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Mah Jongg: Enjoying a Contemporary Renaissance

Four Bam! Three Crak! Two Dot! Those marvelous sounds. Tiles clacking, women bonding and laughing and, of course, the best sound--Mah Jongg!

Manhattan women are rediscovering what women of the 1950's recognized as a comfortable diversion and respite from life's everyday complexities. Mah Jongg, the cordial game whose clacking tiles brought countless women together around folding tables on porches and formica tables in kitchens, resoundingly clacks once again. It is fun, sociable, and relaxing. With patience and a few lessons, one can master the intricacies of Mah Jongg.

This intriguing game, with its Chinese origin, reached its height in popularity from the 1940's to the 1960's in America, particularly in the New York City area. Women gathered around Formica tables as knowing eyes read Mah Jongg cards, perused tiles, and visualized winning hands while cigarettes perfectly dangled from the players' lips. These women were "calling" and "throwing" tiles like lightning, and the cool sound of those colliding tiles, moving so swiftly on the slippery tabletops, was the music of a generation.

Mah Jongg Fun Facts

But times change, and the stereotypical Mah Jongg player, with her Lucky Strikes, moves aside to allow a more powerful, savvy woman to create new winning hands. Mah Jongg's new wave propels professional, educated, confident, individuals who willingly cast-off Mah Jongg's more traditional "it's-your-mother's-game" image and create a more 21st century "it's-my-game-because-I-call-the-shots" image.

Mah Jongg Mondays with Linda

The Manhattan Mah Jongg Club's "Mah Jongg Mondays" has become "the place" for these strong, successful women to meet and discover the wonderful past-to-present journey the game embraces. Players Gloria Gottlieb, Registered Financial Consultant, American Insurance; and Andrea Schlossberg, head designer, Castle Hill Apparel, love the game's strategies and enjoy Mah Jongg Mondays’ camaraderie. Ms. Schlossberg says, "We discovered the fun and challenge of Mah Jongg. Now, we working women enjoy and look forward to playing and taking that day off to make that happen. ...Linda has started an empire of Mah Jongg ladies, teaching most of them from the start, all interesting, all bright, and all busy people--and all just a tiny bit guilty that they are not running an empire for that moment. However, all are thoroughly enjoying the fact that they are not overachieving for just one day a week; it's like just doing something for us; it just feels good!" Additionally, Candy Spelling brings her Beverly Hills friends each year to play at the Manhattan Mah Jongg Club and Jane Raab, producer of the police show Blue Bloods, on CBS, learns how to play Mah Jongg with her friends and Linda Feinstein. Interestingly, author and former Mah Jongg student, Jeri Sedlar, explores various Mah Jongg perspectives in her blog, Rewire! Your Life.

Mah Jongg Mondays with Linda

Linda says, "I love the idea that I continue the Mah Jongg legacy. Each time my hand holds a tile, and I look at that tile's characters and feel that tile's smooth symmetry, I sense the decades of women that played before me. Helping this game transcend time makes me happy."

 

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