Because I was relatively healthy for the first time in months, meaning I wasn’t sporting a boot, splint, crutches, or even a Band-Aid, I thought it would be ok for me to take a tennis lesson. I somehow failed to see the word “Cardio” before the word “Tennis”, but once I got there and found out it wasn’t just your run of the mill lesson, I decided I would just do the best that I could and vowed NOT to hurt myself.
I didn’t have anything to prove. I just wanted to have fun and told myself it was fine to walk when I couldn’t catch my breath, which happened so quickly I knew I needed to ramp up my cardio; or at least begin some kind of cardio regimen.
I used to be a good tennis player, but somehow over the past few years I’ve begun to hit tennis balls like a major league hitter on steroids. All power; no control. That’s how I play golf, too. It’s great when the golf ball goes in the direction I was aiming for, but not so great when it ends up on the fairway of a completely different hole with a completely different four-some at the very moment one of them is about to take a highly calculated swing on a dog-leg par 5.
So, I thought I’d take up tennis again. Through work I am able to take a one hour group lesson for $5 each Thursday. I waited until I had no injuries, which, for me, can mean days weeks, or even months. Why? Well, as I like to put it, “I am allergic to gravity.”
Since it had been a while since I last played tennis I spent most of the morning searching for my racket, donned a cute little tennis skirt, and then slathered Sally Hanson leg make-up all over my pasty white legs. My kids tell me I look like an Oompa Loompa when I apply artificial tanning lotion, and it only makes my arms look even more freakishly white, but it’s my legs I care about. My legs are so white they scare ghosts.
Racket in hand, I got in the car and headed to the tennis center. I was excited to get back on the court again. When I hit a good forehand it just skims the net and lands hard and deep. When and if I am able to connect my racket to the ball for a backhand I put an unintentional spin on it that makes its trajectory stop dead.
I love playing tennis. I took series after series of lessons, I played with my mother, I played with Richard on dates, and I won the doubles championship at tennis camp one year with my amazing partner. But I think the best unintentional lessons I ever had were when I’d play with my Valley-girl BFF from Encino, California and her mom twice a year when we’d meet in Palm Springs for our very own “Desert Classic”.
My family visited my grandmother who relocated to Palm Springs when I was around 12 years old. Sharon’s family would drive from Encino and we’d stay in condos next door to each other and play tennis all day, when we weren’t in the pool. Our fathers had been friends in Chicago who remained close even after Sharon’s Dad moved to Encino, where he met her mom. Sharon and her mother were Venus and Serena before there was a Venus and Serena. By playing tennis with them, I could only improve my game. They were good; really good.
But the one thing I have always lacked in all games is competitiveness. I’m not lazy; I just don’t feel the need to win. I prefer long rallies to winning points. I prefer good placement over a drop shot, which is how Richard likes to play. He plays to win, but drop-shot after drop-shot constitutes cheating in my playbook.
So, during the lesson I did the best I could to keep up with the other people on the court who were Cardio Tennis regulars. When the guy who had just had groin surgery managed to pass me while running, I took it as a sign from above that I definitely needed to work out at the gym more often.
I repeatedly told myself not to worry if I didn’t get to a ball in time. I had nothing to lose. I didn’t care if I missed a ball. But when I connected with one, it felt like I’d won the lottery. That’s why I like golf, too. I might not play well consistently, but when my club hits a ball and I hear that “ping” and the ball goes where it’s supposed to go, I can’t wait to do it again. Of course, it might be years before I hit another ball that well, but that’s why I keep coming back. I think that’s why most people keep playing any sport.
But I went for one ball I shouldn’t have and the minute my left foot hit the ground I felt a stabbing, yet familiar pain in my left butt cheek that I seem to experience only when playing tennis. I wanted to scream. I wanted to cry. But instead, I walked off the court, stretched, walked it off, and resumed the drills. Both pros asked if I was ok, and each mentioned at separate times that I needed a new racket. One of them told me, “that was a great racket…in 1984.”
I decided that no piddly little pain in my ass was going to stop me from my passion. Until it did. Eventually I couldn’t run at all. When the lesson was over I went home and iced the crap out of my tush. It helped, but sitting hurt, walking hurt, and a few days later, nearly a week since I had injured my gluteus-leftimus, the pain was worse. I knew I needed to see my orthopedic doctor and seek treatment, mostly so I could get a prescription for physical therapy.
The only thing that was more painful than the injury was when my doctor, who is a year younger than I but attended the same high school, inspected, squeezed, and prodded my glutes. I mean, think about it. Would you want someone you know from high school assessing your assets? Didn’t think so. He did tell me I had exceptionally strong legs. Ok. So, maybe it wasn’t all bad to have him be the one to palpate my derrière.
Since there is no such thing that I am aware of that resembles a butt sling, I am taking anti-inflammatories and waiting to begin PT next week. I will do whatever it takes to strengthen my butt because it is obviously not as strong as a well-placed, well-hit forehand, and even though I am not competitive, I want to be able to play at a level that feels as comfortable as my skorts and groovy multi-colored Asics.
Note: I am still working on the next installment of “The Korengolds Take Weston Because the Kardashians Already Took Miami”. So quit bugging me, Mom!!!!