• Bridge Ladies

    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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You Shouldn’t Let Other People Get Their Kicks For You

I was on a panel tonight at The College of Holy Cross. The moderator asked me what I was doing when I was college age and in the few years after.  Fucking up, battling depression, gaining and losing tons of weight, having bad affairs, eating cheeseburgers, smoking Marlboro’s, wearing cowboy boots, going to poetry readings,  sending mental signals to guys I liked in my literature classes, failing typing tests at major publishing houses, frequenting coffee houses and haunting book stores, alienating friends, stock piling Percodan, and writing bad poems. I know, I’m an inspiration.

What were you doing?

61 Responses

  1. the opposite of studying or taking things seriously.

  2. Not to sound sappy but, seriously, your candor is an inspiration.

  3. Wearing doc martins, smoking clove cigarettes, drinking waaaay too much coffee, writing papers all night, shacking up with a dull hunky ponytailed construction guy who clung to me like velcro, drinking a bottle of red wine to myself, living on an illegal houseboat (when I flushed, it shot right out the side of the boat) with a leaky propane tank and a sump-pump, writing angry letters to anyone who piqued me and smoking more clove cigarettes.

  4. I . . . I don’t remember.

  5. Well, you’ve pretty much covered it all for me, too. The cowboy boots are a particularly horrifying scenario I’d like to forget. I’d also have to add that I spent those four years too busy partying to bother learning or truly working at being a writer, something I merely pretended to be at that age.

    I’m flabbergasted, however, that this moderator didn’t read Food and Loathing before he had you come speak. Would have opened the whole night up for some far more interesting questions.

  6. Pretending.

  7. And several of those are quite good, actually.

  8. All of the above except the Marlboros. Did you wear your cowboy boots with cut offs the way I did? With over the knee socks? And a Guns n’ Roses t-shirt?

    Thanks be there were no cell phone cameras in those days.

  9. Everything you were doing minus the constipating cets.

  10. Bartending in fishnets and spandex daisy dukes, having affairs, smoking Marlboro’s, drinking cheap beer and well shots, writing decent papers and horrible fiction, drinking to forget how horrible the fiction really was, having affairs, eating pizza left out all night, and usually stealing a friend’s car late at night to and ending up in a town or two over.

  11. ‘Bout the same. But sub the black leather motorcycle jacket for the boots.

  12. I was a uni drop-out au pairing in Paris, skinny as hell, chasing guys, shoplifting, staring in the metro, huge earrings and torn clothes, a lover as old as my Dad who took care of my education in film, eating tarte au citron, writing crap and refusing to come home. I did not wear cowboy boots.

  13. Trying to escape my alcoholic father, so I got married at 20, had a baby at 21, finished college the hard way at 23, realized on some level he was not an ideal marriage choice, put him through medical school and OB-GYN residency, divorced within ten years of him beginning practice (had another baby) and very soon thereafter met the most wonderful man in the world (honest). All the while struggling as a freelance writer and news reporter. Does it get any more exciting?

  14. I thought I was having the time of my life, until I realized how much the party cost. Student loans are like atomic wedgies. No matter how many times you try to pick them out of your crack, the more set they become.

  15. Learning to drink, smoke funny cigarettes, trip,(psychedelically) protesting the war in Nam, (while writing and sending care packages to friends and cousins over there) falling in love. Going to classes I liked barefoot and braless and skipping classes I didn’t care for. I screwed up spectacularly.

  16. I attended a christian college in the 80s, set in a dry county in Iowa. I was actually anti-everything my parents were, so except for having a baby and putting him up for adoption in high school, i didn’t do anything rebellious. No drinking or smoking for me. Just lots of depression and eating and feeling decades older than i was. After college more of the same in Arizona. I was as boring as shit is smelly. Too much navel-gazing, not enough living. Writing is actually what got me out of my head and into the big wonder of Life.

  17. Medical school. Eating sandwiches while dissecting cadavers. Bored out of my skull. Sitting next to Bif and Skip who golfed and sailed on the weekends. Hiding in a toilet cubicle listening to 2 snotty girls laugh about how I must have blown my way in. If only it were that easy.

  18. trying to unload my virginity, writing decent poetry, being in love with a celibate catholic, writing a novel, clubbing in san francisco, working at a phone sex company, working as a temp, bumming around France, getting a decent job, experimenting with mind-altering substances and regretting said experiments, feeling misused by my family, and generally wallowing around in self-pity which i hoped was actually artistic despair.

    not in that order.

  19. Four days from jungle to classroom…lots of cheap booze….bad marraige that lasted too long…living on that Ho Chi Minh Scholarship…….playing cards….reading…ignoring classes I didn’t like, really digging others..being mostly faceless, nameless, trying to fit quietly, not really wanting to.

    Learned alot. It just took awhile.

  20. Married, working in an office, part-time university, having babies.

  21. A true minister’s daughter, I got a good job as a legal secretary (red IBM Selectric); bought a second-hand Plymouth Valiant, the blue of a robin’s egg; rented an apartment; sewed all my own clothes; got birth control bills; and started fucking any man who wanted me. (Lots did.) I regret none of it.

  22. Never went to high school or college as a kid, so my college age was thirty five and by then I was pretty focused. During the years I should have been going to college I was doing some of the stuff you were doing (subtract anything useful) and bartending to support myself. I dated a lot of rock stars and had a nervous break down by twenty-five.

    • Me too. College in my 30s, grad school in my 40s. I’m glad it worked out that way. Who really wants to learn anything when they’re 19?

  23. Working. Studying. Totally unrealizing that I was laying the foundation for my mid life crisis.

  24. By day, typing on his very typewriter at William H. Frye Esq., an “office” in an old, musty-smelling house. By night, dressing like Madonna. Not sleeping, because I figured I could do that later, when I got old. Hahahaha.

  25. I lived in the Midwest, And still do. I went to college in my thirties, With the blessing of my wife and daughter. It was an adventure, and we loved college life. Although I eventually graduated with a degree in music, one of my highlights in the English class was to have a sonnet I wrote written on the classroom board and critiqued by the class. I’m serious. I enjoyed the recognition and I still write sonnets–most of them humorous. Sorry, but i’ve never been the starving artist in the attic.

  26. I was lost.

  27. Being enamoured of my university: walking on the three beaches, skipping philosophy lectures to hang out with hot chocolate in the 5pm darkness, breaking into the ruined castle. Also: staring at the ceiling above my bed wondering, worrying. Lethargy from bad food. Poetry society. Being enamoured of terrible people. Taking part in the usual dramas. Jumping from the sidelines of life into the fray, then retreating. Barbecues in the rain in november. Tears. All nighters on essays leading to visual distortions and the morning the shakes. Ill advised camping holidays in the cold season. Then, in my 3rd year, love.

    All in all, a good lot.

    • Reading back, this does make me look rather wimpy. I also protested the Iraq war, drank and was merry as well as moody. Life has been more exciting and expansive since.

      • Lord, now I feel old: I participated in a clean-up rally/protest at the first Earth Day and my first real crush was on a neighbor who had fled to Canada to escape the draft. His dad was a minister – which made for some interesting moments when people asked about his son.

  28. Majoring in cute boys, writing for the college paper, writing for national publications starting as a sophomore, skipping class to report stories, fighting with boring, stuffy professors about why they should give me credit for published magazine stories when I was already achieving my writing goals without focusing on Beowulf. Got so fed up with academia’s BS and rules I stuck around long enough to get a BA and never even considered grad school as a result. Formal education felt like a straitjacket.

  29. I was escaping what felt like the shackles of my tiny hometown. The details and results varied.

  30. Working on a medium-sized newspaper as a baby reporter. Alternately inspired and depressed as I looked around at the older reporters right out of one of Damon Runyan’s stories. Wondering if that was my future. And that was what made me jump at the offer to take on a magazine gig as the associate editor of a farm and ranch magazine in Arizona. As if somehow that would be my ticket out of that feared future. I gave it a shot and when that didn’t work out after a year I went back to school with a thought of teaching high school english and journalism. Wasted another year getting certified. Never taught. And so it went. I averaged three years per job for too many years. Then switched careers completely. Now I look in the mirror and one of those Damon Runyan characters winks at me. My own version of an appointment in Samarra.

  31. I lived in a blue room on the second floor. I had not enough food, not enough sex, and not enough time to write. But I had coffee, friends, Midwest thunderstorms, and desire.

  32. Aged out of the foster care system in Missouri. Took a bus to Oklahoma. Scholarship at a Christian college. Drawing, writing, acting in plays. Directing one for which they kicked me out–called me heathen, brazen, white trash girl with no one to go home to. And I was off.

  33. Lyra—I hear ya babe. Instead of fishnets and Daisy Dukes it was tuxedo shorts, tuxedo shirt, hot pink bow tie and cummerbund. Thankfully no pictures exist. Oh yeah, and being aimless—still am.

    • I’m certain there are pictures somewhere Anon, but here’s hoping they never find us.
      Although I do believe a pink bowtie would have brought my whole ensemble together. Did I mention the top was a spandex half top with the club’s logo? Oh yeah, rocking it cheesy-early-nineties style.

  34. By “college age,” I assume you and your interrogator mean the ages of 18 to 22.

    Assuming this is the age-range referenced, I was doing the following: falling deeply into addiction; dropping out of college and having a breakdown; pulling myself back together; detailing cars and delivering auto parts; reading Hemingway and Fitzgerald; falling deeply into addiction again (either did or didn’t get it right the first time); tending bar at a gay disco and a straight rock bar; fucking around like a maddened rabbit; getting my tight white ass back into college.

    If on the other hand “college-age” refers to the years I actually attended college, that is a slightly different and largely less interesting story.

  35. I started college at 15. Thrilled to be in that academic universe, but my age was initially a disadvantage to being included in anything social. I was also on a generous scholarship that mandated a 3.5 minimum GPA which translated into ALOT of studying. But I compensated for it by joining many campus organizations. By senior year, I had my own column for the newspaper (and occasionally doubled as a cartoonist), founded a student chapter of a professional organization, created a part-time job in the design department and was an executive member of the student activities board. It was a way of life that, while not edgy, gave this geeky student a chance to dip my toe into the bigger world.

    Gawd, does it get any more pathetic?

  36. I was saving the god damn world.

    But that didn’t really work out.

  37. Maybe not bi-polar, but certainly bi-something. High over-achiever in journalism classes, noted under-achiever elsewhere. Professors thought I was the best, all the while I was screwing my roommate’s boyfriend. Who does that? Worked full time to put myself through. Drank too much but dressed like a preppy sorority girl, smoked I don’t remember what but they were legal but never touched the other stuff, smelled tear gas bombs from our apartment door but I was studying, not demonstrating. I was a study in contrast. And a mess.

  38. Wrote, sampled hallucigens (chemical, fungus and cactus), found the love of my life for the first time, dropped out, hit the road and received a different kind of education. I also worked in a children’s psychiatric hospital and edited a newspaper, although not at the same time. It was perhaps the beginning of my journey on the way to becoming a responsible rapscallion.

  39. I was playing Four Square and hanging around the arcade IN college. After college, I worked…a lot. My weekly schedule consisted of two, sometimes three jobs and I had one shift, not DAY, but shift off a week.

    I smooched, too. Lots of smoochin’.

  40. The first year, disco dancing to KC & the Sunshine Band at Uncle Nasty’s in Lubbock, Texas. Or, if it was 50 cent beer night, doing the Cotton-Eyed Joe at the Cow Palace.

    You have no idea how much I wish I was kidding.

    Then I turned 18 and got serious. And my dad said no way in hell was I going to major in English, so I switched to accounting. That’s when I started smoking.

    Good times.

  41. Following the Grateful Dead, hitchiking around, living on beaches, and writing bad poetry when I had paper around, hugging trees, crushing on boys, floating on the wind…

    I love your blog. Keepin’ it real is so refreshing.

  42. Thankfully I’ve progressed from frosted hair to frosted flakes.

  43. Trying to find a vein and going down to the Von’s to steal some mayonnaise to go with those great cans of pork the churches used to give to destitute folks. That was a feast. Always, of course, working on my writing, and trying to get a wake-up. You had to have spent thirty bucks for that greasy little Person to show up to get you well so you would steal or beg for another. I’m sorry, that’s not interesting.

  44. Betsy, Betsy, Betsy, you should be ashamed of yourself. I just watched a video of a college professor that I had the luck to endure. He is now selling himself as an artist. It was shameful, to say the least. YOU, are also shameful to say the least, selling art as if it is something more than a trinket that can be bought at any store. You old whore, I honestly hope that you go the way of your least productive clients. A niggardly life gives the seeds it has sown. In short, rot in hell cunt. You deserve it.

    • If you’re trying to show your omnibenevolence, you’re failing miserably. Might I suggest trying another tactic or, at least, changing your name?

    • DAD! What have I told You about drinking and cruising the blogs? I’m still cleaning up the mess You left over at Konrath’s last week, for crying out loud. Now, power down and come finish this game of cribbage. Thank you.

      • I hate to have to tell you this but now seems as good a time as ever. Son, you were adopted. To top it off, you need an intervention. And if that weren’t enough to send you to another planet, hear this. I’m done playing games with you. You cheat.

      • Jeff, it doesn’t matter what name you hide behind, you’re not fooling anyone.

      • This response above was to me, Tetman?This is a tough room!

  45. In second year in college (UCD Dublin), I loved my English course and I had great friends. We’d sit around the campus restaurant and bar and talk art, books and music. But living at home was hell (tension, fights, curfews, no boyfriends allowed etc.). I’d had enough and wanted to give up. I came across the Dean of Women Students, who thought I’d be crazy to bail out two-thirds of the way through my degree. She cajoled and encouraged me to stick it out. I’d sit in her office, and her assistant would make us tea. We’d discuss favourite books and writers, and she’d tell me how great I was and how everything passes. Thanks to her, I survived.
    Miss Meagher, I salute you!

  46. Broke ass chick, living in a trailer, taking care of my baby daughter on my own. Delivering car parts for $2 and hour, scrounging for food, hitchhiking – with my little girl on my hip – to get a loaf of bread, getting in car wrecks, believing liars.

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