One would think, after a certain age, that a woman would not feel intimidated by another woman’s appearance. That if a woman were on a tennis court, and another woman strode up to play, the first woman would welcome her with an open mind and an open heart. That she would not think, “Oh, this woman is blond and has perfectly tanned, perfectly shaped legs, so she must be a witch.”
Ms. Perfect Tan was a good, but not great tennis player. That was somewhat of a relief. But as the clinic wore on I discovered a few other things. Ms. Perfect Tan was totally charming and completely gracious on the court. She was just the right amount of self-effacing and holding-her-own; she didn’t pout and she didn’t gloat.
Point after point, I liked her more and more. If I were a GPS system, I would have been in a constant state of recalculating – reviewing and revising my opinion of her as the game went on. (This often happens in tennis, but usually not in the positive direction.)
Later that week, I was with my regular tennis group and somehow the conversation turned to the anxiety of playing with people you don’t know. I started talking about my recent clinic experience.
“There was a new woman there. Her name was Beverly,” I said.
“Beautiful Beverly?” Cornelia asked.
“Well, yeah, I guess,” I said. “She was beautiful. Who is she?”
“Oh, I don’t really know her,” said Cornelia. “I just played with her once at the club and she was so nice.”
“Yes! That’s her! She is so nice!” Is it lost on anyone that this is considered a real anomaly in women’s tennis?
“She’s a minister,” reported Cornelia. “And she’s really well read.”
(Of course she is.)
Cornelia and I began to describe her to the other women present. We kvelled a bit over what she wore and what precisely made her so likeable. I was particularly taken with the way she’d call out “Stinker!” anytime she missed a shot.
Then one of us – maybe even both of us – bestowed the single nicest sentiment possible about a player you’ve just met, a sentence that perhaps none of us women have said enough since we were seven- or eight-year-olds: “I would definitely play with her again.”