If reading the title above makes you think of architects or the homeless, I completely understand. But if the first thing that actually comes to mind is the card game, I love you.
To be completely honest, Contract Bridge isn’t really a card game. It’s a mind game. Most of us who play are at least slightly crazy and totally obsessed. As someone once said, “I think we’re all a little masochistic. Otherwise, why would we continue to play bridge?”
Part of the appeal of Bridge is the strategy involved when you’re playing with a partner; one who often expects you to read their mind. You can easily learn the basics of the game in two to three lessons, but becoming a good player can take a lifetime.
Bridge is not a game for the meek or faint of heart. Nor should you ever play with your spouse as your partner. It doesn’t work. Oh, sure, it might work for the two hours you’re in the game, but the feedback you’ll get on the way home and the residual reminders about how you blew the last hand just aren’t worth it.
The perils of playing with your husband or wife are perfectly illustrated in Gary Pomerantz’s page-turner “The Devil’s Tickets” – based on the true story of a bridge-loving Kansas couple in 1929.
Bridge also has a language all its own. If you’re playing in a tournament, silence is golden and talking is prohibited. But any other time, you’ll hear a litany of phrases that sound like some sort of verbal shorthand or outright gibberish:
“Are you kidding me?”
“Are we in hearts or No Trump?”
“Am I on the board or in my hand?”
Of course, these are the mildest of the bunch and have also been sanitized for your protection.
But the true appeal of Bridge for me (and many others) is the “clubiness” and sense of belonging it provides. I play once a week with a wonderful group of women of all ages who have also become great friends. We play for two hours after work and then discuss the game – and everything else in our world – over drinks and a light dinner.
I’m lucky that my Bridge People are not as serious as others and the main ingredient to a successful evening is laughing out loud to soothe the bad plays. Over the years, these women have become more to me than just Bridge partners; they’re also my support group, my confidants and my friends.
If you want to start Bridge lessons with a group of your friends, there are fabulous teachers who will come right to your home if you have 8-12 people. This form of learning is a bit more expensive, but you do receive more individual attention. Other great resources for finding instructors include The American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) and their Easy Bridge program.
Warning: Bridge is addictive so you should start with small doses and play with caution – but are likely to enjoy every minute.
Even if I haven’t convinced you to start playing this game, I hope I’ve persuaded you to join some club or group or team. The social interaction is good for your soul and the emotional benefits can last a lifetime.
Who’s in your tribe? How do you relax or blow off steam? Health club? Church group? Something else? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the Comments section.