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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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I’ll Cry If I Want To

Came to NYC to go to BEA parties: Google, Bookforum, Tin House.  Wore my one frock, high heels (and if you know me this is absurd), and a touch of make-up. It was 92 degrees a full moon refused to focus above the Chrysler Building. I had my game face on when something happened, not a panic attack exactly, just a flush of anxiety tinged with desperation and petulance. Did I really want to go? Who would I see? Should show my face. Why? And so it goes, a revolving door of doubt, immaturity, ennui. Am I part of this world? Am I a part of any world? The funny thing is, I always have a really good time at parties. I suspect that when your expectation is dread, nothing can be so terrible.

Instead, at the charmless midtown hotel, my husband and I shared a can of peanuts and a bottle of wine. We had a really good talk, even about some really difficult stuff to talk about. The moon came into focus.

Dearest darling readers of this blog: are you party animals or do you chew off your own limb in some dark corner of your mind. xxo

p.s. this post is late because I was too cheap/principled to pay for wi-fi in the hotel in case you were wondering.

36 Responses

  1. I would rather clean a truck stop toilet with my bare hands than go to a party where I have to make small talk with people I hardly know. After I say, “Fine, thank you. How are you?” I’ve got nothin’. Going out to dinner or to a gathering with a few good friends is fine.

  2. Give me wine, food, and a room full of interesting people (in that order), and I’m in heaven.

  3. Rude belligerent browbeating plays center stage in my mind. Where do you think dialog comes from? I can however set that show aside for some real world conversation. But let’s get this straight—the real world is not art, just the stuff we use to make it.

  4. I don’t like to talk about my other work on this blog, but I discovered years ago at a party that the talk was superficial and the conversation meaningless. I had a car then, drove home, got my Tarot deck and went back to the party. Suddenly I was having deep talks with everyone about their lives. So I’d rather get hired for a party and have talks in the corner (yes, of my mind) than just go to one as a normal (Muggle) person.

    • Everyone tells me their life story. Minus the tarot cards. It doesn’t matter where I am. It’s a standing joke in my family that I don’t go into stores if we’re in a hurry. It even happens in Finland, where the people aren’t known for being talkative and I limp along in the language.

  5. It depends. I abhor cocktail chitchat and the question, “What do you do?” makes me want to run screaming from the room.

    I try to start a conversation by asking where someone grew up. That’s much more interesting than his or her job.

    For the most part, I tend to opt for an evening at home when I can.

    • You should try Harley Davidson rallies and functions. The one thing that’s never asked is, “What do you do?”
      The person standing in front of you wearing torn-knee jeans, tank top, and bandana dorag is as likely a psychologist or accountant as a mechanic or Bandito. It’s just assumed that what you do is ride Harleys.

  6. My ideal party is good friends sitting around listening to music drinking frozen margaritas or sharing a good meal. I try to avoid all other parties, unless I absolutely have to go to make someone else happy (art opening party, birthday party etc).

  7. I love parties and usually have a wonderful time, and then afterwards I am absolutely drained and vaguely depressed. I think this means I am an introvert. But that works out, being a writer.

  8. p.s. I am too cheap/principled to pay for wifi too. It’s like paying for drinking water. Only do it if you’re desperate.

  9. I generally enjoy social gatherings, but have to be in the right state-of-mind for work-related events where I feel the pressure to be “on” all night. Either way, I prefer hosting over attending. People ooh and ahh over your food, you have ample excuses for ducking out of a conversation, and you control the guest list.

    • I’d love to set up shop in your red-hot foyer!

      • Ha–let me know when you’ll be in Ohio and I’ll try to gather a crowd. Although if those tarot cards don’t have something nice to say, then you’d better not say anything at all.

      • no plans to go to Ohio, but maybe you can bring your goodies and I’l bring my cards to Betsy’s party in October. All of us commenters should meet. (Yeah, Betsy, we love you too.) Can’t guarantee “nice” things, I tell it like it is (which sometimes gets me in a lot of trouble!) Are you Libra or Scorpio? My guess: Scorpio, with the red foyer. Betsy’s a Leo. She shines like gold.

      • Good guess on the astrological sign.

        Hope someone arranges that Betsy Lerner Lovefest.

  10. Limb chewer. Fortunately, I don’t get many invitations. Thus I can still type.

  11. At other people’s parties I hide in the kitchen, usually surrounded by other socially awkward types. We talk furtively over the chipbowl and try not to get too drunk.

    I’ve learned I’m at my best hosting parties. It gives me too much to do to bother with being socially awkward, and I can keep a clamp on the guest list.

    Either way, I’m bad at it, but I’ve developed a decent extroverted shell to deal. I suspect it’s going to serve me well when I publish and have to give readings.

  12. I, a musician, play music in the corner.
    If that’s not an option, I seek out someone able to converse in a way that cuts to the heart of the human condition without revealing the creepily personal.
    If that’s not an option either, I go to the kitchen and sample one of everything.

  13. p.s. this post is late because I was too cheap/principled to pay for wi-fi in the hotel in case you were wondering.

    Ha! I love it! A woman after my own heart!

  14. I do fine in social situations but I’d ditch a party any day to have one of those moments of real connection with my spouse.

  15. Invited to a party with people from work. Starts at 7 pm.
    I’m dressed at 6. I drink a glass of wine. I get in the car. I drive slowly because it’s only seven miles away and it’s now 6:15. I get there. It’s only 6:30. I drive around the block. Back to the party house. Only one car in the driveway. I take an Ativan. I drive around the block again. It’s 6:44. Still one car. I think, oh, wrong house and my heart beats happily. Then two cars drive up and yep there’s Sandy from Accounting and Joe from Computers. I drive around the block.
    Back to party house. More cars. I watch everyone getting out of their cars, going to the door, cheers and laughter, cheers and laughter. I drive home. Have another glass of wine, change into my gown, turn on the movie I’ve wanted to watch for a long time – Drag Me to Hell – seriously – then I go to bed. No husband. No peanuts.

  16. partygoing depends on my mood. quality time with the husband is necessary, so peanuts and a bottle of wine sounds good. is that a euphemism for getting laid?

  17. I long for a party. I love New York and Boston and Chicago, but live in the country and I love people, action, newsrooms, yet I’m an author. Somedays, like today, the disparity of my chosen life gets to me. Al Gore invented the worldwide interweb in the nick of time.

    Pay for hotel wifi? When even McDonalds offers it free? Uh, no.

  18. So I’m reading another agent’s blog, which is fucking stupid already because they’re all shitburgers on rye, and one of these wizards of publishing writes about BEA and that book of his, you know the one, that lapidary-pellucid-Knot-of-Truth-gem in which he’s invested all his hopes and dreams down to the seventh generation, and he’s spewing in his eager innocence about how this faint buzzing came to him over breakfast at the Algonquin and grew louder through the day, buzzing buzzing buzzing, a choir of celestial fucking mosquitos praising this shitass book, written by a precocious 17-year-old who was fortunate enough to survive eleven kinds of abuse before his twelve birthday, he’s got material literally coming out his ass, this reincarnation of All the LIterary Suicides who writes like Junot Diat fucked David Foster Wallace’s corpse and Jesus swanned down from that special heaven where they keep the good shit and raised the little dead embryo–so maybe I am drunk, fuck you–for all the good years, fostered by Annie Proulx and Zadie Smith until the basement door slammed shut one last time, leaving the kid with nothing but an nth-degree rash and a spent matchstick he used to scratch his opus on the wall in blood and snot and the buzz is building to a crescendo, he’s better than Hemmingway, he’s better than Nabokov, he’s better than Woolf and maybe–maybe, if you listen close, you can hear between the beating of the mosquitoes wings–maybe even better than Rowling, and there’s a panel discussion at BEA, there’s a poster big enough to make Stalin jealous, there’s a party and an after-party, there’s his editor giving lap dances and his publisher giving reach arounds, the catalog is nothing but this kid’s book on every page because you can’t sell toothpicks when there’s a fucking redwood on the cover, and this agent, this lifeline, this lover of literature, would sell his childhood golden retriever to Michael Vick for a chance to give the gift of this book to the world, but what about *my* shitty little book that he also represents, what about all the other shitty little books by all the other shitty little writers he represents, the empty calories of publishing, the spitbacks in the chocolate box of this shitty metaphor, the message to us is pretty clear so thank you for your blog post that’s so exciting I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

    • August, tell us how you really feel.

      I didn’t go to BEA. Instead, I went to the mountains and got in touch with my inner earth-mama. Ate loads of green chiles in Santa Fe, a hot dog in Telluride, and saw a beaver. Like a real one, in nature. Actually on the side of the road, where he narrowly escaped death by SUV. No parties. Nothing but me and my lesbian daughter and some fly-fishing.

      Next year, skip BEA and go fishing. The fish don’t give a damn if you’re the next Nabokov. Or if some wee tot can oust Hemingway. Also, citizens of mountain villages don’t care who the hell you are, or what you wrote, just so long as you give them money for bad wieners. It’s a win-win.

    • August, you are existentially beyond all of us.

    • Here’s the thing – that overdrive, that neurosis, that anxiety, all that over-the-top stuff is creativity. It isn’t always nice or tasteful. It’s usually self-serving. It’s all ‘me, me, me’. But one has to get worked up and be a bit off balance. Gets the juices flowing. And who gives a toss about the divine, feted, fawned-on, sated new wonder? He’s a one-trick guy, he’ll become a repeat offender. And if he turns out to be a genius, he’s there to make you up your game!

  19. what a beautifully written post–so visual and evocative

  20. Yes but…
    Sometimes we have to go to parties. Sometimes hanging out with people and making possibly useful contacts are just part of the job. So we call on all that stuff we learned as children. Stop for a minute as you enter the room to identify the hostess (or the department head.) Try to remember that other people are feeling shy, too and that people standing alone are often wishing someone to talk to them. Have a question to ask that’s better than What do you do? such as How do you know John? or Have you worked here long? or even Don’t you hate these things?

    Do I sound like an old fart? I know I do, but those are the rules. We call it civilization.

    • I’m an old fart who decided age gave me the right to make my own rules around civilization. And actually, I think we learned a lot more as children that we should try to remember and none of it has anything to do with useful contacts. Just my opinion!

  21. I go to the party. [possibly I pre-game] I down a few and completely transcend my inside voice. I get saucy and bold, and must remind myself not to let any of the kittens I hold hostage out of their respective bags. I try to think about my future self, and what she would want my boozy alter-ego to accomplish that I cannot (or perhaps it is only that I could not do it as well; not with such flair). I am drawn to the people I don’t know well at first, then, magnetically, only to people I know extremely well (whether they are there or not – I begin to wish they were there). I listen with an earnest gaze. My judgment is wondering and indiscernible. I move through the crowd with purpose. I ask questions. I make friends. I swear a lot. I take notes.

  22. I drown the dread in booze and say things I regret

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