My family played cards of all sorts. I played Pinochle and Poker with adults and kids so in college besides playing Canasta, I slid easily into playing bridge. As an Air Force wife at Perrin Air Force base, TX, it suddenly got more serious, and, then, even more so when playing couples bridge in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
On a trip to London, a game was arranged by the hotel. Then, bridge engaged all the senses because “Don’t all Americans play for money?” said the opponents.
The game took on even heavier dimensions at Duplicate Bridge sessions in California when my brother, a Master Player, and I were partners. Every Duplicate player knows several of the 23 or more codes, the signals systems between partners which they must DECLARE at the table. Jack and I as siblings never used a “convention.” With him, we always came in first “shooting from the hip.”
Therefore when in San Miguel, MX., I tried Duplicate. My partner before the session began asked me to name the “conventions” I played. He gave up after asking: Do you play a weak two? etc. During the game, he was so frightening, that I froze when bidding as he growled across the table, “Well, you’re going to have to play a hand sooner than later.”
Duplicate is as different than Party Bridge as the color orange is from white. Party players become good friends, although at the table they do not, as Betsy Lerner, writes in her memoir, “The Bridge Ladies,” we don’t Revel, Pry, or do too much personal sharing.
Her memoir analyzes the ladies who arrive for one of her Mother’s Monday luncheon games who each throw a dollar for the winners. In my awesome group of ladies today, I finally was able to get Louise Stevens, to agree to pony-up twenty-five cents.
Betsy, too, freezes at one of her first bridge games. I loved her for fessing up, but, this can happen to even “seasoned” players. It’s a time when time stands still to a player on the spot who is either leading or making a bid. Confidence wilts away just like their bad bid exposed on the table.
Table talk reports Betsy is okay if its on generic topics such a opinions about vacations, kids, grand kids, but never about anyone who has stumbled or lost their way. Betsy weaves into her story in-depth character sketches of members of her mother’s club who have been playing together for over 50 years. She learns from them away from the bridge table answers to “Was sex okay before marriage” – (Unwritten but okay if engaged) – “Is the world better now than in the 50’s?” (all agree, but it is more dangerous) – food (people have more allergies to food than ever before).
Her books shows the way things were for women in the 40’s and 50’s. Not different when it comes to bridge, although there are fewer who take the time to learn.
Not only is bridge playing one of the most long-term brain exercises, as she writes on page 238, “it’s absorbing, incredibly fun. You don’t need to be anyone’s best friend, teamwork naturally develops between partners.”
Best of all she says, winning a hand at bridge can be as exciting as shooting the rapids or outwitting a fox at the same time. Bridge is delightful. I’m glad Barbara Braff loaned me Betsy’s book.
(Ace of Spade photo by PhotoPin)