• 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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As I Walk Along I Wonder What Went Wrong

Tonight’s post isn’t for everyone. If you don’t like it or if you detect a spelling or grammatical error or just some shit writing, please leave some love on someone’s else blog because over here at Betsylerner.com, I am about to fucking snap. I’m not used to being played. I’m a middle child. I love to manipulate, triangulate, irritate. I like to come between people, isolate, dominate. So when I get the boomerang shoved up my ass, I don’t like it. I took it all day. It was open season.

What the fuck did I do? Even though I’m a hater, my persona is nice. THe more I hate you, the nicer I’ll probably be. So why can’t the people who hate me be nice? Why can’t anything just be over? Let’s admit we made a mistake, but can’t we still be friends? Look, I obviously can’t talk about it which is why I feel like my chest is exploding, that or I mistakenly wore my daughter’s bra again. What’s really bothering me is that the old person I’ve schlepped around for fifty years is no longer comfortable, if she ever was, with the doormat routine. So, now, when you wipe your fucking feet all over me, it no longer feels good.

What’s your birth order and what does it have to do with being the kind of writer that you are?

79 Responses

  1. Oldest. But only of two. You’d think I’d be all responsible and shit, when all I really want is to run away.

  2. I am so sorry that people have been abusing you in this site. I have enjoyed your writings, and hope that I never say anything that causes you to explode. Regarding birth order, I was the one abused and alone, no one around to protect me even a little like my brother and sister had each other. So my writing reflects an isolation that I had, where I had to invent stories and friends to survive horrific abuse.


  3. I am middle child and only girl and I always knew if it was gonna get done, I’d have to do it. I guess that is why Kindle calls to me now. My little runaway. Run, run, run away. I had a fight with a beau during that song, in a car. A hater would not bother to read you. There is too much other stuff for them.

  4. Oldest child.

    It made me pompous until someone told me to “stop being a pompous snot.”

    Luckily I got this advice when I was thirty. Ah, to be so young again.

  5. First born here. “First thought, best thought,” said Allen Ginsberg, once upon a time.
    And thanks for planting that Todd Rundgren earworm. Now it will be running through my head all night. Yikes.

  6. Middle child, baby girl. Eldest two are girls, youngest two are boys. Baby girl is one of my nicknames – no surprises there. I have to say, it’s been pretty sweet, which I believe is less about my birth order (which was just the cherry) and more about the fact that I’m just like my father and look exactly like my mother.

    I’m not sure what it did to me as a writer, but every member of my family has probably accused me of picking just the right words to wound. Which is funny because it seems to imply they’ve never said things with the intention of hurting my feelings… or that hurting their feelings was (always) my intention. It must just be a gift.

    Whelp. Now we both feel like horrible people, Bets.

  7. Youngest in adopted family – eldest in biological. I’m also a Gemini – which doesn’t mean squat but maybe that’s why my writing and subjects are at times schizophrenic.

  8. Oldest of five, runaway, black sheep, holder of family secrets. All of which make for good writing. The only problem is the words won’t let me boss them around. I schlepped my old self around for almost fifty years, then dumped her.

    And yes, your persona is nice–nicer than most.

  9. youngest, only girl. did a lot of dishes.

    sorry to hear that you’ve been played. i hate it when that happens but it does happen.

  10. Well, shit. You’ve always been pretty damn nice to me. Now, I can feel your true hatred brewing. Can you call me a couple crude, horrific names so I feel better?

    I’m the baby of three girls. Tolerated beyond reason, appeased and adored.

    Hate me if you must. The youngest, fortunately, also tends to be easygoing.

  11. Older of two, and forced to be the Invisible Good Girl because my sister was the designated Demon Child from Hell.

    Don’t know if that’s why I’m a bleeder, but it makes sense. It also makes me wonder about my joy in creating sociopaths . . .

    (Betsy, please don’t let the trolls win — your absence would leave an unfillable void)

  12. I’m a middle child. My younger brother also claims to be a hater. Liar liar pants on fire to both of you. He’s one of the kindest people I know. My birth order has nothing to do with who I am as a writer, as far as I can tell. It has plenty to do with how I play with others in the sandbox though. Tomorrow is another day. You are the author of The Betsy Lerner Story. Maybe tomorrow you’ll go for comedy instead of drama!

  13. Older sister, two younger brothers. Sister’s the mirror image of my fucked up mother, youngest brother killed himself, middle brother is a failed con-man who the cops haven’t caught yet. Doormat? Fuck me. Family. Fuck me. Run like hell, you bet. Family story in a nut-shell. Well, what led up to that is an epic, but that’s for me to chisel. Do I hate you Betsy? Well, if I knew you I might. I’m not sure. Can you really fit into your daughter’s bra? And, just our of curiosity, how old is your daughter? Do I judge women on their tits? Never. Hmm? Do I hate women? My god, kill me now if I did. So, yeah, it’s back to the door mat thing. Eventually, if you keep letting them use you as a door mat, someone is going to end up in a plastic bag. I hope it is you, Betsy, that fought back. You’d be surprised how a little serious fighting can save the day. (Not to offend you, but I am so glad I don’t live in New York. It sounds like a rat hole.) If this is hate enough for you, I don’t envy you. I like using you, but I’m glad I’m not you. And now, small sigh of sighs, I will no longer use you. When I finally have some money I might buy one of your books, if it’s the follow up to Food and Loathing, but now who’s the shit-bag. You just can’t win in this words on words game. It never ends. Sick-out, savages.

  14. Middle child; only girl. Therefore, Exhibit A in my mother’s eyes. Good and bad: I get nice dresses but not her approval. Fodder for a lifetime of writing.

  15. At heart I’m just a sucker from the sticks who wants to be loved. So sell me a bridge, I can’t tell if you’re playing me or not. I’ll try to play straight man for you tonight. I’ll wing it. Something’s got to be good for a laugh.

    You’re not going to fucking snap. C’mon. I know a persona when it puts on a mask. And then, hell, you let it drop (Or did you? Is this hall decorated with mirrors?). Manipulate, triangulate, irritate, come between people, isolate, dominate. Good to hear you’re not into boomerangs. Didn’t think you were.

    Lucky me, I don’t pay close attention, so I don’t know what the fuck you did. Can’t help you there. Can’t do much with those other questions either, but if you’re a doormat, I’m a pepperoni pizza. You’re the puppet master here, the girl in the control room, daring us to adjust the horizontal or the vertical. You be the cat, a grin as broad as Cheshire, and we be the little dun mice you bat around in play.

    Okay, now to the last question. I’m the youngest of two sons, the jokester, the prankster, the coyote, the slippery eel, the coward, the crier, the angry baby, the desperate control freak from clear back to the zygote stage. I can only tell the truth if I’m telling a lie. And that’s what kind of writer I am.

  16. Twin. Fraternal girls, I’m the older, but smaller one. We’re very different. I’m nerdy, artistic, and not at all athletic. Went from close as children, to fighting like dogs as teens, and now we’re close again. Not sure how it’s shaped my writing, except that my WIP probably isn’t something she’d ever pull off a shelf, but she encourages me anyway.

    • Identical twin here. Younger by thirteen minutes, but I’m taller. I got along with my sister until she got big breast implants fifteen years ago, for her husband she said. I don’t approve.

      But we are mirror-image twins and I hit the jackpot: I’m the left-handed one. And that’s how it’s affected my writing. Because if I’d been the right-handed one I’d be stuck with flotation devices on my chest, doing crossword puzzles and quadratic equations for fun instead of, you know, writing stuff.

      • Just read an interesting article about lefties in the Globe. Apparently, our brains are much more interesting and complicated than our righty counterparts. I could have told them that.

      • How do you not slap her every time you see her?

      • More than a mouthful is a waste.

      • I was a lefty and a fraternal twin, but my brother didn’t survive too long after he was born. I was born first and nearly three months ahead of schedule. I say I was a lefty because my mother forced me to switch. I find it amusing that I can do nearly everything I do with either hand but if I happen to get stoned I do everything with my left. I was an only child, but I’m not a “me, me, me” type. I learned very young not everything was about me because everything was about my mother. How this has affected my writing I’m not sure. I always knew I’d write. Always. I suppose though at the age of 4 I never thought I’d be writing on a laptop instead of being forced to try left-handed with a No. 2 pencil.

  17. When I work with kids, we talk about that feeling like, “it’s a volcano erupting in your head and chest.”

    I hate that feeling.

    I was the first born to a teen who had all three of us by the time she turned 21. As far as effecting the writing? Yes. But I don’t pull on the curtain all that hard.

  18. I’m the oldest, but my sister, the Freudian shrink, acts older. They think I act like I’m 4 years old. I really don’t, I swear. I’m childlike, not childish. I’m getting older, but I write young. I hope to always write young and live young. Sorry to hear it was such a bad day, Betsy. Tomorrow will be better, I can almost guarantee. After all, I’m the oldest, and I know best. (no arguing with a Freudian analyst, though.)

  19. Sixth out of seven girls, always trying to somehow get to the top of he family without murdering somebody, just through dominance…

  20. First born, of a first born, of the eldest girl, of a first born: a legacy that no doubt fuels my classic, type A, over-achiever approach to everything. As a (presently) unpublished writer, that translates into lots of focus and effort; lots of self-berating with every rejection note.

    Being played? ah, welcome to my favorite layer of hell. I never learned the skill to do it and it’s only been in the past 5 years I can catch the guilty party almost in mid-stride. One of the worst players to hurt me , though, is a character in one of my books. It was a nice gift not having to imagine this person. She provided it a-l-l for me!

  21. I need a white board, but here goes.

    I’m the oldest, or used to be. In 2009 I got a Facebook page and a friend request from a woman who, I shit you not, said, “Hi Sis!” My older sister, by less than 2 years. Seems my birth father has been married many times — like maybe 8 or 9, it’s hard to keep track — and Sis was the child with his first wife. My mama was his 2nd, and he moved on quick from there. He pretty much knocked ’em up and went on to doors number 2 and 3 and 4 and ….

    I’m the oldest of 5. I have 2 half-brothers (Butch and Chuck) a stepbrother (Bub) and a stepsister (Sis).

    I’m an only child. Or rather I act like one because I didn’t live with any of the above-mentioned folks, at least not enough to take my place in the birth order.

    This year, again on the lovely Facebook, I “met” my younger adopted brother, Donny. He claims my birth father adopted him and saved his life. “Dad’s a great guy,” he said. “A real God-fearing, church-going type.”

    Well. Okay then.

    And you thought this was an easy question.

    • Definitely not the average character tree. I cannot wait for the edits to be done so I can read the memoir.

      • And in all seriousness, I feel like I had a good growing up. The women in my family were phenomenal, positive people.

  22. A curse on the bastard(s) that did whatever he/she/it/they did to you today. As to birth order, I am the youngest, my brother is 14 months older, both adopted as infants. I don’t see a connection between birth order and what/how/when I write, but the family dynamics determined everything.

  23. Youngest of two but 6 years between, enough to learn how to fly under the radar.

    What kind of writer? Isn’t that the question. Observant, but always used to doing what was expected that it’s taken me forty years to try and capture what I think. And it’s still a challenge to see when I’m bullshitting myself.
    What kind of person is more to the point, fiercely protective. Whose kneecaps need a talking to, Betsy? I’m your girl.

  24. Eldest of two. We’re both girls. I’m the sunny, yet duplicitous child. The late bloomer. My sister is petulant and a republican. I think. That may have changed since she just left her second husband for a biker.

    My sister got her first period before I did. We’re more than 2 years apart. That really fucked me up. I didn’t get boobs until college–another thing that fucked me up.

    As far as how being the oldest, as well as the passive aggressive pinch-you-when-you’re-not-looking type has molded (and I do mean molded) my writing? I think it’s made me not trust it. I read my stuff that’s published, and I just want to burn it and start anew. I keep thinking that I’ll wake up and be ten years younger and get another chance.

  25. Does that mean you hate me? I’m the paranoid oldest of nine yes count them nine siblings and all half. Split loyalty split infinitude split open with Angry love. Hate me if you dare.

    • What kind of writer? A self doubting lonely one.

    • Please don’t tell me you suffered the ‘you aren’t going out to play unless you take your baby sister Rosemary with you’ crap.

      • Hid behind cars to dodge my siblings trying for some private space. Great tree climber. Finally had to jump off the one called family.

  26. Younger sister of a Golden Boy brother. It plays out more in the editing stage than in writing. You want to change that? No problem. I’m sure it’s shit. You know best. Throw me a bone and I’ll keep licking your ass.

  27. Youngest of two. I really could have been somebody had I been the oldest. Instead, I got a lot of wedgies.

    Sorry ’bout your state. I hope you feel better this morning.

  28. Oldest of four. Over-achiever, perfectionist, tell-it-like-it-is at the expense of feelings. It hasn’t made me popular, but it’s always made me right. As I’ve told my husband a number of times, “it’s a burden to be right all the time.”

    I’ll say this because it is absolutely true: “what goes around comes around; it will happen.”

    A story. I had a boss, once, who told me that her job was to break my spirit and try she did. Learned years later, she died of aneurysm at like the age of 52. So it does happen; it just takes a while to come back around. A bad deed/karma, whatever, gets done in, eventually. It just takes a while.

    • Over the years, I’ve modified that ‘burden’ line to “just do what I say and it will be alright” – always said pleasantly – some laugh, but my contractors laugh with an experienced chuckle and listen.

    • I wonder if bitterness can generate bad karma? Sometimes these things are cyclical.

  29. Numero uno. People tell me things. Don’t know if it’s because I have kind eyes or a goofy, nonthreatening smile, but even my mother and stepfather told me stuff I could have lived without knowing. Example–my stepfather once told me that when he first met my mother he had an instant hard-on. Too much information, especially so soon after her funeral.
    Here’s the bad thing: I rarely betray that trust (although the above example breaks that rule), which kind of hinders my development as a writer.
    Doormat? I have a feeling anyone who wiped their feet on you would wind up on their ass soon enough.

    • Yes, sigh. Probably it is partly the kind eyes and goofy nonthreatening smile and partly it is the sense people have that you probably won’t betray them and that you are indeed kind.

      Just a guess.

  30. Birth order? First out of two, but only 11 months apart. Still. As for you, is it a cry of ‘uncle’ or are you a Trojan horse and coming into the fold all simpering and raw nerves only to pounce when our guard is down and slash and burn like no one’s business? They say a wounded tiger is more dangerous than a healthy one. Backed into a corner they are ferocious beyond measure. Others slink away wounded. Unable to hunt their normal prey they become–maneaters. Somehow I suspect your wounds will only make you stronger and more lethal. If your cry is one of true agony, it may have had something with your birth order. Male cats often kill the kittens.

  31. I’m a first child who should have been the second. I’m more of a supporter than a leader, although I can lead if I absolutely must. As a child I had a kind of Walter Mitty fantasy life, which probably explains why I read and write fiction, preferably NOT true to life, i.e., SF, fantasy, humor. Life is hard. I escape whenever possible.

  32. Oldest, and I want every sentence of mine to punch you in the gut. Make of that what you will.

  33. Youngest child by years arrived at the point where my parents gave up on life. Only one able to placate the wolf in the house until later, when the voices started talking about me too.

    After reading this post, I realize many of my characters are victims, sacrificial lambs offered up on the altar of distorted love. It’s only a recent development they’ve grown into women who take responsibility and when pummeled scream into the wind ‘fuck you, I’m not going anywhere.’ Wow. Thank you Dr. Betsy.

  34. I’m the youngest. The baby sister with two older brothers. Maybe I play it a little too safe as a writer. I may have a little fear that I’ll be the one people are laughing about at their dinner tables. Maybe I need to stop worrying about having the blanket thrown over my head.

    • Or maybe you should just write about that. Maybe you should rock that timidity and fear with a vengeance, since it’s probably not going away anytime soon.

      “Use your faults, use your defects; then you’re going to be a star.”— Edith Piaf

  35. I hear ya. Oldest gets the glory, youngest gets the spoily, and middle gets forgotten.

    My dad once made a little Charlie Brown-like cartoon of me standing behind my grandfather while he was shaving. His eyes bugged out and his hair stood up while I shouted behind him with a mouth bigger than my face, “Whatcha doin’, Grampy?”

    That’s how I coped. I was loud.

    As a grownup of almost 52 years, I cope a different way – with my actions. My two siblings are very talented in their own right. My sister is a musical playwright and my brother is a talented blues musician.

    I paint and write.

    We no longer openly vie for attention, but maybe there’s a tiny smidge of competition in there…

  36. Younger of two, from a household of undereducated intellectuals. A chield’s amang ye, taking notes . . .

  37. Youngest of 2, I’m still trying to impress my sis—and kick her ass—with my writing and music. I figure, if I can gain the adoration of millions, she’ll have to give in and tell me how great I am. Won’t she?

    In my latest ms my mc’s older sister is crippled. Oops.

    My mc can’t get the sister’s voice out of her head. Drag.

    Eventually, through practicing yoga and writing music my mc discovers her own voice.
    Huh. That sounds awfully familiar. Did I mention I’m a musician?

    Of course in the end, the big sister is restored to health and then some—she becomes immortal.

    Immortality. Pretty nice of me to hand THAT over.
    Guess I’m just not capable of being mean. Yup, I’m the youngest.

  38. Oldest of two by only 15 months…as for abuse: Can’t you be like me and just tell ’em to fuck off?

  39. Birth order: I’m the youngest of four and pretty easy going. That doesn’t seem to matter so much now as my age, though. I’m turning 45 this year and time is running out. Some health stuff last year changed me. There’s so much I want to do and I don’t want to spend time dissembling, being nice, and trying to make mean people happy. Fear of dying has done wonders for my writing.

  40. Youngest of three, two older sisters. Indulged, terribly over-affirmed, and learnt to live in a world of my own creation very young (and possibly a little too well.)

    I guess the own-world thing helps writing. But the notable-by-it’s-abscence drive/stress/PROVETHEMALLWRONG is a bastard.

  41. Oldest of two who grew up together, middle of three who did not. My brother was twenty years older than me, and I suspect I was the bastard child of one of many underage girls he fertilized and left on my mother’s doorstep in the days before Roe. So how should I know what my real place in the family constellation is? I may not even be the daughter of The Woman I Call Mom. And that doesn’t factor in my conviction that I’m the reincarnation of the mother of TWICM, which would make me my own great-grandmother, which makes my birth order minus-1, if the math is correct.

  42. Youngest: can’t take criticism, hates to be like other people.

  43. The birth-order thing really got people going — I’m a bit surprised at how few people reacted to the core of your message (especially given how much I think the people here genuinely like you and care about your state). I like how LIz and Mike D. put it. Sorry you had a shitty day (yesterday? — i get confused, I read you in the morning Europe time) and hopefully things look better today.

    I know that this probably came off all wrong, and I absolutely don’t mean to criticize or try to be the thought police. (Hmm, what does this attempt to avoid criticism myself show?)

  44. Oldest of 4. So responsible I put everyone ahead of me and my writing until I was into my 40’s. Now everyone whine’s that I’m never there for them anymore but I don’t care I got novel work to get done.

  45. I’m the older sister. My sister is 2 years younger than I am, and she’s braver in her writing (and what she says to my parents). I always want to please, never offend, and ask for permission first. My mom has always been my first editor, and one of the biggest fights we ever had was over an essay I entered in a contest. I showed it to her first and she said I didn’t portray her the right way. I loved the original version, but I compromised. Looking back, I wish I didn’t. That was my story to tell, not hers, as much as I love her and want to please her.

    Hope today was a better day. The world loves and needs BetsyLerner.com, and my mornings would suck without it.

  46. I’m the middle, dead center of three. Your post was like a mirror. I don’t know who I hate more, them for using me as a doormat or me for letting them.

  47. Sorry people are hating on you, Betsy.

    Have nearly been driven away from this site, as every other post seems to elicit nasty email from anonymouses. Whatever.

  48. First-born, older than my brother by two years. Effects, hmm … too outspoken, too timid, try to please no one and everyone, try to help heal and take care of people (sometimes when they want no such thing), anxious, anxious, anxious.

  49. Über-baby, child of a late-life marriage with half-sibs 13 and 15 years older than me — essentially the worst of youngest and only. Brought up unbelievably spoiled, no limits, a sense of entitlement a mile wide and the belief that the world should/would come to me because I was SPECIAL.

    So therefore I have to work harder than anyone else, be tougher, run the 5K with a bone sticking out through the skin, sleep on the floor with no pillow. I’m very competitive. But fortunately in the course of spoiling me rotten they also gave me more than my share of unconditional love, and that’s helped more than it’s hindered. I have big, slightly misshapen self-esteem and assume that everyone likes me, my writing, my art, my quirks, and my work ethic until explicitly proven otherwise. If someone is nice to me because they hate me I probably won’t notice, or at least won’t care.

  50. Middle of three, only girl. At a hotel in Georgetown at the moment, for my younger brother’s big meeting. I took the elevator up to my parents’ suite to show my dad how to work the espresso machine. My mother, who I haven’t seen in six months, picked up the NYTimes and moved back into the bedroom. I can’t read with you talking, she said. I crave attention. I want to be seen and heard. I want to tell stories that titillate and inform.

  51. Betsy you need a place to rant. Ranting is vital to life. I rant to my dog because even though she gives a look sometimes that makes me think she also thinks I’m bonkers she is a very good listener. Plus when I cry out of frustration she doesn’t mind if my tears soak her fur. Since she hates water in general I take this as just another sign of her love and no matter what happens, it always make me feel better. I think every writer should have a pet. If only I could train her to edit and proofread.

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