• 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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And So Become Yourself

I spoke to graduate students at Columbia today. The usual. How to find an agent, how to put a proposal together, how to turn your dissertation into a trade book. How to write a query letter. To attach or not to attach pages.  Make multiple submissions or not. All the important talmudic questions in the great book of publishing life. Walking through the campus, I gave a nod to the staircase that leads to Dodge Hall, home of the writing divisions. I still remember my first day of school, intimidated beyond belief, attempting to look cool and like I knew where I was going, when I tripped and was splayed out on those steps. Before I could even tell if I was hurt, I popped back up and hoped no one had been looking. The fall caught up with me later, or it foreshadowed greater collapse to come. But I always remember that fall, the symbolic freight it imported on a young woman thrilled out of her mind to be attending an MFA program, to starting her life after a disastrous undergraduate careerl

Now, twenty seven years later, me in a suit, me in knock off Prada’s, me with hubs and daughter, me with a fuck wad of information about how to get published, me climbing the stairs and handling it. Me telling the young man in the back, that he should throw himself into his writing when he asked what was more important: putting all your energy into writing what you believe in or expanding your platform through social media. I don’t think I said follow your dream, but I meant it.

Who were you then and who are you now?

57 Responses

  1. Back then I was a slug who didn’t know what I wanted or how to get it; Now I’m a force to be reckoned with, focused and self confident. But sometimes vicey versa.

  2. I was an Irish Catholic girl raised to breed. When Mother Nature said no in the unkindest of terms, I became a mental case. Now I am me.

  3. Was: The daydreaming Deadhead who told a complimentary writing teacher that I wasn’t ready for any of it, and thus was switching to science.

    Am: Still squeamish about the everythingness of it all, but less dreadlocked, more ambitious and capable of the occasional outrageous act.

  4. Then? An ignorant, limited hick unaware of how close his horizons were.

    Now? Not so ignorant, not so limited, more aware of the vastness beyond what he knows, but still pretty much a hick.

  5. I am and always will be Thursday’s Child.

  6. Then: Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll
    Now: Pinterest.

    • I have to ask, does Pinterest satisfy?

      • Painted cakes do not satisfy. But Pinterest…
        It is a feast for the eyes, and a joy to discover, organize and share a unique blend of images and thoughts that express your personal fantasies and reflect your taste, humor, and philosophy. Pinterest is beyond satisfying: it’s addictive. Try it and let me know what you think.

  7. oh fuck, i don’t know. and if i did, i’d be fucking wrong because i’m an unreliable narrator.

  8. Great post. I was so awkward. Prissy. Now I’ve turned prissy into hippie and done everything the wrong way around. Though the dream hasn’t changed shape. It’s the longest love affair of my life.

    This whole platform business, it’s silly.

  9. I was a total idiot, now a partial idiot. I love this post.

  10. Back then I was ad-lib. Now I’m premeditated. 12 more years (when my youngest goes off to college, himself) and then I’m hoping to be back to my natural ways. Of course, then I’ll be all about Depends.

  11. I pretty much wanted to be invisible then, but was curious and clueless.

    Now? I can read the water, but not the tea leaves. More curious than ever, with a couple of clues. I am spindrift, and quietly happy.

  12. I didn’t know who I was then and I don’t have much more of a clue now.

    But I think I have a better handle on who I’m not.

  13. Then: Trapped.
    Now: Free.

  14. ‘Way back when’ I was a lonely, miserable Yank in Jo’burg, RSA begging to come home, (they made me stay) and ‘then’ I was given a publishing golden-ticket which I fucked up and ‘now’ I’m looking Willy Wonka in the eye as an equal…almost.

    So Tetman…how long did you have to wait to not be first?

  15. I was timid and afraid to write. I’m still timid and afraid to write, but I’ve been published.

    • Bonnie, being timid and afraid of something and still getting it done is gutsy, tenacious, and amazing. Good for you.

  16. If there is one thing to learn from this post, like it says in the IT GETS BETTER PROJECT for most of us, it does get better.

    Time, maturity and experience educates us and helps to build a thicker skin. After a certain age you learn to not sweat the small shit, the big stink-pile, well, we leave that to our leaders. We all know how well that’s going.

  17. Then: straight and single, Catholic, saving the world, writer wannabe but not writing
    Now: married lesbian, love-hate relationship with God, raising 2 girls who saved my world, writer wannabe not writing enough

  18. Then: Billy Pilgrim.
    Now: Grizzly Adams, only a vegetarian and too stoned to figure out alternate guitar tunings, let alone how to find a wild leek.

  19. Then, a girl who’d never heard of Columbia and thought the most I could ever be was a secretary or factory worker.

    Now, I can see how much more is out there, and some of it might even be within reach.

    • Then: Columbia etc was only for my brothers and even for them only a stepping stone to med and law school. Dominican was for me. But in all fairness to Catholic colleges everywhere, if you met your future husband at a Dominican dance, you both got your names on a plaque that would hang in the hall. Fortunately there was the Haight Ashbury within hitching distance to teach me the words “fuck that” and how to put scarlet begonias in my hair.

      Now: all-over-the-place on every level and loving it.

    • My high school guidance counselor suggested maybe I go to secretarial *school* when I told him I wanted to go to university. To make my point here: I scored in the top 10% in the nation on my college entrance exams. He didn’t help me apply to schools or let me know I was eligible for a scholarship. Forget financial aid. Thank goodness I had a brother-in-law who believed in education and took me under his wing.

  20. Back then I was hiding. Today I am writing about the very things I was hiding from.

  21. Then: a scrawny girl, really a geek if I were being honest, with pearl blue (yes pearl blue) cat eye glasses, paired up with an awful pixie haircut, who used to creep down the school hallways, afraid to look left or right, and grateful to be able to slide into a seat without anyone saying something snide or cruel. I wrote about misery and rejection and somewhere along the way, I lost that diary.

    Now: Many diaries later, still undergoing metamorphosis, but no longer slinking down hallways hoping to not be seen. Now I hold my head up and smile directly to people, and usually before being spoken to. I mentor/train other runners occasionally and I’m not the life of the party but I’m not the wallflower either.

    I do wish my boobs looked like they did when I was eighteen…

    • You do know that those pearl blue cat eye glasses are now part of the newest trend collectable? with the unfortunate tag “vintage eye wear”?
      Gawd – some of those frames are selling for more than $1K. I shudda kept my square-ish 1960s-era frames in the faux-tortoise finish.

    • I had those glasses. I thought they were beautiful. Still in a drawer in this very room I think.

  22. Then I was off to Iowa City to escape everything I knew (NY, half hour upstate) had no idea what I wanted, certainly didn’t write though by a trick of fate someone conned Frank Conroy (director of writers workshop–I didn’t then know) into meeting with me as a favor to my father. He didn’t know I was 17 and had no thoughts about writing. He told me if I ever wanted to be a writer I should avoid English classes (we talked about the strip poker scene in Crying of Lot 49) since I could already analyze a novel. He told me do anything else. Learn how to think.

    Now with way fewer but far more focused braincells I’m still working on that. I’ve learned a lot about how to love and that has given me a lot to write about. I’ve grown into my face. My skin doesn’t quite fit today but that’s an ongoing thing. I love reading this blog and people’s thoughts on it.

  23. Then: Running away from the things that frightened me.

    Now: Running at them.

  24. Gotta love these then-and-now bits.

    Then: I was an active duty Marine when I took my first college classes. The simple act of strolling across campus made me grin.

    Now: I know that I was grinning exactly like an idiot but I’d love to find that certainty again, no matter how deluded.

  25. Then: incredibly stupid, squandered opportunities, made the worst life choices possible.
    Now: Reality smacked me in the face, my then-fiance missed the War with a high lottery number, we married and focus and fun ensued. And it’s not over yet.

  26. “Throw yourself into your writing.” Fuck. Why didn’t I have the good sense to be where I could hear this good advice when I was “then?”

    Instead I was living on Dunkin Donuts and love, going to school and working at Sears.

    Now I’m living on oatmeal, procrastination, excuses and regret. And still I’m not losing weight!

  27. Back then (30 years ago!) I was a girl who had wanted to be a writer, but was told she couldn’t make it as one by a cop father who held the coin when it came to college. So I became a PE/Sports Administration major whose writing skills kept her well-employed, but who still jonesed to have her own voice heard. Now, I’ve defended my thesis (The Learning Curve: How What’s Wrong With Me Made Me Write) and this Saturday I graduate with my M.A. in Writing. I head to Yale on Tuesday as a writer selected to participate in their first-ever Writers’ Conference. Doin’ a Joseph Campbell, my friends, and I highly recommend it!

    • Congratulations on graduation. And as strange as this sounds, I’ll be at the Yale Conference too. I’ll look for you!

      • Thanks! I’ll look for you, too, and it’s not so strange when you think about it…we’re both here, too.

  28. Then: “You have so much potential.”

    Now: Regrets, regrets, regrets.

    • It’s never too late.

      • I know, Wry, thanks. It’s not the whole story, but I thought it summed up one aspect of my life. And if there’s one myth I identify with, it’s the Phoenix.

    • One thing I’ve found, when you’re old and gray, and rockin’ in the chair on the front porch, only one thing makes the chair squeak, regret, and if you happen to be rockin’ on the cats’s tail.

    • Potential doesn’t go away, it’s just waiting for you to tap. Simplistic, yes. Trite, maybe, True, definitely

  29. I was so much older then; I’m younger than that now.

  30. I was 15 and wide-eyed and genuinely happy. I was happy, genuinely happy, until a few years into my abusive marriage. There were good times, but only until I left for good (the last time) did a poster inform me that I was a VICTIM.


    I wrote a book inspired by it.

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