Friday, April 8, 2011

Out Of The Closet Tennis

I called Gina this morning to see if she wanted to play for me in our Friday morning tennis game. “Oh. I would. But I have an appointment.”

Gina (like most in my group) knows that if I’m looking for a sub, there’s something very wrong. In this case it was my wrist. I had some Carpal Tunnel type of thing going on and I couldn’t grip my racquet.

“Haircut?” I asked nonchalantly. I tease her about always making haircut appointments during our tennis times. I can’t understand why she does this – choose hair care over tennis – although she does always have a nice cut. Not one strand is ever out of place.

“Pedicure,” she admitted, although I know she didn’t want to.

“Pedicure?” Wrapped in my question was not only the message that she was breaking my heart by opting for toenails over tennis (especially in our newfangled climate, where open-toed shoes still seem months away), but also the slightest hint of mockery about being a suburban, pedicure-procuring BoBo, delivered in the way only a suburban, tennis-playing BoBo can.

I can completely relate to being coy about certain “commitments.” When I have to schedule any kind of medical appointment (for me or for my kids), my tennis time becomes “meetings.” As in, “I’m sorry, do you have anything in the afternoon? I have a meeting that morning.”

If I have to schedule a work meeting, my tennis commitments become “appointments.” “I’m sorry, I have to be somewhere at 9. Can we meet at noon?”

I just finished a week-long volunteer job at my son’s school which required my being there every day from 9:30 to 11:30. I cancelled all my tennis for the week except my Wednesday Clinic. The time conflicted completely with my volunteer commitment, but I asked someone else to take over the event I was running for all of Wednesday. I kept telling her I had to an appointment that morning that I couldn’t get out of. She didn’t press me for details and I didn’t offer any.

Finally, at the end of the week I confessed. “I had to play tennis on Wednesday morning,” I told her.

“Oh, I play on Mondays,” she said. “That’s why I showed up in sweats.”

Still, I continued with what turned into an apology. A needless one. “I play often, but if I miss this Wednesday Clinic, I’m depressed for the entire week,” I said.

I could tell right away that it didn’t faze her in the least that I had shirked my responsibilities to go play tennis. Or that I put tennis before a commitment to my child’s school. Yet I felt sheepish and ashamed. As if choosing to do this thing that I love somehow made me a lesser person.

So I continued to explain my decision to her. I told her how, if I don’t play tennis I’m mean to my family; how it’s my way to get frustrations out. How it’s like therapy for me – that important; I made it sound as if I might jump off a bridge if I didn’t play that day. I impressed upon her that what might seem like self-indulgence is really a long-term benefit to all of humankind.

She couldn’t have cared less one way or the other.

I don’t know how we’ve all become so hard-wired to feel bad for doing what makes us feel good. Why we can’t just say, “I can’t make it then. I play tennis that day.” Say it while looking the person right in eye and smiling like you feel like a million bucks.

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