Thursday, July 9, 2009

Midlife Morticia

Sometimes I think the term “social tennis” is a misnomer. It implies that the players are either not out for blood (which is often blatantly false) or that we spend a lot of time chatting (which most of my tennis mates would like to do, but I shame them into silent play).

Aside from quick water breaks, our only real chat time takes place during the mini-tennis warm-up, when everyone is at the service line hitting gently back and forth. We’re close enough to hear each other talk, and it’s easy enough that no one has to think too hard about the ball. It’s during these little intervals, five or ten minutes once or twice a week, that we all have come to know each other.

The last time I played with Ann, we spent the warm-up complaining about hair color. We’d both just gotten our hair “done:” I felt too dark, she felt too bright. Then, somehow, the conversation moved quickly from hair color choices to mid-life crises and Ann wondered how exactly a respectable woman of a certain age was supposed to shake things up a bit. We agreed neither of us was about to buy a Harley. Or get a belly button ring. Or run off with Sully or Slash. I was totally shocked when goldilocked Ann, with her concomitant sense of fun, said she wanted to dye her hair brown. “Like yours,” she said.

She went on, “I’ve been like this for close to fifty years. I’m thinking it’s time for a change.”

“You do not want to do that. You belong blonde,” I called out across the net, and it’s true. She’s whimsical and fanciful and has a knack for making everyone around her feel good all the time.

“But I want to be serious and intense.” I don’t know if she used those exact words but she said something to that effect and I could feel the shudder reverberate through my entire body.

I tried to imagine how her original thought process might have gone down. "I’ve spent half a century being playful and light, and now I want to be like Jessica." I always thought a mid-life crisis would inspire some action to make a person feel young and exuberant. But maybe not. Maybe it’s just a matter of wanting to feel different.

I would love to be a different me sometimes, although probably not a blonde me. But perhaps a me who showed up on the tennis court mellow and easy and feeling like I had all the time in the world.

Similarly, I don’t think Ann needs to do anything as radical as going brunette if she is hell bent on moving from fun-seeker to fun-sucker. I myself find that simply an evening listening to The Smiths, or even spending too much time with teenagers, seems to be all it takes.

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