Does losing a lot make me a loser?

So I lost another tennis match last weekend.  This is nothing new, really.  As my high school son remarked on Skype to his college siblings, “Yeah, Mom likes tennis, she plays a lot.  Most of the time she loses.”  Which pretty much sums up the past few months on the tennis court for me.  And it’s getting annoying, because I think I’m actually playing better than I did before – I’m just not winning, that’s all.

For a while last summer, after one of the worst USTA (United States Tennis Association) seasons of my life, I thought about giving up tennis.  Turning my energies to something where I had a chance to improve.  But to what?  Not yoga – a teacher once stood beside me and loudly suggested that “some students” could benefit from private lessons before coming to group classes.  And this was after I had been doing yoga for a year.  Certainly not golf — don’t even go there.  Handicrafts?  No, thanks.  Cooking?  Although I enjoy it, I don’t see myself cooking more than I do now: I’m not going to teach classes or write cookbooks, blog about food, and so on.  My husband doesn’t want the next Barefoot Contessa anyway — at least he doesn’t want a wife of that size (now Giada de Laurentis, that might be another story).

So I figured I might as well keep playing tennis, since I like the sport, enjoy getting exercise outdoors — plus I like the clothes, the social aspect and organizing teams.  Even though I’d been starting to think of myself as a loser, not merely as someone who loses more than she wins, I told myself this attitude had to change.  That the self-criticism had to stop.  If I couldn’t play and have fun, there was no point in playing.  So for a couple of months I avoided playing tennis in leagues at my club, because they felt too evaluative.  I played random people for fun, and I didn’t think much about the results.  Tennis almost became a recreational activity again.

But I missed the organized matches.  So this fall I went back to league tennis.  I resolved to stop judging myself and just play.  To stop talking so much and watch the ball more.  Hard to do — at least hard for me.  I’m starting to see some improvement, however – but it’s not yet reversed my losing record.

And that’s the rub.  Because in tennis matches that “count,” captains won’t pair you with a strong partner unless you’re playing well, i.e., winning.  And you don’t stand a good chance of winning unless you’re paired with a strong partner.  So I have to win in order to impress the captains of my teams who are making decisions about when I get to play and whom I partner with.  But without a good partner, it’s tough to win.  And sometimes if your partner is perceived to be a lot better than you, the win is credited to her abilities, not yours.  See what I mean?  Just playing “for fun” is a nice idea, but that’s not how it works in ladies tennis.   [Read more…]

Of flames and forks

The flaming email — we’ve all received them.  We might even admit we’ve sent one.  Maybe not a flame that rages like a “Howler” in Harry Potter, but certainly one that smolders.  While we think of internet flames as caustic remarks on public message boards, PC Magazine defines to flame as “to communicate emotionally via email.”  If that’s the case, I’m definitely guilty of flaming, as are some people who have emailed me without pausing to re-read or reconsider before hitting “send.”  Numerous publications have explored the flame phenomenon, including Wired and the New York Times. Flaming arises in part due to a key problem with the email genre — namely, the brain’s inability to discern “tone” in the absence of facial and voice cues. To me, however, email flames are more than poor “netiquette:” they reflect how manners are changing not only in our cyber-communities, but also in our “real time” relationships.

I  bristle when I enter a bistro or church service, and I see a man wearing a baseball cap.  While I realize such behavior is ubiquitous and even accepted in our culture, it still bothers me.  I can’t help it: I was raised in the South at a time when gentlemen removed their caps while attending church or dining inside.  They opened doors for ladies – didn’t just hand off door handles like relay batons to females entering behind them.

Yet I wonder, what IS it that causes us to “forget” our manners?  Are we in too much of a hurry?  Consider, for example, the school carpool line.  Drivers actually try not to recognize each other.  Allowing a car to merge ahead of you is a sign of weakness, as is a wave of thanks from the “merger” to the rare person who lets her merge.  It’s the driver’s job, after all, to stay isolated and maneuver as quickly as possible to her destination.  [Read more…]

P90X-ing the midlife body

Most of us have seen the infomercials with the “before” and “after” shots: ugly folks with bad hairdos and fat that spills over their shorts, transformed in only ninety days to svelte people with rock-hard abs, biceps and bikini-ready bodies – not to mention cute hairstyles and good skin. Too good to be true?  Yes, but not entirely.

I started on P90X because I was fed up with being out of shape (see this post, for example), and because my college kids told me it might be too hard for me. In other words, the gauntlet had been thrown! I went online and looked at testimonials. I  was hooked when I saw the cute Asian guy, a self-proclaimed “computer nerd,” who used to sit in front of his screen and eat junk food all day, but now does P90X and looks like someone my daughter should meet. I ordered the DVDs and figured I’d give it a try.

I took my “Fit Test” on December 31 and passed it, barely. At least I was fit enough to start P90X’s “extreme home fitness!” Monday, 1/3/2011, was the start of my New Regime. I skipped the recommended “before” photos, as I didn’t want a potential source of blackmail. On Day 1, you do “Chest & Back,” a one-hour workout consisting mainly of push-ups and pull-ups. I had little prior experience with either. (Read: this was hard!) Then you do the sixteen-minute “Ab Ripper.” Enough said. I finished at 11:30 a.m. and went back to bed for an hour. I made a note to myself, “Must cheat. Must take breaks.”

Day 2 was better, as the workout was cardio that, while difficult, was not as foreign to me. I thought, “Well, maybe I can do this after all.” But Day 12 came, and I still wasn’t feeling more fit. Plus, doing P90X was taking 1 to 1 ½ hours per day. But I made up my mind to keep going.

It was probably around Day 20 when I decided P90X was okay. My husband encouraged me, telling me he thought my body was getting more toned. My teenage son was less generous, choosing to mimic my least-favorite workout, “Kenpo X.” Whenever the subject of P90X comes up, he calls out, “Hook, undercut, sidekick,” punching and kicking the air for emphasis. [Read more…]