Cougar, er, Ladies Day at the SAP Open

Ladies Days

“Ladies Days” bolster ticket sales for daytime matches during the SAP Open, a USPTA tennis tournament that is being held for the last time in San Jose this year. Ladies Days at the SAP occur midweek, where groups of women purchase tickets that give you access to all daytime matches, plus a catered lunch in the Arena Grill with complimentary wine by La Crema, discounts on tennis merchandise, raffle prizes and the chance to take your photo with real live tennis pros. All this, and you get to spend the day with your tennis friends while shirking your regular responsibilities.

I organized a group of tennis players and fans from Ladera Oaks to attend the event at HP Pavilion, and we enjoyed some exciting singles and doubles matches, as well as witnessed interesting behavior by some of the other attendees. I don’t know if it’s always like this when groups of women get together, or if tennis-playing women are particularly outrageous — but it seems that stories coming out of the day resemble some I’ve heard coming out of USTA matches.

 

Cougar-Ladies-SAPTennis

 

Cougar Days

At lunch, Justin Gimmelstob, a former pro and Tennis Channel commentator, emcee’ed the raffle giveaways and did interviews with four pros who had ladies jumping up with their iPhones and no shame about blocking others’ views while they took pictures and videos. At least it wasn’t as crazy as last year, when an inappropriately-dressed woman grabbed onto Gael Monfils and wouldn’t let go. This year our designated pros were Mike and Bob Bryan, Fernando Verdasco and Jack Sock. I imagine it’s just another duty they have to perform as part of their contracts — but the women love it.

Cougar_Ladies_SAPOpenTennis_LaCremaOne cougar lady with white lipstick and overly blonde hair was particularly excited to see Verdasco. Murmuring something about a benefit for breast cancer, she passed me her iPhone after I invited her to sit at our table. (I had asked her to join us since she was standing in our line of sight, and it was clear she had no intention of moving.) Anyway, I glanced at the screen and quickly averted my eyes, as it contained a nearly-naked picture of the tennis pro. “He has the most amazing thighs,” the cougar-lady said. “I touched them.”

TMI. I passed the phone back, speechless. After that we left to take photos with the pros. I noticed she stood next to Verdasco in her photo, which for the sake of discretion, I have not shown here. I hope she left his thighs alone.

Was it the wine? Unless women were chugging their chardonnay, it would have been hard to imbibe enough wine to loosen inhibitions that much during our short luncheon. So I can’t say why the cougar behavior seemed to dominate. Although I did hear later about some gals who were caught trying to sneak out with several bottles of wine, and I saw even more attempting to leave with beer cups full of pinot (this was not allowed, in case you were wondering).

Is this the kind of thing that over-40 men do when women aren’t around? Maybe so. Maybe I need to lighten up and be less judgmental. But at the same time, maybe guys look as silly as women do when they act this way.

How come, though, it’s only the women who are given an animal nickname?

 

Cougar_Ladies_SAPOpenTennis

 

 

Image credits:
SAP Open Ladies Day, La Crema Wineries, ucumari via flickr

Looking for light this side of the equinox: excuses and enneagrams

We’re still seven weeks away from the vernal equinox, when the hours of daylight will equal the hours of darkness, heralding my favorite season of the year. I love the summer, when days are long, and light lasts well into the evening.

Light_Heart_Shaped_Sun

 

SAD: a lack of light

I think I need sunlight now more than ever. Lately, when friends have asked me if I’m still posting to my blog, I realize that my “holiday break” has continued well past New Year’s. My only excuse for my silence has been “the January malaise,” to which one friend replied, “Oh, you must be seasonal.” And I think she’s right. It may not be severe enough to be clinical, but I recognize in myself symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is a type of winter depression that overtakes mainly women due to lack of sunlight.

I have one of those SAD lights, but I don’t sit in front of it regularly, and I don’t start using it early in the fall, before I start feeling bad — so I don’t receive the benefits I’m supposed to get from it. Too bad I’m not like the dogs I saw on the ABC News, whose owners were kind enough to buy them daylight spectrum lights. Those depressed doggies apparently perked up after lying in front of the SAD lightboxes. You can check out the story and video here.

The Enneagram: en-light-ening?

I started to make a list of things I had done during the month of January, during which I did no writing or blogging, but after taking the Enneagram test online, I realized I probably need to fight my compulsion to ennumerate my accomplishments — that I should focus more on “being” and less on “doing.” This is because my top score on the quiz was that of the Enneagram 3, or The Achiever, who has a tendency to tie her sense of self-worth to her accomplishments. My second top score was even less encouraging: it was the 8, or the The Challenger, who is confident and assertive, but also prone to confrontation and intimidation. Not exactly what I needed to pull me out of a slump.

 

Enneagram Symbol

Courtesy of The Ennegram Institute

 

So in the spirit of not evaluating myself by how many checks I’ve put on the to-do list, I won’t go through the “incredible” (not really) things I did during my time away from the blog. I do have some plans coming up that may involve changing or adding to Second Serve, however, and those are exciting. Hopefully, with more sunlight in the days ahead, I’ll be able to get going on them.

Until then, I’ll be the lady searching for sun. But don’t get in my way, as apparently one of my possible Enneagram types won’t hesitate to elbow past you!

 

Image credits: iFreeze, Enneagram Institute

Dancing doubles: Petto, dito, mano

Even though the US Open ended last Monday, I continued to enjoy it all week, as I watched matches I had recorded but didn’t have time to see when they were first played. My favorite was the women’s doubles final, where Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci (seed #2) played Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka (seed #3). Errani/Vinci won 6-4, 6-2, with a classic style of doubles tennis that included serve and volley, lobs to back their opponents off the net, and excellent shot selection against a younger, harder-hitting Czech team.

 

Sara Errani Roberta Vinci US Open 2012 Champions

 

What garnered the most attention in the press, however, was a little dance the Italians did in their elation after they won the match. It’s hard to find a clear video of it, but this will give you an idea:

The post-match interviewer asked Vinci about the dance, and she laughed. A little embarrassed, she demonstrated: you touch your chest, then snap your fingers, then touch the other hand.  Then repeat. In Italian, “Petto, dito, mano.”

 

 

Apparently this is a dance or game that goes on in Italy, especially among kids. [Read more…]

Bring back the joy!

There’s a sign I drive by most weeks, usually on my way to play tennis.  Although it stands outside a car repair shop, it reminds me of a resolution I made when my tendency to self-judge was sucking the fun out of my chosen sport.  I decided, in short, to bring back the joy.

Before choosing to look for joy in tennis, I thought what would bring me pleasure was playing better, so I focused on that alone.  I took lessons, watched videos, read books, kept track of wins and losses.  And guess what?  I didn’t play better, and I didn’t enjoy myself.

Step back, and it’s obvious.  A recreational activity like tennis should be enjoyable – if not, what’s the point?  But it’s easy, especially for us women who’ve given up careers and are looking for a way to evaluate “productivity” outside of making school lunches and coordinating book fairs, to take something we do for fun and start to measure our progress.  There’s nothing wrong with this.  But I let it go too far – I lost perspective.  I lost the joy.

No more.  I’m taking practical steps to make sure that doesn’t happen again.  To start, I remind myself constantly: “bring back the joy.”  It’s one of the things I say to myself during matches.  Or I ask myself on tough points, “Are we having fun?”  Because whether I win or lose the point, I want to enjoy playing it, and not “having fun” usually means tightening up and playing worse anyway.

Here’s another one, but it’s a bit touchy.  These days I avoid playing with people whose styles don’t match up well with mine.  Many times, it means I try not to partner with women who are more serious and intent on winning.  It’s not that I don’t care about winning – but if I concentrate on the score too much, or think about whether I’m living up to my partner’s expectations for me, I start making more mistakes. I feel bad about playing poorly, so I play worse – it’s a downward spiral.  My progress is slow, but I’m learning to put negative thoughts aside, stay loose and have a good time.  This helps me play better.

[Read more…]

What YOU think of me is YOUR business

I’ve blogged about tennis failures – things like how I’ve let my emotions get the best of me, or how my game has suffered due to a “crisis of confidence.” But I also want to pass along what I’m learning about how to overcome these problems.  My tennis journey may be a long one, but it’s not so different from other roads I’ve traveled.  In fact, there are days when my “tennis journey” and “the midlife passage” have a lot in common.  And I don’t just mean the effects of gravity.

 

I reached a point where I felt as though I had invested so much time and money in learning a sport, watching the pros play it, buying trendy clothes for it, and even taking some “tennis vacations,” that I felt I deserved to be playing better than I was.  I held myself to a higher standard than I should have and was constantly evaluating my improvement against better players.  As a result, I was always coming up short.  By my own standards, I was never going to measure up, never going to get out of my USTA 3.0 “rut.”

But at the same time as I was tired of not improving, I felt locked in: I had put so much of myself into tennis, for so long, that I didn’t want to quit.  I was addicted to an activity that wasn’t going anywhere for me.  Aside from a bit of exercise and socializing on the court, I couldn’t point to many positives about my involvement with tennis – I wasn’t having fun, and I could have gotten a better workout by going to the gym.

 

So what started my turnaround?  Well, I was complaining about my frustration  with poor play in matches and my irritating “voice of judgment” to Coach Alan Margot.  He told me, “You can’t silence the voice, but tell it to quiet down.  When you worry about what other people are the court are thinking about you, remind yourself, as if you were speaking to them: ‘What YOU think of me is YOUR business.’”

This seems simple, but it’s deep.  For years I’ve taken ownership of how others perceive me on the tennis court, and more generally, in most other sectors of my life.  Since I’d rather please people, I end up pressuring myself to make a better shot than I’m capable of, let my partner choose when she wants to serve and whether she wants the ad or deuce side in doubles, try for a heroic poach when simply getting the ball back over the net would be good enough.  Outside of tennis, I rearrange my own schedule to accommodate an appointment that works better for my husband, or I ask a friend to give me a ride so my son can use my car.

At the end of the day, however, I don’t feel satisfied about setting aside my best interests in order to make others happier.  I’m not sure they even notice my efforts, to tell you the truth.  But it’s helpful to acknowledge that what someone else thinks of me is his or her responsibility, not mine.  It doesn’t give me license to be obnoxious — rather, it reduces a burden I shouldn’t be carrying anyway.

[Read more…]