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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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Dig a Hole Dig a Hole Dig a Hole

I was invited to give an interview via Skype for a website about publishing and communication. This little turtle tucked her head right back into her shell. It’s bad enough I have to see my trail of slime known as this blog, but I just couldn’t face seeing myself. Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the most self-loathing of all. There was another invitation for a phoner. Sign me up! I did a lot to promote the revision for the Forest for the Trees, articles, e-cards, snail mailings, panels, workshops. I even sat around with a bunch of writers in Ann Arbor and talked about butt plugs, for chrissakes. And for what: an uptick in sales. An ego hit that doesn’t last as long as a crack high. To spread the gospel according to moi? I’m lucky, yes, for sure. I was a girl intent on other darker things. And somehow I found the words to say something else about life and writing and publishing. Why am I crying? Why do I make myself sick? Bobbi?

Will the self loathers please raise their hands?

62 Responses

  1. self loathing is listed as one of my extra curricular activities beside my senior yearbook picture. and the only way i’ll ever skype is if i can find a camera that doesn’t make me look like i’m the star of some snuff film.

    • Friends of mine used to fantasize about the day the Jetsons’ video phone would become a reality, while I understood the horrific implications.

    • My stepson asked me to Skype so we could talk “face to face.” I replied with an adamant NO! No way! No way do I want to be on camera like that, that’s so weird and creepy, so stupid, no thanks.

      To which he replied, That’s okay. I only need to see my parents once a year.

      It’s good to know that after 15 years, this is all it takes to make me loathe my big opinionated mouth.

  2. You can hide your animated features on skype by clicking them away. I do this often. No shame.

  3. I’m not self-loathing enough to take the blame for THAT particular Ann Arbor conversation topic.

  4. I hadn’t thought about this until just this moment, but one of the nice things about being born in June is that as a Gemini , self-loathing means that you always hate the other guy.

  5. Its amazing that ever since I read you Forest through thru the Trees that you’ve identified ever single issue I have ever had and continue to do so in you “trail of slime”. I too am a self loather but not as brave as you to put it all out there for the world to read. I am learning Betsy to spill my guts on the page, take a chance and be my true self, ugly as it is on the page. You may call it a trail of slime, call yourself a self loather but all in all, I am inspired to write with my guts hanging out there. Please keep sliming so your novel continues to teach me to be a better writer and most importantly to get off my butt and keep working!!!!

  6. I am loath to loathe myself, so I shall keep my hands where they are, dancing over this keyboard in between spooning yogurt into my gaping curd-hole.

  7. No, nope, not here. I’m my own biggest fan. Because if not me, then who?

    Though I just did my very first Skype interview (as interviewee) over the weekend and was kind of horrifyingly distracted by how weird I looked talking into my computer. The other person had a still photo, very flattering, and I looked like I’d been up for a week. But if I could be bothered to actually give a shit about that kind of thing I’d never get out of bed, not even for dog kisses.

    More embarrassing was where the orange cat got up in my face and I actually broke mid-sentence to say in a falsetto, “HIIII, kitty!” I’d hoped she’d edit that out but no, it’s in there around minute 25.

    • “I actually broke mid-sentence to say in a falsetto, “HIIII, kitty!”

      love love love

      (and thanks for the e.b. white quote on your blog. i have that cut out and stuck in a journal somewhere but forgot all about it. i needed to read it tonight.)

  8. I have to tell you something, Betsy. I first found out about your blog through an appearance you did on some otherwise inane writing podcast (you did two appearances, I think). I stopped subscribing to that podcast and started my subscription to your blog in the same day.

    Whatever else you might see in the mirror, you DID spread the gospel according to toi, et merci.

  9. I try to tell myself that I’m worthwhile and not entirely untalented and have done some solid work and have my name out there and so on . . .

    But the entire time, I’m secretly rolling my eyes and wondering what I’ve done for me lately. . .

  10. How did this blog turn into my horoscope?

  11. I honestly don’t trust people that don’t hate themselves a little bit. People that love everything about themselves befuddle me.

  12. I’ve been told I’m not self-loathing enough to write my memoir. I am still, months later, pondering this feedback, it’s multiple interpretations.

  13. Hand raised.

    This meeting better have an open bar.

  14. Both hands raised in surrender.

    And after recently enduring a bunch a pre-teens yell after me that I was “so ugly”, any lingering doubts have now been set to rest.

    • If it’s any consolation at all, Karen, the essay that I was getting Skype-interviewed for was about, in part, how brutally mean middle-schoolers are with their little bombs of comments.

      • Sounds like an interesting essay! I imagine you’ve considered continuing your research to observe what happens when these little darlings morph into adults.

        As for me, that incident is finding its way into a plot – the silver lining and all…

      • I haven’t had much choice but to continue the research, and most of the ones I know have turned out to be polite and decent young adults. Especially mine. Makes me glad I didn’t spend all that money on military school.

  15. I’m hating myself for not knowing what a butt plug is. There’s always something.

  16. Many months ago, in a blinding flash of lucidity, I discovered writing is a hobby, so I took a job. It’s pushing six months since I’ve checked in on the Betsy Lerner blog. I find it comforting to know that everyone is still consumed with self loathing, hates their parents, and wishes they could get published.

  17. I spent years thinking I was useless, ugly, selfish, never-to-be-published and unloveable. It became very wearying.

  18. Holy mackerel! No pressure right? It seems that many of us (me included) have elevated self loathing to an art form.

    First the obvious. Everyone I know looks weird on Skype, not a good tool for self love to be sure. But that’s not really the issue now is it?

    “I was a girl intent on darker things”- Oh how I love this nugget of self-analysis and to me it says it all. Abandoning the seductive path of self destruction inevitably leads to self doubt. Having to look yourself in the eye while doing something that marks the fact that you’ve made it (life not work) creates a whole mess of angst. Sit with it, cry, rage, whatever, it doesn’t matter. Do the Skype, don’t do the Skype, it is irrelevant. You are here.

    And don’t talk to me about luck Madame Lerner. I’ve read F & L twice now and I know luck had nothing to do with you using your powers for good. This self loathing theory has some holes in it. What if this aversion to staring yourself down isn’t self loathing at all? I think it’s something entirely different which I leave for you to ponder as to say anymore here would be unethical (contrary to rumour I am still a doctor).

    I will say this, I think this would work a whole lot better if we were sitting in a cafe in Paris…

  19. I used to loathe myself until I realized that was just one asshole’s opionion.

  20. All you have to do is wear a wig and sunglasses and you’ll be instantly unrecognizable, not to mention incredibly sexy. Once you do, you may even find your voice changes. I won’t wore a Ginger-from-Gilligan’s Island-do and suddenly sounded like I was from the deep south. You can blame the transformation on your alter ego. It’ll certainly eliminate your self loathing and it should, ’cause this is how America works, boost your readership. After all, we idolize the unpredictable.

  21. I just did a Skype interview, and what I liked about it is that I could CONTROL everything–the background, the lighting, how close I was to the camera. Still, I haven’t seen it yet, so I’ll have to get back to you on the self-loathing.

  22. Hand raised.

  23. Self-loathing… well, let’s see…

    We’re overgrown apes with a psychotic propensity for slaughter and mayhem, frightened egomaniacs who believe we’re at the center of creation, assemblages of slowly rotting meat and bone surrounding tubes of shit, and no few of us believe we’ve been created in the image of God.

    What’s not to loathe about all that?

    So, given that we are all loathsome–we all smell bad in the mornings, fart in elevators, and lie under oath, among our many, many other faults–why do anything other than give a hearty “fuck you!” to the self-loathing voice that echoes around in our heads? We’re all the same, damned from the get-go, damned for all time. I’ll drink to that and forgive, any and every day of the week.

    • Yeah, what he said…

    • Do people say things because they think they’re true, or because they want to, feel the need to, believe them? Very well said, Tetman.

    • we are the dark.

    • Well, what the hey. If it’s all that bad why not do the right thing and take a big step off the western ridge of the Grand Canyon. I understand it is most grand around 3 p.m. That’s when the light is just right and the rock formations glow a warm pink. You can fart all the way to the bottom or maybe shit your way, which may be more accurate.

  24. In 6th grade, you knew who the bullies were. Nowadays, they show up as anonymous.

    Why am I posting as Anonymous? Because you bullies still make my heart beat to fast and scare me. Does being this way make you feel better?

  25. When you’re a woman past maybe 40 or so, in the background of every public thing you do is this relentless voice chanting, “I’m so old, I’m so ugly, I’m so fat” (a voice Virginia Woolf frequently recorded in her diary, in fact). And yet we are not so old, so ugly, or so fat when we’re disembodied — when we speak, when we write and even when we’re with people who know us and so see us as we truly are (which includes our children, except between the ages of 15-25). In the end, I’ve come to believe that It’s not so much self-loathing I feel when I don’t want my picture taken, but the loathing an entire culture seems to feel for me as I age that I’ve somehow internalized from daily interactions in which I’m ignored or ma’am’d by people younger than I am or I notice when I read People magazine at the hair cutter that there seems to have been a selective epidemic of some fatal disease that’s killed every woman over about 40, except Jennifer Aniston. Even knowing this, though, it’s a crappy every day experience that chips away at whatever good feelings you have about yourself. And some days, fighting it off is just exhausting. Which is just to say that I know what you’re talking about.

    • Word.

      And for a similar take, see my buddy Lyra’s piece here.

      http://lyricalmeanderings.wordpress.com/2011/07/05/aging-gracefully-ahem/#comments

    • Great piece. It’s so good to know that there are so many people mulling this over, fighting it off, figuring out where it comes from, and trying to make sure it doesn’t infect our children. Thanks for the link.

      • Your music is not to be trusted, August. That Tricky song you posted had me giving lap dances in the living room. I think I may have sprained a hip.

      • As much as I love to give you shit, August, and I don’t even know who you are, thank god, that would ruin it, I think you hit a nail on the head here. My question, of course, do Mockingbirds still exist? Haven’t we killed them all by now? And if we did, I could be wrong, of course, why? What’s my point? I don’t know! I can’t explain it!

      • O.K. I thought a little, god-forbid, did the novel To Kill a Mockingbird come first or the Christmas song that mentions the Mockingbird? I’m going with the Christmas song but now-a-days no one knows, Everyone is so open, willing, to change history. Do you know? Not that it really matters as the Mockingbird is the main focus. It’s July, you know.

  26. Number one, as far as can tell. But apparently, there have been others before me. I sometimes have a hard time believing that, now that everybody is all normal and stuff, but there is still a window-blind letting of light that seduces me to consider I’m not the only one, And that, apparently, I am not alone. Now how’s that for an image? Genius! Boy oh boy, am I a writer or what!?

  27. Not a Christmas song–lullaby.

  28. I wrote a long response to this and then when I re-read it, I loathed myself even MORE than usual, so I had to delete it. So, yeah. What was the question again? Self-loathing, I haz it. Sure.

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