Thursday, October 29, 2009

Goodbye, Head. Hello, Wilson!

I just got a new racquet. It’s a Wilson K-Factor Zen Team. But more importantly, it’s orange.

I am not a woman of color. Meaning, it’s taken me decades to even try on clothes that weren’t black, white or gray. My mother used to offer to pay me if I’d buy a non-black something-to-wear. But recently, I’ve been stepping out of my own accord.

Moving to the suburbs helped. Once out of New York, I felt the freedom to experiment with a baby blue here, a raspberry there.

One season I became totally smitten with a color the J. Crew catalog called “Lettuce.” They were talking Boston or Bib, not Romaine – a light green that practically screams springtime. I bought a sweater-set (of all things) and then stopped wearing it almost immediately. Every time I put in on, someone would ask me if I was coming down with something. Eventually I just passed it on to a friend and went back to buying nice, safe black.

I’ve been trying out new racquets for three months. My tennis instructors choose demos for me based on my playing. I, on the other hand, tend to make choices based on the racquets’ names.

I didn’t want a Wilson. Bo-ring. I wanted a Babolat. I’d played with a few red ones over the summer and then the Aero Strike since September. I would take the orange Wilson and a yellow Babolat onto the court and switch them out every few games. I didn’t really feel more simpatico with one over the other, but everyone I played with urged me toward the Wilson.

“It’s your color,” they’d say.

“Really? Orange?“

“Oh, yes!”

So, I bought it.

I showed up on the court this week with my new orange Wilson K-Factor Team Zen racquet and matching orange shirt. In fact I matched the racquet almost precisely with my white skirt and black wristwatch. Gina said I looked like Pumpkin Bisque, which I’m 99% sure she meant as a compliment.

In fact, if I had bought myself those badass black tennis shoes that Shelley got last week, you’d barely be able to tell me apart from my racquet at all. But I could never wear black tennis shoes. Here’s the sad truth: I’m just not a good enough player to wear black.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Am I Crazy About Tennis?

I couldn’t wait to get to tennis today.

The game started at 11 and over the next hour and a half we managed to discuss inaccurate body images, various methods of organizing our to-do lists and had a quick recap of our undergarments.

We wondered whether we could manage if we had to play tennis in the well-mannered south.

We childishly distracted Laura the Tennis Pro from her serious team-tennis coaching responsibilities three courts down. Admired the cute tennis ladies on the next court, each of us surreptitiously picking which one we hoped to grow into 25 years from now. And of course I silently chastised myself for being a hothead when players show up late for a game.

We also managed to discuss the gluten intolerance of two of the players, the ADD of those players’ kids as well as one player’s need for caffeine for her own ADD. The curiously – no make that eerily -- high incidence of breast cancer on one of our town’s streets. The mom in town who just passed away this week at age 39. (They said she’d died of cancer. I had thought it was something else.) The beloved elementary school teacher who’s on hiatus this year for cancer treatment.

Then we hauled out all the friend-and-family cancers. My dad’s. Ann’s dad’s. Lynn’s first friend who died of breast cancer in her thirties.

We even played a few good points amidst some outright buffoonery.

I don’t really expect anyone to understand this, but to me, those 90 minutes were like heaven on earth.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Banana Man

I’m feeling really badly for the banana man.

I saw him on the corner as I turned into the supermarket parking lot. He was dressed like a banana, but the costume was cheap. It was not a big, firm Chiquita banana suit. It was more like a flimsy yellow tunic cinched together around the knees and atop his head so he gave the impression of a banana. A Picasso banana, not a Chuck Close.

But it wasn’t the costume that saddened me, it was the way he wore it. He was a big guy, shaped more like an eggplant than a banana. He wore glasses and hadn’t shaved for a few days and he clearly looked unhappy in his fruity role. He held a sign for the local party goods store, but he hung his stem in shame.

You could tell by looking at him that he was not a popular fellow. Perhaps he still lived with his mother. I almost wished he lived alone, so when he returned home at night, he wouldn’t have to recount his day as a banana to anyone. That seemed like it would just kill him.

I wondered whether it was the nature of the job. Whether anyone who had to work as a banana would feel the same way. I don’t think so. I think my husband would be a happy banana. I can think of at least a dozen other men who would as well. I tried to imagine George Bush as a banana. And, of course, Obama. What I’m saying is, if you stick a man in a banana suit, you are not hiding his true identity. You’re illuminating it.

I often get impatient with people like this guy. Sulky and self-pitying. I would normally think, Come on! Be a good banana!

But it was just wrong to put this guy in a banana suit. He’s not cut out for it. Somebody upstairs should have been paying closer attention, given the job to the pink-haired girl with the nose rings. This guy should be filling the helium balloons, maybe erecting the window display.

I mean, really. What does it take to pick the right banana?

Friday, October 9, 2009

You Say Tomato...

Today’s tennis lesson was ostensibly about moving in and taking control of the net. But I think we all took away a little something more.

Laura the Tennis Pro has asked, time and again, that we all wear black on Fridays. No reason, really, except that we all seem to show up in black most of the time and I think she just wants to institutionalize it. Ann and I, good Do-Bees that we are, wore black tops and skirts.

Kelly is new to the group and still needs to extend her black tenniswear. Weeks ago she had no black. Now at least she has a black skirt. But her top was grape colored today. And Lorna – subbing for Eileen – had a top that was raspberry.

Ann immediately pointed out the discrepancy. “They’re dressed like sherbet,” she said, in part because they did look like refreshingly flavored ices, but also, I believe, because Ann’s new diet has not permitted her to eat anything besides fruits and vegetables since Sunday and I think, deep down, she delighted at the idea of turning her competitors into frosty foodstuffs.

I could just imagine her saying, “Take that you freaky ice pop!” before slamming one down the line.

How it was that we began to debate the spelling of “sherbet” is a little less clear.

It is definitely one of those words that I see in my mind’s eye whenever I say it aloud. I pronounce it “sher-bert,” but I envision it with only one “r."

“You’re thinking of ‘sorbet,’” Ann said as the group vacillated about the existence of the second “r.”

“No, no. Sorbet is a whole different thing,” I said. I was certain that sherbet was spelled with one “r” but pronounced with two.

Lorna has an English accent and that made things more complicated. "In England it is very definitely spelled with one 'r.' We pronounce it “shuh-buht.” I don’t know, that still sounds like two “r’s” to me.

I agreed to take on the daunting task of research and dissemination – committed as we are to being a well-spoken tennis group. But my findings are not very enlightening.

"Sherbet" is the preferred spelling. And “sher-bet” is the preferred pronunciation. If you insist on saying “sher-bert,” then you must spell it “sherbert,” which is considered an American variation of “sherbet” and, just for the record, red-lined by my spell-check program every time I write it.

That's all there is to it. I admit, I’m left feeling a little confused and unsatisfied – a place I often find myself when my old, tired brain is trying to grok something new. I don’t think I will ever bring myself to say “sher-bet.” Luckily, I prefer sorbet.

Monday, October 5, 2009

What Not To Wear

I have to confess, whenever I go to the pet store to get crickets for that infernal gecko of mine, I linger just a little longer than I need to at the doggie apparel rack. I actually consider it ridiculous when people dress their dogs in anything (and those rain slickers for dogs are beyond reproach) but I have to admit, the buyer for Petco has good taste and I’ve come this close to buying peace-sign laden cardigans for my friend’s Shiba Inus.

But that’s fashion. Whether it has any place on dogs is not for me to say.

The specimen you see here was walking alongside Laura the Tennis Pro and me as we were leaving the US Open. She snapped a quick picture and we went on our way. I’d completely forgotten about this bedecked pooch, taken as I was with Melanie Oudin that day and then for the next few. In fact, I think Laura the Tennis Pro even forgot about him until she read my post about the dog riding the motorcycle.

But here he is, looking more like he’s leaving a Grateful Dead show than the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. My main issue with doggie clothing is that it’s all just a little too precious. And it seems undignified for a dog to require layering. This dude, however, is neither fending off the cold nor hoping to end up as a Glamour “Do.” He’s making a statement, although I’d be hard pressed to say what it is.

I’m thinking a total makeover is in order. And if nothing else, lose the pipe. It’s just downright pretentious.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Close, But No Cigar

Forty-nine suits me. I haven’t been this age for long, but I am already more comfortable here than I thought I’d be. I received a birthday card that said: OMG are you 49? Wow! That’s so close to 50 without actually being 50.

Somehow when a sentiment like that is offered up by a younger brother it’s not as offensive as it otherwise might seem.

One of the reasons I like 49 is that it has a square root. I know that’s not earth shattering, but neither is it something you can lay claim to every year. The last time I was a square-rootable age was 36. That seems like a lifetime ago. And the next time will be 64, and I’ll have passed through at least two prime numbers to get there.

Perhaps more appealing though, is that my body and my age finally seem like they’re in sync. I think the contribution gravity has made actually makes my face look a little better. And now my soft belly and flabby arms (which are identical, I’m sorry to say, to those I was sporting in my twenties) are finally age appropriate.

I don’t think I laugh any harder or cry any less, but I do move through things more quickly. I’ve taken some advice that I read once in a Pema Chodren book: I try to see my thoughts and emotions more like clouds than like prison cells. They’re not places to dwell, but rather something to observe as they pass across the sky. It’s their nature to come and go.

People are sometimes surprised that I’m on the verge of 50 and I think that’s because, in general, I am very immature. Mentally, I've always been a bit stuck at age 13 and this becomes very evident when you see what strikes me as funny. I have a fifteen-year-old son and, for the most part, I think he and his friends are hilarious. For some reason, that kind of silly sense of humor still seems ok at 49. I may have to rethink it at 50.

Turning 40 practically left me in traction. Quite literally, I turned 40 and the next day I threw out my back and had to crawl into the doctor’s office. So I’m not inclined to look forward to anything that resembles a milestone.

I love that about 49. Its no-big-dealness. You’re in an unmarked car. No one even expects much wisdom from you yet. You’re only close. But no cigar.

Friday, October 2, 2009



I was way in the back of the house in my office reading about a legally insane killer on the loose in Washington State. I was feeling kind of proud of myself for being able to read a story like this and not get too rattled. This was partly because the killer was last seen in Spokane, Washington, which is pretty far away, and partly because nature always seems so much more unpredictable and dangerous than mere mortals. I don’t typically squander my worry on serial killers.


I’d heard the call the first time, but ignored it. Our squeaky front door had opened and a deep voice said hello, but I was busy reading my article and I assumed it was one of my son’s friends announcing the group’s arrival. I could hear people shuffling in, the door closing behind them. There are probably twelve teenaged boys who regularly come and go in my house and their voices are always in flux. None of them sound like they did three weeks ago. So even though I wasn’t sure who specifically had come in, I was reasonably certain who it was in general.

Imagine my surprise when, at the third hello, I finally make my way out to the front door only to find three strangers standing in my foyer. The man is in his early forties and the two women with him look a little younger. They’re all dressed to go out on a Saturday night, but my first thought is, “Is this guy planning to kill me? And if he is, why did he bring his lady friends along?”

We stood regarding each other for what seemed like an awfully long time. I don’t have the ability to raise one eyebrow (as my son can) but I do have a whole squinty-eyed/brow-furrowing look that even a stranger can tell means, “I think you have some ‘splainin’ to do.” But that look seemed to mean nothing to him, and that really scared me. The insane killer I’d been reading about was a paranoid schizophrenic, slave to the voices in his head, so certainly this man in my foyer must be riddled with the same affliction.

Ultimately, I broke the ice. “Um, who are you?”

The man finally looked appropriately mortified. “Isn’t this Rich G’s house?”

“No. They live next door.”

What followed were lots of “Oh my Gods” and “I’m so sorrys,” as the three of them backed sheepishly out of the house.

Minutes later the phone rang. It was Laurie from next door. My interlopers were old friends of theirs but had never been to their house. I told her how odd it seemed, my standing right in front of them and their still not getting that they’re in the wrong house. “Once they saw me, you’d think they’d realize that it wasn’t your house?” I said to her, feeling rattled by serial killer thoughts after all. “I mean, I’m obviously not you.”

“They thought you were the help,” she said.