll stay on the phone for ages, talking about anything and everything. (Admittedly, there aren’t very many people I’ll do that with. And I always, always err on the side of confrontation rather than avoidance, making me extra fun at parties.

  5. The issue of how to relate has to do with who I’m communicating with and what it’s about. If the person is someone I’m close to, I wanta talk to them. If it’s someone I’m still in “formal” mode with, or the interchange is tricky and sticky, I appreciate the chance to edit my thoughts and weigh what they look like in print. Email is a lifesaver for that.

  6. Awww, the end of that totally made me cry. You can’t know how much the man meant to me, even though I was left behind when the my acquaintances took him somewhere to shoot up. I don’t know what I wanted from him. Maybe I wanted him to be less fucked up so that I could feel like he really did help me get through my life. I didn’t even know him, and I miss him like crazy.

  7. It’s amazing how screwed up communication can get when it’s all email. Whereas if we just pick up the phone everything’s resolved, we handle the issues, we can hear the other person’s voice, etc.

    Nothing’s spontaneous in email. I edit my damned emails so much you’d think they were my magnum opus.

  8. I got a Chatty Kathy for my birthday when I was a kid. When you pulled her string she talked:
    I love you. Do you love me?
    May I have a cookie?
    Please take me with you.
    Lets play school
    Within a week I had stripped the tape by dragging that thing around the house by its cord. I hated that demanding noisy thing. And that is how I feel about phones.

  9. Wow. Are we on the same wave length. I wrote a similar post today. And yes, e-mail give us that safe distance to avoid real human interaction.

  10. I much prefer doing everything in person, where possible. If you really want to gauge how people are feeling, that’s the best way! Next comes the phone, then email. I like email when I just have to shoot off a quick note or a quick thought to someone, but it’s not ideal for communicating. Betsy, you’re absolutely right that writers have an advantage, because I can’t help but try to manipulate through my words when I write…

  11. Two words: Caller ID.

  12. It is disturbing to see “balls” (male genitalia) used here to symbolize greatness as opposed to “pussy” (female genitalia) which is used to symbolize the despicable. The persistence of such subconscious (and even conscious) associations make the world a sad, scary place for many girls and women.

    • What is really sad is girls and women who let themselves be defined by other people’s offhanded comments.

    • You know what I’d tell girls who are scared and saddened by the cultural/genital connotations of slang?

      Man up.

    • On a blog about writing and the power of words, it is surprising to see both Annon and Vivian dismiss the effect of Betsy’s words, excusing them as mere offhand comments or slang—as if such things do not have power. And, more startlingly, as if people have total control over how they react to their usage. I don’t believe they do. We’ve all read about Betsy’s continuing self-loathing as regards her body and weight. I don’t think this is something she can just turn off and on, nor that it is something she alone created in her own mind. Words and their associations arise out of a culture and express dominant ways of thinking. “Fat” has long been associated with many negatives, the same as female body parts. This association becomes especially powerful when used in a dichotomy (male=good, desirable; female=bad, worthless). We have the power through our writing to challenge these associations, or at least not to perpetuate them. I’ve read all Betsy’s books and it pains me to see such an intelligent, gifted, talented, hard-working, and caring woman suffer from such self-loathing. American culture has created a horrible world for fat people (or people who simply think they’re fat). In the same way, the “female as despicable (cowardly, weak, etc)” associations have created a sad, scary world for girls and women because they tell boys and men that it is okay to belittle, abuse, rape, and even murder females since they don’t measure up and can be denied even basic human rights. Granted, this may be too heavy for this blog.

      • Dear JAF: I very much appreciate this considered response. I don’t know just what to say right now, but I didn’t want your comment to unremarked upon. And thank you for reading my books and saying such nice things. Betsy

    • crikey!

  13. I prefer the phone for difficult conversations because it gets them over with whereas with email you send and it’s like waiting for a bomb to go off. Then if you don’t hear back from the recipient right away you imagine them getting angrier and angrier on the other end.

    • And then you’re waiting and waiting to get that e-mail reply, losing sleep, feeling sick — and then you finally end up calling them only to find out that they didn’t even give a crap about whatever it was you were sweating anyway.

      • So true on most occasions. And yet I’ve dealt with just enough hard-core passive aggressive types to imagine every unreturned email as a sign that the recipient is taking their time to think up a truly heinous revenge plot and forwarding my email to everyone in town to illustrate what an asshole I am. Paranoid? Me????

  14. Okay, scary because I can bull**** so much better on the phone with my voice. I guess I should of gone into acting. I can do with my voice what you can do with your pen!

  15. “This really gives writers an edge because they know how to manipulate through language.”

    This is something I’ve had to remember even more in my personal life than in my professional life. Many of us know how to wound in print in a way we wouldn’t be capable of verbally.

  16. I need to do this. I so understand what you mean about crafting those avoidance e-mails …

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