I I haven’t touched a tennis racket for nearly 20 years when I decided last month to join the adult clinic on local courts. I thought hitting the ball might help release the tension that kept me up in the middle of the night and might lose me just as my kids snapped at camp, after which they come home and sleep hard. Tennis players range from college graduates to the age of 70. Some days 12 people attend, and we play games; Others, just two, and we’re doing exercises. I used to play as a kid, and I was terrible at the time—competitive and erratic, a killer combination that had me cursing a blue streak, throwing my racquet with abandon, and clenching my teeth with a vise fist for hours after losing the match. Now, as then, I am terrible. However, I have also found that I am very happy with being horrible.
who did! Here’s my arm sailing over the fence. and how! There is this transmission, which might be there, if only my opponent was in the adjoining court. The professionals smile softly as we shoot balls back and forth, as if we were playing on the moon. Some of us are better than others, but we all live comfortably in the “very modest” range, and nobody cares, especially not me. Compliments hum freely, and nice attempts She is fixed.
We are scheduled during lunch, when the summer sun burns the stadiums and clears them of any serious spectators or athletes, who are all at home snowing their elbows, resting their rackets, whitewashing, polishing marble busts of Federer, or whatever they’re doing out of game time. Some days our preschoolers play alongside us, with their counselors teaching them the basics of hand-eye coordination by throwing balls in the air so they can run and fetch. They care, panting like little puppies running down a bumper bowling alley, and next to them, we do the same, generational desecration of the sport. It’s a picture straight out of John McEnroe’s worst feverish dream.
However, I am back. One reason is that he is always sociable, after many years of enforced isolation, panic and bleak solo runs. The little chats we have with each other when we switch sides, stop on the water, or cheer each other on are inseparable from the tenuous bonds so many psychiatrists have been screaming on the rooftops of we’ve lost in the past few years, and so critical to our well-being.
Another is that, even though I know I’ll suck it up, the stakes are so low that I can really count on sucking — something that can be a stress reliever and excessive anxiety (read: nearly everyone and Or 87% if you need a number, at least according to the latest Stress in America™ survey from the American Psychological Association, published in March). It is a corrective that others have recognized and promoted for years, something that seems especially relevant now, as we rush into another uncertain downfall, with the world on fire, and the future so bleak that people are said to have Stop reading the news Totally, unable to afford another tragic title. Low-risk endeavors and mid-level adoption can be a good tool in our self-help group.
Karen Rinaldi wrote about her horrific skating in Viral Editorial She later expanded on the book (It’s Cool) To Suck One Thing, “I experience another: patience and humility, sure, but also Freedom. Freedom to pursue doodling. And the freedom to breastfeed without care is obvious.” In the book’s introduction, she urges us to consider the importance of “celebrating the life-making art of doing something seemingly irrelevant, especially when the rest of your life is being pushed toward someone resounding, overwhelming, comprehensive and relevant.”
I suck a lot now. I’m fun to not watch five episodes of The Bear and fall asleep on time. I’m annoying when I put my three-year-old to bed, which means almost every night ends with me thundering on a baby-sized pink chair as commands bark at me. I’m annoying for not eating handfuls of goldfish when I forgot lunch. And in each of these moments, however subtle, the stakes seem legitimate: that my emotional reserves would dry up and fade with every hour of sleep; that I failed to be an authority figure for my children, with whatever repercussions might occur down the road; That my body would one day be in decline, no longer able to mine Pepperidge Farm’s enriched wheat flour for the much-needed folic acid. By and large, I’m afraid what sucks is being an adult.
In tennis, if you’re bad, it doesn’t really matter.
This week, coinciding with a break in our work schedules, my husband asked me if I wanted to spank. He’s well, well actually, having competed seriously in high school, but we haven’t played together in years, after a terrible game shortly after college. My competitive streak was still smoldering at the time, and after asking him to play to win and then crush me, I vowed we’d never go back to court without a couples counselor as referee. With my newfound love for mediocrity, I thought we could give it a whirl. Aside from the fact that he kept yelling “Twin fingers!” Every time I didn’t adapt to the ball fast enough, some weird hanging phrase he learned when he was training years ago, we had a blast, just playing to get points at the end. We left the field tied up, and yes, it felt so good to keep these winners away from him, even if I knew, deep in my bones, that he was manipulating me.
And so, on hot summer days, before that nostalgic window closes and we find ourselves again in our daily grind, with our pencils and our eyes on that great amorphous significance, I urge you to join me in court metaphor. Who do you know? You may also be terrible, or at least mediocre. Here is Hoppen.