• 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’m Ready For To Fade

Can writing be taught? Can lovemaking be taught? Forget lovemaking. Can you teach someone how to kiss? How to stand on the corner of Eighth Avenue and 44th Street and to all the world appear as if you are not contemplating the curb and its elegant heel. Can you teach someone how to properly sponge around the faucet when you finish the dinner dishes? Can you teach someone to appreciate sleep? To understand the perfect weight of a heavy head meeting a soft pillow, the body forgetting itself, a cotton nightgown swimming up? Can you teach someone to punctuate? Probably. Can you spell hopeless? Can you teach someone to write funny? To cook a perfect hard boiled egg so that the shell comes off in two perfect cracks. Can you teach someone how to cry, softly at first, and then in rivulets like rain down a Texan window. What about cliche? Can you teach it, beat, eat it, fuck it? Can you teach someone how to make something satisfying, to withhold your tongue for as long as possible?

What can be taught?

35 Responses

  1. Riding a bike, cApitAlizAtion, how to make a perfect grilled cheese, stick shift, farting noises from your arm pits, death stare, G spot, putting another damn roll of toilet paper on toilet paper holder when it runs out, shaving your legs, paper snowflakes, pooping, guilt.

  2. Stone skipping. Eye contact when clinking wine glasses (essential).

  3. Handshake, table manners, pressing a flower in an old fat book, waltzing, fellatio, French braid, scales on the piano, whistling into a glass bottle or with a blade of grass.

  4. Nothing. It all has to be learned.

  5. Not me, personally. I taught for 10 years and enough is enough. Now I’m ready to learn. French (again). The tango. How to write a really good letter. Espallier. To cook sauces without a recipe. To get a crow to eat from my hand.

  6. That’s a lot of questions, there, Betsy.

    It takes two to taughter. Anything can be taught, but only if there’s a learner open to learning the taught thing. The most troublesome item on your list is making the perfect hard-boiled egg, but even that can be taught; however, with it, as with so many things, the other part of the equation is, can it be learned? And can it be not only learned, but mastered? And how much practice does mastery take?

    I would be willing to assert that the making of the perfect hard-boiled egg can be taught by many, learned by some, but mastered by only a few.

    As for the rest of the list, I will stop shortly after the start and say that if writing could not be taught, I would still be scrawling block letters in a Big Chief about how Spot’s Jane runs Dick.

  7. Okay…cliché alert:
    Those that can, do, those that can’t, teach.

    A broad statement I do not particularly adhere to.
    It should be – if can do, than you don’t need to be taught, because you already know and because you are so good at what you do, you might decide to teach others because it makes you feel good, it might even make you money, but if you teach them really well they might get better than you and you’ll lose your job, your house, your kids won’t respect you anymore, not that they did anyway, and your wife will leave you for the woman who sits next to her in her weekly AA meeting because they have two things in common, alcohol and that they were married to smart schmucks who were really good at being stupid smart schmucks, say that three times fast, who never paid attention during sex when they said ‘you fuck schmuck’. Did I just really say that?

    Betsy this proves one thing overall, I was never taught to punctuate.

  8. I’m hoping the list is endless and easy, because god knows I still have much to learn.

  9. I dunno. But one can always tease by example.

  10. Were you listening to Michael Tucker on NPR yesterday? According to him, if you like to stand in the spotlight, while everyone about you is in the shadows, watching, you can learn to act. The question remains, however, whether you’ll be any good.

  11. You can’t teach someone to take a hint.

    Those who can, do. Those who can’t, write How To books.

    • Except for Betsy – she most certainly ‘can do’ (better than most) and her ‘how to’ is beyond the best. Maybe that’s because it’s more than ‘how to’, it’s a, this is what you ‘should do’ because this is ‘how it’s done’.
      I still can’t punctuate.

      • And I’m not just blowing smoke up Betsy’s panties. Page 18 changed my writing life, again, made me realize I was off-track, again, and got back my bylines, again. Thanks B.

    • It is so true about hints and holding the tongue. If someone could split my head open they’d find a worn cassette tape hanging on shards of gray matter, gurgling in dying battery tones: don’t you fucking get it? just keep your mouth shut. And still, I sometimes don’t heed it.

  12. How to read.

  13. Sign language can be taught, even to some of the most severely disabled. It’s truly a universal language.

  14. That well read copy of the Art of Making Love, by Gosh, I hope it has illustrations to help me along the way. You can learn to make love better, a worthwhile endeavor. Writing can be taught, but some have more soul than others. Much of this is subjective, but what matters to some means less than a perfectly rolled joint to others (little paper, firm to the touch but not too tight to take a decent drag on; sealed well enough so it doesn’t come apart, embers melting polyester pants). I can peel an apple in a single strand, but no one cares about that but me — they just want the tender flesh before it fades and withers. I can write, but is it good enough? Some lessons have been learned, but others I choose to neglect– do my instincts serve me well?
    I’ve learned one or two things, but like 5 minute mashed potatoes, I’m not done yet.

  15. I suppose you could teach a slobbering, clueless clod a few tricks to improve sexual “performance,” but who would want to do that? When there’s mutual attraction, intuition plays that role.

  16. I wish they would remake The Sound of Music and insert this post in for the “How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria” lyrics. It’s one of those how-do-you-hold-a-moonbean-in-your-hands questions, this what can be taught. Sort of rhetorical, but not.

    Are writers simply frustrated teachers? They’ve given up on hoping the world is a certain way, that people will behave thusly, and instead create a fake world, where people get shot for leaving skid marks of Nutella in the kitchen sink.

    Yes, I’ve had one of those days too, Betsy.

  17. Show, don’t tell. I believe it’s all in the wrist.

  18. Here’s one thing all teaching has failed me in, turning cartwheels. It was fun to think of that. Using a tape gun always fucks me up, no matter how many times someone shows me. What I probably won’t ever learn, the reason why I find myself talking when I shouldn’t be.

  19. Based upon my recent, frustrating, marathon phone sessions with a certain computer manufacturer’s IT department I’m guessing the Art of Wasting Time must be the easiest lesson to teach, followed by math lessons to calculate precisely when to abruptly disconnect the customer from the tech services’ 800 number.

  20. The key to a sublime grilled cheese sandwich? Herbed-garlic boursin cheese spread slathered on each side of rustic wheat or french bread slices then topped with sharp cheddar and provolone cheese. Grill on a George Foreman (better than the Cuisinart). As for the key to writing? It’s in the watching, then the translation. There’s an intuitive sense that can’t be taught. A hole in the heart of human beings everywhere that only writers can see gurgling beneath thick, healthy looking skin.

  21. No one can be taught unless they want to be. If they want to be, I can teach them. I’m patient. I’m good with people.

    This is, once again, not relevant to the topic at hand, but I wrote a book and would like to publish it.

    If you want to or can, help.

    Thank You.

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