• 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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I Ain’t Gonna Do You Wrong

Dear Betsy,

I recently parted company with an unresponsive agent.  Her total lack of communication leaves me in an unfortunate position.  Several times I’ve requested a list of editors to whom my ms was sent, but have received no response.  I have no idea if the ms ever saw the light of day.  I am about to start querying agents again.  Should I mention my situation in the query letter?  Or, should I wait until an agent expresses interest in the ms and then say something?

Signed, Between a rock and a hard place

Dear Hard Place: Unless there is something you are not telling us, for instance that you called her every day ten times a day, including being the first 9 a.m. call of the day, showed up at the office unannounced, sent a barrage of emails with passive aggressive sweet nothings, didn’t listen to any editorial feedback, started referring clients such as your squash partner’s daughter’s mother-in-law, unless you are guilty of these client crimes, what happened just sucks. Was your agent registered with the AAR?  Are you registered with the Author’s Guild?  THe first organization holds member agents to a code of ethics (and if you’re just starting the process you should check that your agency is a member), the latter provides advocacy on authors’ parts. You might want to see if you can investigate your agent further.

That said, my guess is that the agent did not submit the book at all. I think you should approach new agents and not burden the query with the backstory. Once an agent expresses interest and you start to talk about your publishing history, you can explain what happened. But if the agent has faith in the project, hopefully he or she will go boldly down editorial row and submit the book with confidence. Go for it, dude. Hopefully your previous agent will get hit by a truck.

Love, Betsy

What is the meanest thing you ever said to your spouse? Just curious.


68 Responses

  1. I don’t believe you. That was meaner than all the star-spangled, gutter-spanish curse words I could throw at him.

  2. You’re a psychotic witch and I’m leaving. When you were squatting on the floor screaming that time like some evil bridge troll — you don’t remember? oh well — I found myself as if floating above the scene, and the words of Roberto Duran going through my head over and over: No mas. No mas. No mas.

  3. Or: You make Strindberg look like Frank Capra. That might have been worse. No, maybe not.

  4. A similar situation… It sucks.

  5. you mean, like, today? or just this week?

    after telling me i wasn’t a therapist and to stop psychoanalyzing him every time he got mad about something, i said that i was going back to school to be a certified psychoanalyst just so i could say, “yes i fucking am.”

    then we both started laughing and that argument was over.

    i’ve thrown keys at him, my cell phone (nearly shattering our front window pane), and a cheeseburger. i know, i’m the one who needs the psychoanalyst.

    the meanest? i once told him that i didn’t want to be married anymore. and then i left. and when i came back i had to tell him all the stupid shit i did while i was gone. that was a collection of mean…words, actions, thoughts. he calls it my marriage hiatus. i don’t talk about it.

    he’s sitting beside me right now on his laptop reading my column from this week. it’s been more than ten years since that marriage hiatus.

    • You threw a cheeseburger at him? That’s hilarious! Drew and I never argue, but now I want a full-on food fight, with french fry bullets.

      • But if you don’t argue you’re missing out on the make up sex. We have a good blow out to clear the air about every 6 months. Argument, not sex.

    • Oh sister, I could never waste a good cheeseburger like that.

    • So love this:

      “after telling me i wasn’t a therapist and to stop psychoanalyzing him every time he got mad about something, i said that i was going back to school to be a certified psychoanalyst just so i could say, “yes i fucking am.”

      then we both started laughing and that argument was over. ”

      also love cheeseburger throw!

      and the fact that you’re together and that he’s sitting beside you reading your column. that’s love.

  6. This is killing me.

    • Look away, Lyra … look away …

      • That’s actually what I said. And the response was this look I’ve never seen before and hope to never see again. And complete silence.

    • i got that one confused too (that the stories here were killing you).

      i say versions of this more often than i should:
      -i can’t do this anymore
      -this isn’t working
      -we can’t go on like this
      -you’ve got to know what you’re doing to me

      and it’s not like we’re surviving dire circumstances. usually, it’s because i absolutely cannot watch one more show with men in toboggans doing some kind of work with big trucks in cold weather.

  7. I don’t love you. I love him.

  8. I realize this is very un-writerly of me, but I can’t add mine- it was so mean I can’t write it out loud.

    • Let’s stand here together, Liz, in quiet, embarrassed solidarity . . . I’m not quite ready to be that open and honest.

      Though someday, I’m sure my characters will say the same things to their partners.

      • Exactly, Sarah- fodder for the mill. Every little dust mite of our lives.

        I like embarrassed solidarity, btw. It’s so much better than the usual solitary embarrassment.

  9. The meanest thing in my head, or what actually ended up coming out of my mouth?

    I’m on husband number 3 (as my son said while watching me watch The Tudors, “you’re halfway there!”), and by now I hold dear to the rule that you don’t say anything to your spouse that you wouldn’t say to your best friend, but you tell your best friend WAY more than you tell your spouse.

  10. That I wished I had a boyfriend.

  11. I’m all yours from now until forever.

  12. Women can say devastatingly cruel things of such a nature that a man would never say to a woman, remarks shot out like sparks burning holes through the fabric of the relationship, then act later as if their words were weightless and without impact. Men may think devastatingly cruel things but they won’t say them, they will sublimate them and they will act; out will come not burning sparks of insult, but clenched fists striking.

    OT, but the spouse and I, who strive mightily not to harm one another, watched “Howl” this evening and wish heartily to recommend it to writerly folk.

    • Right you are. We use what we have.

      To my first husband (after we separated): “I never came. Not even close.”

      • Came more than close with that one. That’s a direct hit on the pain button.

        When one of my previous spice (plural of spouse) asked me, without provocation, if men ever faked orgasms, an alarm went off in my mind. Turned out that was one of several claxons that were to sound as our marriage entered its final few months.

      • Ouch. But I wasn’t truly faking it–unless a deep, exasperated sigh counts as faux passion. He thought he had it all figured out: A+B+C=O. I don’t believe he ever noticed what was or was not working.

        And in my defense, my roundhouse was in response to a direct hit by him: “I never loved you.”

        Lethal. One marriage, down for the count.

    • There are sins of commission and sins of omission. While I’ve said some devastatingly cruel things, sometimes the most cruel thing I can do is stay silent or withhold.

  13. My ex never had that problem.

  14. Husband #1 was mean enough for both of us. The meanest thing I said? “I don’t want to get the new entertainment center because I won’t be living here by the time they can deliver it.”

  15. “Hopefully your previous agent will get hit by a truck.” ❤

    I've said & continue to say so many forgettable mean things to would-be spouses that I'll probably never have a spouse. Woops?

  16. I am unwittingly polite; however, here are some of my husband’s doozies.

    8 months pregnant and moving too slowly down the street he says to me, “You’re sapping the life out of me.”

    “You’re good at copying pictures but you’re not an artist.”

    “Shhhh. Your lips are moving.”

    “It’s a good thing you’re pretty.”

    And he serenades me daily with this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gaid72fqzNE

    I’m a lucky lucky girl.

  17. Seal up your lips and give no words but mum.

    Discretion is the better part of valour.

    William Shakespeare both.

  18. Not a spouse, but a person I’ve known since high school who betrayed me. IF I ever speak to her again, I want to say, “You’re a coward. That’s why you’ll never write.” And, “Where were you when I had breast cancer? Where were you when they took out my uterus? Why did you lie to me and tell me you didn’t get my phone message?”

  19. I do. Twenty five years ago in August. She’s never let me live it down thank God

  20. Shortly after the birth of our first child (that same night): We should have another one! Bad timing.
    If looks could kill,
    I would be a

  21. I’m careful with my words. Since I’m not a ranter who dispenses verbal hate on a regular basis when I say something mean it draws blood. I don’t particularly like making someone I love bleed.

  22. With my last ex, not married but together long enough for it to count, “I can see why your wife left you.” At which point he stopped, looked at me, and said, “That’s toothpaste you will never be able to put back in the tube.”

    That’s OK. He’s the man who threw a glass at me which shattered over my head, and I was picking little shards out of my hair for days. Good riddance, even if it did take years.

    My current spouse-like partner and I make a point of being as kind as we can to each other, since we’ve both lived long enough to have had our fill of volatility. I think the worst thing I’ve ever called him is a baby, and only once.

  23. My soon-to-be ex made me watch that Tim Minchin video during one of our worst, last fights. Apparently he was trying to “lighten the mood”. What a jokester!

    When we fought, which was virtually constantly in the final throes, I called him by his dad’s name. (Becoming ANYTHING like his abusive, belligerent dad was his worst fear.)

    Oh yes, I am that mean.

    In my defense, he was worse.

  24. Fuck you…..of course, I say that so often, he knows after all these years (30 and counting) that I’m just blowing fart-smoke. Oh, and I do that, too…

  25. Darlin’ if you really loved me, you’d a married somebody else.

  26. We’re coming up on 29 years and still disgustingly mad about each other. We’ve never said cruel things. Thought a whole shit-ton of them, but we have an unspoken pact not to say things we both know we’ll regret.

    After him washing my hair, my war wounds, and my twiddly bits after they cut my boob off and I couldn’t do one f’ing thing for myself, whatever mystery was left is toast. And he still loves me. I swore he’d never see me in my shower cap – it is fugly – but after cancer, he’s seen it all. The first time he saw me in it, he said, “I’ll take two corndogs.” Lunchlady with no boob – and he still loves me. No way I’d say something cruel to that.

    • I vowed I’d never let my husband see me bleach my mustache and chin hairs, but one day he walked into the bedroom while I had the “creme bleach” on my face. He said, “Howdy, Colonel, have you seen my wife?”

  27. That’s why I’m still single. I’m too afraid of what I’d say.

  28. We argued early on, mostly because I was insecure. And sometimes we both become irritable because we are *too* attentive, too concerned about each other. When not inducing bliss, adoration can make a person testy. Been together for 10 years, married for six, and I still marvel at how happy we are, mostly. We are incredibly different people, but somehow it all works. Has a lot to do with shared goofiness, making each other laugh, keeping things romantic and interesting, and amazing sex. And then there are the sweet nothings:
    “What’s wrong with you?”
    “You’re a *monkey.*”
    “Do you need treatment?”

  29. I don’t remember the exact words, but I think crazy cunt was my… I know there is a word for it but I can’t remember what it is..my best shot. She slapped me across the face about four or five times and now we try to reason things out. I always lose but that’s all right. She makes me happy. Speaking of happy, she hijacked Food and Loathing from me this morning and is still in the bedroom reading it. She comes out once in a while for a smoke break and updates me on the drama. Last I heard, she had 48 pages to go and you unwittingly volunteered yourself into a loony-bin. Old-hat around here. I think you have a new fan. But to me, you are my hero, as I got to watch On the Waterfront without any prattling interruptions or snide objections. Again, you are, right now, my hero. She’s in the bedroom reading. But I still haven’t gotten a chance to finish your first book. I got to the point where a male nurse was hooking you up to a heart monitor. Your humor is priceless. I hope it pays for you some day. Anyway, crazy cunt was the worst for me. I paid the price. As far as getting hit by a truck, that usually does the trick. But you would be surprised about the color of the mess. It’s pink, not red. Depending on the time out in the open. Blood dries to black. Again, time.
    With all heartfelt apologies for writing anything on your blog that fucked with your head without my knowing you, by reading you, I guess. You Rock.

  30. There are so many people I hope get hit by trucks. So many.

  31. Writers. Revenge fantasies. Do you want to make a living with your basic human nature, without, of course, leaving your house, bring the dead back to life. And do it without being a cheesy zombie, vampire writer! Or an obvious political, obvious already proved science writer! Then again, I live with normal folks, and they eat that shit up. All day, every day. Be simple, trust your plot, finish it. Sell it. Watch folks in the grocery store. Talk to my sister. She loves drama. Her kids are fascinated with death and the fear of death. It works. Be a writer. Art? That’s an old sales pitch. Think about it. And by the way, Peterbilts shift the smoothest. Not that you’ve had an honest job that didn’t force you to be dishonest and an asshole at any time in your life. Or maybe, even, that you have ever left your comfy house, or basement, or wherever you plot your emotional revenge ont he world through your writing. What are you going to do when your parents die? And other replies to assholes. Have you ever stopped to think that everything you write has already been written and no one wants to read your…stuff?

    • PS. Oh Yeah, where does money come from? If you have a salty reply, please include the answer to this question. And what whatever you do, don’t think your nuts because your confused, that’s a sales pitch.

  32. O’K. I swear this is it for a while, as I need to get back to figuring out how to raise the dead. All I can say is stop writing! It’s bullshit. It gives you pain! Do the math!

  33. I was three days postpartum and my sleep-deprived husband mentioned that he had a headache. I said, “I just passed a human head through my cervix and you want sympathy for a headache?”

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