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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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MotherFucker, Bury Yourself Dig a Hole Dig a Hole Dig a Hole

Yesterday, my mom treated me to lunch and a Broadway show. On the train into the city, I broke a cardinal rule: I told her the plot of my new screenplay, which I’ve finished in long hand, but just need to type out.  I yammered on about what happened, and then, and then, and then. Every now and again I stopped to ask if it was too melodramatic? She insisted it wasn’t. Do you want to hear more. She did!  On one occasion she bit her lip as the plot thickened, then squeezed her eyes shut as a bad thing was about to happen.  Where do you get this stuff, she asked more than once. Not an indictment so much as a true bewilderment. And this of course is hilarious to me, because I think it’s so obviously about us, metaphorically speaking.

For as long as I’ve been talking to groups about writing, I always say that it’s a huge mistake to share your work with family and loved ones, ESPECIALLY YOUR MOTHER. I also say it’s a mistake to talk too much about your work before it’s produced, especially in the nascent stages, because you dispel its power somehow.

What’s wrong with me?

45 Responses

  1. “And I also say, it’s a mistake to talk too much about your work before it’s produced, especially in the nascent stages, because you dispel it’s power somehow.

    “What’s wrong with me?”

    What’s wrong with you? You don’t know the difference between “it’s” and “its.”

    Isn’t that enough?

    • You use it’s when it is a contraction of it is, only. Otherwise it’s its.

    • God, give a girl a chance to proof her post.

      • Just sayin’ you were right and he is picky. Not a big deal. Happy mother’s day. One of my favorite oxymorons.

      • Jesus, tough room. Betsy we all chase the shiny reflection in the mother’s eye. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with you and I’m actually qualified to say so…

      • Unless Betsy already made the change, it’s is absolutely correct as she wrote it. It’s is the contraction for ‘it is’ and its is the posessive form of ‘it’. It is a common error but Betsy did not make it. It’s right on.

    • Yes, I’ve just checked my copy of Strunk & White and you are both right. Thank you.

    • Who cares if Betsy makes a typo? I’m just happy she writes.

      Maybe telling your mother was a way to flush more out of the metaphor. I would have killed to have a mother who didn’t think everything in my head was about her.

    • Poor Steve. Trying to be funny and look what happens. I’m going to my blog right this instant to proofread every line of every post! (not)

  2. Can I tell your mother the plot of my book? It is also about you and her, funnily enough.

  3. What’s wrong with you? Either you’re having a sweetness hangover since that L.A. trip — note the Twix bar photo in the earlier post and how much you felt-up those memoirs — or this is just a dream-a-little-dream and you’ll wake up any second.

    I admit, I was worried as hell during every line of this post. That the mother hatchet never fell is poetry. I’m so relieved.

    Now go sharpen all your knives and get a good night’s sleep.

  4. We will beat you (metaphorically, of course) within an inch of your life if you punk out. Just sayin’!

  5. Oh, but it’s such a sweet scab that just begs to be picked. What are you going to do now that you’ve gotten the reaction you (we’ve all) been waiting for? Do you chance it again or do you bask in the glory of that singular moment?

  6. Not a damn thing wrong with you. It’s just the typical love-hate-hope-fear circle of family dynamics. Sometimes even the toughest of us still want our mother’s approval–and we’ll break our own rules to fight a little for it.

    All is fair if love is war.

  7. There are exceptions to every “Should,” and most of those involve mothers.

    Besides, your first draft is done, right? It’s (slightly) past its nascent stage, so telling your mother about it isn’t an extreme violation of your rules . . . right?

  8. Every time, EVERY TIME I’ve gone on and on about the story, I have gone back to write it and nothing. There is nothing there, no words, no spaces, just empty. I would think I would learn, but alas, every now and again, I go on and on.
    As I get closer to the end, it’s so tempting, but i panic at not having the words to finish the damn thing.

    Although, dear Ms. Lerner, I have never, not once ever, thought, hmmmm, let me discuss this with my mother. You are braver than I ever thought anyone could be. Or perhaps should be?

  9. If you are traveling with your mother, eating with your mother, going to a show with your mother, and talking avidly with your mother, you haven’t had a hard enough life. Go back and start over.

  10. A few years ago (it was many) I took my mother to the TV studio on a weekend and played the 30-minute program I had written and produced. It was good — later won a regional Emmy (BFD). After the piece had played I looked at her, expecting warmth and praise.What I got was::”where is the ladies’ room?”

    • I don’t know you, so I’m not commenting on your situation, but I can relate to this, so I’ll share my insight about these kinds of cold-to-lukewarm reactions: Maybe you were living the life (or some variation of it) that she wanted but didn’t pursue? Maybe it felt a little bit like you were rubbing her face in the fact? I spent the day before Mother’s Day crying on the beach because I only got what my mother was about (and why she took it out on me) after she was gone. The really sad thing is that I would never have gotten it while she was alive anyway.

  11. On the other hand, what a nice gift you gave your mother by trusting her enough to share your story with her. That’s a unique gift.

  12. I’m with Sarah W. on this one. There are no shoulds or should nots. J.K. Rowling admits that if she hadn’t shared the beginning of Harry Potter with her sister and her sister hadn’t reacted so positively, she would never have finished the book.

    I’d give anything to share my work with my mother. Don’t apologize. I’m just happy for you that she didn’t pull the “I’m your mother and I know it all and this stinks to high heaven” card. That would have sucked moosecock.

  13. Ballsy move, Betsy. And on Mother’s Day. You never would have swum with the shark if you weren’t feeling strong enough to survive an attack. I know this is a foreign feeling.

  14. There is absolutely nothing wrong with you but everything right. Your thoughts mirror mine. I, too, feel that somehow you diminish or even perhaps jinx your WIP if you allow anyone to look behind the curtain before you raise it to reveal your shiny new literary masterpiece. In recent years I’ve loosened it up a bit and have a tendency to yammer on more than is advisable per my deep-seated reticense in discussing my work with anyone until its done and done. I’ve always wondered how anyone can feel comfortable exposing their writing when it is still in its nascent and nebulous infancy. I feel that baby needs to grow big and strong and become full-grown in all its muscularity in order to survive. Expose it to the vicissitudes of the harsh world before it is fully birthed and nurtured is to risk it somehow perishing from premature exposure. My fear is that once that mistake is made, even putting it into the preemie incubator is too late.

  15. There’s is nothing wrong with you other than you’re human and like all humans you want your mom to put your macaroni art on her fridge.

    Moms are a big, big deal.

  16. Whenever I hear a musician perform brilliantly or a poet read powerful words, my reaction is bewilderment spiraling quickly into awe. “How did…Where did this come from?”
    -What your mother gave to you when you gave her your gift.

  17. I told my mother both times (I was slow learn from my mistakes, apparently) what we planned to name our sons. Both times she mocked the names while I was pregnant, and both times she claimed she always loved the names once the kids were born. As she views my writing similarly, I wait until the books or articles are born before I share too much.

  18. It’s nice that you feel comfortable enough with your mother even to blurt it out. I get such icy, glaring, intonation of an eyeball stare that my words are squelched in the first sentence. I think yours is better. Now could someone explain my blatant grammatical possessive pronoun error to me?

  19. Whether it is divulging the plot of a WIP, hinting that you-know-who-may-ask-me-out or trying to diffidently note that something important MAY be on the way– isn’t it all about expressing that inner, boiling excitement that has captured one’s focus? And that excitement, often tempered with the nagging fear of Experience warns us such a state is fleeting and best shared with the ones who matter. Like calling your companions outside to see the rainbow as the sun sets: such a sight is better enjoyed with people who know you (especially if you are prone to shrieking with glee at the sight of rainbows).

    • Your comments reminds me of a story my wife related to me concerning her young daughter (pre-teen). There was an exquisite sunset and she called her daughter to come see the beautiful sunset. Her daughter sniffed derisively and responded she didn’t need to, she had seen a sunset before.

      • ah, the surly pre-teen! bested only by the Surly Teen who takes contempt to a whole more inclusive level.

  20. Alphabetically or chronologically?

    o how the hell should i know

  21. There’s nothing wrong with you. I think you’re positively, absolutely, definitively, right on target, and right as rain, as they say. Whoever they are. I’ve only heard their voices, I’ve never actually seen them. But that doesn’t mean they are not there! Yes, Betsy, for heaven’s sake, never your mother.

  22. Seems like this post and the previous one go together – listener and speaker. This is why I have to read this blog, because you write about the place where the door opens. Nobody else writes about this place, not in this way. I keep saying that because it’s true.

  23. It’s good to talk things out. Hear how they sound to someone else, gauge peoples’ reactions. There’s nothing sacrosanct about early drafts, however mystical the process by which they come to you is. The only thing about talking the story out is that you may burn that particular listener, which can be costly later down the line, unless, of course, you have lots of people interested in what it is you’re confecting.

  24. That’s sweet. Now, when you submit your screenplay to script readers, be sure and let them know your mother LOVES it. 😉 They always like to hear that, amirite?

  25. Stephen-
    I don’t know about the rest of what you say, but a mother? Really? Betsy so nailed this one. You never tell your mom. Cardinal rule.

    Sorry Betsy; you’re not alone. I think most have stepped in that pile of love crap before.

  26. Moms are human, too. Once we’re adults, it’s asking a bit much for them to be happy for our successes all the time. Once we’re beyond being a precious little body that she can lavish affection on and dominate, she’s faced with what she might have been but isn’t. That hurts, sometimes, even though she loves you more than her own life.

    Sounds like you were treating her as a friend and not your go-to for validation, and she responded in kind. The problem is not that we tell others about what we’ve written, but that we get the payoff for writing (whether it justifies either our desire for acceptance or our self-loathing) too soon by telling.

    Whatever it may sound like, I’m not trying to analyze you; this weekend was particularly eye-opening (and weepy) for me, and I’m just seeing my situation a bit in yours.

  27. Complicated with moms, at least for me. My mom is a writer who published her first story when she was 24, went to Breadloaf as a scholar soon after–and then, while she was still young, proceeded to get knocked down repeatedly by illness (hers, her husband’s, her son’s). Still, I encourage her and happily critique her stuff when she asks. I don’t ask her to read mine, really. She’s got enough to deal with.

    As for not talking too much about your work before you’ve finished: Yes, wiise. My trouble is choosing which of the 27 projects on my list to concentrate on and FINISH! If anyone would like to help me decide, I pay in Twix bars (and none of that fun-size bullshit either).

  28. Um, make that wise.

  29. I’ve always believed it’s a bad idea to share a work in progress, but I have to admit the temptation has been mighty strong this year. I take that to mean I’m excited about what I’m doing. I still kept my mouth shut, though. For the most part.

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