35. Sociable Bridge: “You made me pine for my youth . . .”

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That’s how Marcia, a Smith graduate (1981), responded to that Wall Street Journal  article on Leap Day–February 29–about me and ladies bridge lunch. I received quite a few emails expressing nostalgia–memories of bridge or ladies lunch or both that the article awakened.

Most were from women–and a few men–recalling their mom’s bridge club. This one from Marcia, however, is so specific to college dorm life in the 70s, I’m quoting her here at some length.  It was a way of campus life that began disappearing at varied rates of speed as a result of campus turmoil in the 60s.

“I read the article today about you and social bridge in the Wall Street Journal. You made me pine for my youth. I am just 10 days shy of 53. . . . When I was a sophomore at Smith, I learned to play bridge. Our foursome was a freshman from Queens who learned from her parents . . . . and a senior from Chicago who had also learned from her parents.

“My Junior friend [from the Boston area] and I learned from them. We started playing and turned addictive.”

They played for an hour before dinner, an hour after dinner.  Saturdays they started at 4PM after “tea” [a tradition at Smith?] and played until Saturday Night Live came on at 11:30, “Sundays could be a complete studying disaster,” says Marcia.  As a Junior, Marcia and her friend taught two new freshmen to play to replace two who were gone. The five continued playing until she herself graduated.

Marcia explained that her grandmother–“a shark”– had played bridge all her life with three friends.Only once did I venture out and play with my grandmother’s foursome. These women, all in their 80s, heard I was playing bridge and asked me to sit in for my grandmother . . . . What a mistake. They were brutal, they were bold, bidding higher than I ever dared. They didn’t understand how I was bidding (heck, I was just bidding!) and I didn’t understand the conventions they were using–having never learned any.  The 21 year old was a wreck completely annihilated . . . . by the cutthroat seniors!

After college, I went to grad school at Michigan and played occasionally with some other grad students but it wasn’t the same nor as fun as with my Smith College pals.

“It’s been 25 years since I last played bridge. The column in the Journal led me to your blog . . . I do pine for those simple days of playing endless bridge and bringing dessert to the table. I am currently running a large state agency . . . I commute almost 70 miles each way . . . On weekends I run errands, do chores, spend time with significant other . . . . I guess I am making excuses as to why I don’t find a social bridge group–or invent one–to play with again. Perhaps to teach 3 friends how to play the very bad, very immature, very unsophisticated but oh-so-much-fun-bridge of my youth.”

I love Marcia’s description of the kind of bridge these brainy girls played–you can’t get into Smith without being pretty brainy. I want any ACBL marketing people reading this blog to note this phenomenon–one can be oh so smart and career-successful and enjoy playing what you-all would consider kind of sappy bridge!

It’s the “bridge ambience” that is addictive. The ease of a pick-up hand or two played during a break. The simple requirement–a deck of cards in one’s handbag. Each hand a brief adventure. It’s light-hearted! The opposite of rules-ridden and pedantic duplicate. Bridge, no matter the kind you play, just IS addictive.

I contacted Marcia this week in anticipation of writing this blog. She’s still overworked as all boomers seem to be of her age, and no, she’s not had any luck finding 3 people to teach that “very bad, immature, unsophisticated–but oh-so-much-fun-bridge” of her youth.

And she asked–“What is it about Bridge and convincing people to try it?!!? it’s not intimidating to learn at all — just to learn all of the conventions and get really good at — but that’s the same in any game whether chess or golf!”

Exactly my sentiments.  I, of course, blame that on you-all–the ACBL and bridge establishment–scaring off people who ought to take it up just for fun.


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