• 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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It Scares Me To Feel This Way

Today, as I was walking to work, I heard a nice looking guy in a suit say, “I love you,”  before he snapped his phone shut and put it in his trouser pocket. And I thought for a moment how fragile we all are, especially men, imagining his wife sitting at a granite counter in workout clothes, her yoga mat  near the door, rolled. They don’t have kids yet. It’s early on. He’s trim and going places. Her ring swims on her finger. His shoes have a buckle. It’s starting to rain. I can’t see his face. Love you. Love you, too.  On NPR, I listened to a woman describe the last phone call with her husband before he died in one of the World Trade Towers.  My husband referred to our marriage as an ecosystem  and in my mind it’s a fecund marsh with cattails fat as wurst, or a desert buzzing with death, or a field of alfalfa even though I have never seen a field of alfalfa. Though there were trees as big as dinosaurs in my home town and I have wrapped my arms around them and felt my veins thrum with life. In tenth grade, my friend’s father told us to never trust a man’s declaration of love before, during or after sex. Man, was that good advice.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

67 Responses

  1. You’re not responsible for someone else’s happiness, only your own.

  2. My mother always said, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” My grandmother always said, “The hell with them.” But I like, “Don’t talk with your mouth full.”

  3. I was never really “given” sage advice (guess everyone quickly figured out that was a losing effort…), but somewhere, I read “life is a journey, not a destination” and “patience is the best remedy for every trouble” and I’ve adopted those phrases as my good advice.

    (gosh, and in my patience journey I hope someday there will be a man in my life – who is not a client or a contractor! – who will end a phone call with ‘love you’…sigh)

  4. Best piece of advice was “Your story starts on page 40 in your novel and on page 4 of your short stories.”

    Memphis Trace

  5. ‘This too, shall pass’

  6. “You have nothing to fear but aphorisms”

  7. Your spouse comes first.
    It sounds harsh, but when your kids are grown and move away, all that is left is your spouse and yourself. If you haven’t taken care of the relationship the whole time then it will never work.
    Love your kids, but realize that some day they will move away and have their own lives to live.

  8. Never make eye contact while sucking on a pickle.

  9. “Every morpheme, every phoneme counts.”

  10. The way someone does anything, is the way they do everything.

  11. Barbesol shaving cream removes visible bloodstains from light-colored carpet.

  12. Learn the language, from my husband when we moved to Finland. It was amazing how after I did, an entire country of people stopped talking about me – because I had seen the way they looked at me when they said that, and instead spoke of elephants, engineering and Tarja’s trip to Turkey.

    They lived happily ever after as an ecosystem used to be the standard ending of all fairy tales until it was edited out for flow.

  13. Be someone on whom nothing is lost.

  14. Those who straddle yesterday and tomorrow piss on today.

  15. My father always preached the Golden Rule, Do unto others as you would have them do onto you (not the bastardization of it–he who has the gold, rules). My mother, forever bitter after her divorce, said, Love many, trust few, always paddle your own canoe. And my wise old Italian grandfather had this to say when my first true love and I were contemplating living in separate cities: When you throw the knife at the wall, the handle goes with it.
    Best advice not followed: “Don’t let that horse eat that violin, cried Chagall’s mother” (from a Coney Island of the Mind by Lawrence Ferlinghetti).
    My own favorite: May you stay forever young.

  16. Never fight about kids or money. Whether you agree or disagree, back up your partner and wait until you’re alone to discuss it. Usually by then the fire has been reduced to glowing cinders.

  17. Don’t confuse intensity with meaning –

  18. Don’t confuse motion with progress.

  19. Watch the way a man treats a waitress.

  20. When you go to a party, remember no one is thinking about you, so smile and you’ll be fine.

  21. Great writing once again, Betsy.

    Best advice: be still. Of course it had its roots in shut the fuck up, but good advice nevertheless.

  22. 1. A man can always pull up his pants and walk away.
    2. When a man wants you, you’ll know (in other words, if someone thinks you’re worth the effort, they’ll definitely make it and there will be no doubt as to whether or not they think you’re worth it.)
    3. Let them tell you no.

    • That first one is a doozy. Maybe we could post it on all the high school bulletin boards?

      • Unfortunately, many young urban men are already walking around with their pants belted somewhere below their tailbones, so the advice may be lost on them.

      • I was strolling behind a couple of young amblers downtown today, their crotches down at their knees. I thought, If these young fellows should have to run for their lives, they are SOL.

  23. Advice is cheap ….especially that one about never going to be bed mad.

  24. sorry, to bed mad…

  25. “If it breaks when it bends, you’d better not put it in double.” – Prince

  26. I am glad that I paid so little attention to good advice; had I abided by it I might have been saved from some of my most valuable mistakes–Edna St. Vincent Millay

  27. if i’d listened to all that good advice, i’d never have fucked a guy named Danny.

  28. “When someone shows you who they are, believe them,” and “Don’t let the bastards keep you down.”

    These, from my grandmother, who received advice more like, “You made your bed, you lay in it.” We’ve come a long way baby.

  29. The difference between what they say and what they do—that’s the who you are always dealing with. Yourself included.

  30. My grandfather was a lever man for a dredging company for forty years, they dredged the harbors up and down the coast of California, constant work, and he told me several times when I was a teenager that you can push a barge with your finger once you get it moving. The hard part is to get it moving. He’s been dead for twenty five years but I still see that old busted-up finger moving across the kitchen counter.

  31. It was: “Always finish your sentences when you’re talking.” Early on in the workplace, I had this little habit of letting my thoughts drift off in conversation, and during a job review, my boss pointed it out and said it made me sound like I lacked conviction in my ideas. I am still grateful to him for saying it. No question the best advice I ever got.

  32. Stop interrupting and listen.

  33. Life is a crapshoot. Your own life is 99 percent determined by nurture, nature and random events. You have free will, but only for the next ten minutes or so. Beyond that, the dice have it.

  34. When I was 19, in the midst of helping my mother with the dishes, she turned to me and said, “Don’t get married. Just have affairs.”

    I wish I had listened. (Sometimes.)

  35. LOOK before you leap.

    Avoid Arnolds with big muscles.

    Get your license.

    Watch out for doctors.

  36. Don’t eat the potato salad

  37. I rewrite endlessly, obsessively. One day in the field my husband said, “Forget your perfect offering. There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
    I said, “What the hell is that? A quote?”
    He told me Leonard Cohen. I typed it up. It’s on my corkboard. It helps.

  38. Use a double album to clean your dope.

  39. From my Dad

    Love God but most of all learn to love yourself.

  40. “This above all: to thine own self be true.” There was a time (15, 16) when I thought I would scream if I ever had to hear my father say that again. But dammit, he drummed it into my little pinhead for most of my life and he was right.

    And now, of course, I’m pissed that he’s not around so I can tell him so.

  41. You can cheat the system as much as you want, but at the end of they day, its just you and you.

  42. Always go to the funeral.

  43. It’s not necessary to believe anyone’s declaration of love, man or woman, ever. Believe your dog. Believe your cat, who will only whisper it. But humans? Trust your gut on that one. Some tell the truth and some lie. And you, the listener, always know, if only you listen to yourself.

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