• 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 Can’t Remember If I Cried

Well, here we are again, a season in hell. Thanksgiving through New Years. If I had my druthers (druthers? who the fuck am I?),  I’d be on a valium drip at a twenty-plex. I know it’s a cliche to hate the holidays, but I really hate them. All that enforced gaiety. All those carbs. All the guilt over what you do or don’t do, give or don’t give. The happy families in holiday sweaters or sailing on a brighter horizon: merry xmas from the Knopfs! The Jew on Christmas. The crescendo of family failings. The wrong gift. Please write. The new year is upon us. It doesn’t mean a thing. Just write. Every fucking day. Finish the fucker.

71 Responses

  1. I swear, you give the absolute best commands. Just write I shall.

  2. FTF. Head down and onward. The holidays to me just mean more time with noise canceling headphones.

  3. i’ve decided to avoid most holiday matters by taking refuge in south carolina for the week after christmas. you can hideout with us if you want.

    (i should warn you there will be a 3-year old in tow; but, no guilt, no awkward conversations with family you try not to make eye contact with, and no gifts bought at Rite-Aid on the drive there.)

  4. Great. If it wasn’t stressful enough, now you’ve given me more guilt to contend with.

  5. Just double your dosage of Phukemol and you’ll be grinning till Groundhog Day.

  6. As a long time avoider (“procrastinator” implies that you’ll eventually get around to doing whatever, but what if you never do?), my issue is in the starting/em>. If I start the fucker, and keep starting, eventually the finishing will take care of itself. In order to avail myself of Betsy’s gold-nugget advice, I will take FTF to mean STF in my case.

    I almost included a little story here about working the holidays at the Naked i in Boston’s Combat Zone, and the sad, sorry fellows who made up my clientele, but then decided to delete it, and use it for my memoir instead. See? I’ve started the fucker—again.

    • Crap. I hate when I screw up the HTML. Sorry. That’s a redo:

      As a long time avoider (“procrastinator” implies that you’ll eventually get around to doing whatever, but what if you never do?), my issue is in the starting/em>. If I start the fucker, and keep starting, eventually the finishing will take care of itself. In order to avail myself of Betsy’s gold-nugget advice, I will take FTF to mean STF in my case.

      I almost included a little story here about working the holidays at the Naked i in Boston’s Combat Zone, and the sad, sorry fellows who made up my clientele, but then decided to delete it, and use it for my memoir instead. See? I’ve started the fucker—again.

      [crosses fingers and hits Post Comment]

      • Hopeless.

      • it’s okay.

        (but if you do it again, you have to include the Naked in Boston’s Combat Zone story)

      • @amyg: it might have looked like I made a typo re the name of the club, but it wasn’t. The club where I worked was in a red-light district called the Combat Zone. The name of the club was “The Naked i” (eye).

        When I FTF, I’ll be honored if you would read it.

      • I had a friend in high school who bludgeoned a combat girl to death (not when he was in high school–I think he was teaching at Tufts). Somebody wrote a book about it. They made a Lifetime movie, starring Richard Crenna. He was such a nice gentle boy when I knew him.

      • There but for the grace of Vishnu go I.

      • @Bonnie Shimko: I just researched that movie you mentioned. Thank you so much for mentioning it—it’s pure gold! Not so much for any background info, but for reminding me of a whole other angle to that life. And I’ll retract my previous comment; I never would have been killed for bilking a guy. I was never a gold-digger, though I often wished I were.

  7. I will, and I do, and love.

    And we are all in pretty bad shape today, no?

  8. I love your blog post titles so much.

  9. If I may suggest, I decided to skew the start of the feigned holiday happiness by posting on my FB page some Alternative Reasons to be Thankful: for the person who abandoned the sweet little dog who is now my Bijoux; for the celebrities with such dysfunctional lives that my own failings seem kinda manageable… well, you get the idea. The post got a decent response and some other, interesting Reasons from my friends/followers.

    I’m also a big fan of observing Advent. Candles, music, (and in my house), a community service project and reading all sorts of lovely, positive stories, poems and articles to keep the superfluous “celebrating” from making me crazy. After all, I have to pace myself — the holiday season around here ends at Mardi Gras!

    • Another Advent advocate here. Do you get advent calenders in the states? I don’t remember seeing them. A chocolate a day until the 25th, and everyone gets their own so no squabbles. My mum made us a calender herself so some days have novelty erasers, which my brother and I would accidentally chew on at first. Mmm, rubber.

      Also playing about with the nativity set (in school there once was the grave notice at assembly: someone has stolen the baby Jesus. Does anyone want to come forward?) And once I worked in a Christmas shop – try that for soul destroying – and a woman decapitated Joseph and a shepard, woops.

      • Let’s see: there is the one made of fabric with small felt toys in embroidered, numbered pockets. The toys have a little velcro tag to get them affixed to a fabric tree and several made of stiff paper with little doors that open to reveal either an illustration or a clue (for a holiday game). Luckily, I stored all these items at the top of the hall closet and didn’t lose them in the ‘Katrina flood!

        When my son was small, we also observed St. Nicholas Day (6 Dec) – that ritual involved leaving a shoe outside one’s door the previous night and in the morning, finding it filled with candy. Due to the questionable conditions of my child’s tennis shoes, we always used the “Sunday shoes”.

        My favorite Nativity set was the one the children made at a Church I once attended. Allowed to create an entire village to embellish the small epicenter of stable and “the usual characters”, this Creche included clay dinosaurs, some princess dolls and several outer space aliens. It was not unusual for a toddler to wander over and play with the figurines during Mass. A highly unorthodox congregation that I dearly enjoyed – despite all the other issues plaguing the RC community.

        Thanks for filling my head with some happy memories this morning!

  10. Betsy, your Jet Blue ad reminds me every evening of my flight next month to Florida on Jet Blue. I’m actually looking forward to it this year, knock wood, my folks and I will get along. I hate the holidays too, especially Thanksgiving, but I love the food…no Jewish guilt over that. All the cousins will be playing Bingo, which I think I’ll skip. I feel like brooding. Thanks for the reminder to finish the fucker, that’s really all we can do. But I’ve got a long way to go. It’s tentatively titled Jewish American Prince and is a comedy so far. Hopefully, my current novel will have sold by the time I finish it, so I won’t have to query again and enter query contests like yours. I enjoyed that, but still like Tetman’s the best. I like cats who read…my parents’ late cat took one look at my current manuscript and gave me a big meow a few years ago, patting the manuscript with his paw. He actually said, “Wow!” – I swear. That was all the encouragement I needed back then and it took me this far. I’m gonna TRY to enjoy the holidays, hope you will too.

    • There’s been a mistake on my link every time I post here, but I fixed it, I think. Perhaps it’s a better idea to remain anonymous, but you never know when that perfect person will click.

      • Gosh, Kyler, you’re such a romantic, even about blogging.

        BTW, your link is still messed up; you have a comma instead of a dot between the “www” and “kylerjames.”

      • Yeah, always a romantic at heart (but a realist in my mind). The link was fixed just above, thanks.

  11. I have finished the fucker. Three times. I think the fourth will do it. I hope the fourth will do it. Fucking plot.

    But on a brighter note, after spending the day fixing tires and going to parent/teacher conferences on the lunch hour, I put my foot down regarding the last minute chore: finding a person who will feed the chickens in our absence (and, btw, how fucked up is it to have to pay someone to feed your chickens so you can travel 150 miles to eat turkey?)

    I’m bringing my laptop to the Big Chill-type fest we’re invited to and I’m bringing my own booze so I can sequester myself in a room with my edits as soon as the cheese and crackers dry up, thereby avoiding entirely the: “So, what’s happening with your book?” questions.

  12. We don’t do Thanksgiving over here and I’m not keen on massive sit-down meals. All I know is that I prepared bottles and bottles of cherry vodka with our fruit this spring so that is what everyone will be receiving for Christmas, even the five year olds.

    • That will certainly encourage naps on Christmas day.

    • Every time I click to your site, I really love, but it also become really intimidated, so I click away. I guess I’m out of your league? Somehow, someway? It’s a little overwhelming, yet beautiful. I guess I’ll keep trying.

  13. I hate the holidays also. I always said I would like to go to sleep wed before Thanksgiving and wake up after Valentine Day. I remember lugging 4 kids around to three family celebrations, all the driving, the 2 diaper bags. Being exhausted because I was the only one who shopped. But my Mom died this past October, and she loved having the “babies” over at the holidays. The last couple of years she was not in good health and her holidays were spent in a rehab or nursing home. I remember how her eyes lit up when a church group came in and sang carols and handed out candy and cookies to the residents. She really missed seeing her grandchildren. I didn’t know how much till that minute.

    • I also remember my mother Lugging us kids around. She didn’t like it much. Us fucking kids. I’m not sure how to punish you for your heart, for your sentiment. Maybe you shouldn’t be. Life will do it no doubt. I’m guessing your mother was also lazy, or confused, or bamboozled. Whatever it was, If I were you, I wouldn’t neglect your children over it. You better motherfucking believe it.

  14. I know how you feel, Betsy. But I’ll paint on a smile, put on my Christmas tree earrings and get on with it. I don’t like New Year either. It just makes me so sad.

  15. Ah the holidays, shrink season I like to say. Not surprisingly it’s the busiest time of year in psychiatry with Boxing day traditionally being the worst. It’s cold and dark. Everyone’s off their meds, upped their meds, drinking with their meds, taking meds they found in someone’s bathroom cupboard and either suicidal or homicidal from spending time with loved ones. I opted out years ago and there’s no going back for me.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Life’s too short to be miserable simply because it’s tradition and guilt is a choice.

    • “Guilt is a choice.”
      I may get this engraved on my forehead. Now to figure out how to internalize it ammongst the rest of the noise.

    • We don’t do the big family holidays anymore, staying safely in Georgia while everyone else is in Indiana and Illinois. The Smokey Mountains make a great natural barrier. I’m glad I can say this comes with the doctor’s recommendation.

  16. My mom loved the word druthers, almost as much as she loved Thanksgiving. She opened her doors to anyone who needed a place to be. There were no cloth napkins, no matching plates, not even a table to sit at. But everyone had a seat and the food was delish. One day I hope I can be like her. I’ll never cook like her but maybe I can be as kind.

  17. Is it bad that I’m laughing out loud? I’m starting to feel the guilt seep in. Great, you grinch; I cackle.

    Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends south of the border!

    (Yeah, yeah whatever)

  18. I used to teach, and the Season was always a welcome respite. I still find it time to relax. I guess it’s all when you light the candle.

  19. FTF! I am truly blessed this holiday season with an ocean and thousands of miles of land between me and the relatives. I will decorate like Martha Stewart, laugh until I snort like a pig and probably (yeah right, probably) eat too much. Because I will always be that little girl sitting in a dark church on Christmas Eve full of sorrow and hope, waiting for the magic.

  20. You are the best.

  21. I’ll be Mary Sunshine here and say that I love the holidays with all my heathen heart. Thanksgiving especially, because I get to spend the day in the kitchen with my two best friends. It’s one day a year to feel safe, nourished, generous and–fuck it, I’ll go Hallmark on your asses–grateful.

    (Mainly grateful that my mom is still here to make the gravy. My sister and I made it the year my dad was in the hospital; we could have spackled a wall with that sludge.)

    And afterward, I’ve got four days off to write, with my magic FTF bracelet to remind me of all the friends you’ve brought into my life, and all the words we’ve written that would still be locked away if not for you.

    Thank you, Betsy.

  22. I will now have “If I had my druthers” by John Denver in my head for the entire long weekend. Yes, I’m bringing the rest of you with me.

  23. I’ve been lowering expectations. I feel like a shit, but there’s only so much to go around. Pick one. Hanukkah or Christmas? Eight days of practical gifts or the ten minute orgy. Latkes or Santa cookies.

    We’ll end up doing it all, half-assed and last minute. But at least I’ll be finishing the fucker. It’s the gift I’m giving myself.

  24. The feedback is consistent. “From this point forward, your manuscript rocks; the first act drags though.” I find this overwhelming after 2 years of edits. However, last night I had a dream on how to fix it. And for that, I’m thankful.

  25. Oh I remember. I definitely cried.

  26. I like the holidays — on the day that they fall. But why do they have to start in October? Every year the commercialism gets earlier and earlier. It’s beginning to feel a lot like the primaries.

    • And while I’m on the subject, what is this obsession everyone–editors in particular–seems to have with cupcakes? Give me Don Julio any day.

  27. Betsy, you need a Festivus pole.

    I’ll send you one.

  28. It’s time for the holiday trifecta. I’m still getting over the 10 days of Halloween, and the Xmas decorations seem to appear the minute the pumpkin showed any blemish.

    My solution is to do holidays only with people I like — we’ve long since given up on those awkward family dinners, where the only topic of conversation was frequent flyer miles and itineraries.

    As for New Years, it’s a good night to stay home while the tourists go out and kill themselves trying to have a good time.

  29. Happy Thanksgiving

  30. God, I hate the cliches, and the word cliche, don’t you. I hate it that people feel they must apologize if they think they are using one. Where in hell did that word come from? Oh, that’s right, some French fucker got tired of seeing the same thing over and over again and so demanded that People stop offending his aesthetic sensibilities (the French section.) God, I hate that. I hate the holidays too. For all the reasons you mentioned, but moreover (now THats a college conjunction,) because everyone goes along with it and then turns around and tries to guilt trip everyone around them into feeling the same way. It takes a tribe, apparently. Betsy, trust me, it’ll all be over soon. January will come around and everyone will forget about all this forced good-will. Things will be back to normal and we all will be able to breathe a breath of fresh air, like a draftee with flat-feet, Santa with a busted-down reindeer, A cat with a clean patch of dirt, the sun without a cloud, you name it. But I must be honest with you, sometimes, it’s good to stop writing till tomorrow. Then finish it, in one fell-stroke.

  31. And sometimes you just can’t, like a dam that’s overfull, the controlled flow just can’t handle all the trickling: What in the hell is guilt, and where did that come from? It’s one thing to say it, I’ve found, it’s another to esplain, baby, esplain (I can use that crude sense of humor because my ex-wife solemente hable espanol. It was doomed from the beginning. Her brother was the translator. How are you gonna get the true story? I ask you?

  32. And further more, Happy happiness to Betsy Lerner, my god, she ain’t bad: http://youtu.be/SdF056ZfGM4

  33. […] sarcastic stalkers are pretty fucking useful. For example, I am ready to sit at my desk and, as you say, finish the fucker. I thought I was a real writer because I had an MFA and could string together […]

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