Life In The Slow Lane: Ladies Tennis Not For Ladies

This post was originally published in The Greenville Journal in October of 1999 as part of Joan Herlong’s Life In The Slow Lane column series.

Those of you who think that ladies tennis is an idle diversion
for otherwise idle ladies are sadly mistaken.

Since returning to tennis two years ago, I have yet to encounter
any idle games, and very few ladies indeed. Is it ladylike to
give someone a solid beating?

I love tennis because it’s the only quick-fix stress reduction
method I know of that offers the potential of thrashing others
at the same time. I used to like to walk around the indoor track
at the Life Center, but lapping octogenarians did nothing to quell
my competitive yearnings.

Tennis not only quelled them, it almost extinguished them.
For a while there, if I started feeling just a little too good
about myself, all I had to do was schedule a tennis game and my
self-esteem would be yanked right back into proper balance.

Tennis also provides ample practice in losing one’s temper
without resorting to profanity (although some might argue that
one could use even more practice in this area).

It’s also the one sport I know of that is an excuse for shopping
for cute new outfits. If your game is not so good you can at least
LOOK good.

Because it is rude to just show up and play, ladies tennis
is a marvelous social lubricant, whereby players regularly swap
some great gab in addition to great shots. Some extremely avid
players have even sharpened their skill in the gab department
to such an edge that one can often learn about the topspin on
one’s own life long after THAT ball has been bounced around the

In 90 minutes or less of decent tennis, you can exorcise your
demons, work up a cathartic sweat, and if you are really having
a good day, play so well that you ruin someone else’s day. If
you are having a truly excellent day, you can even beat your Reason
For Living. The consequential thrill it provides is well worth
all the moaning and excuses he can come up with about lousy backs
and shoddy equipment.

If you are beginning to resent the way work or volunteer activities
are cutting in to time that could be spent playing tennis, then
you are finally showing an appropriate commitment to the sport.

Ladies tennis allows one to see the red hot competitive edge
smoldering just beneath the skin. Twenty two hours a day, these
women are doting wives and mothers. But on the court, they easily
leave all that emotional baggage at the gate. They are there to
play. No, to WIN.

I learned this up close and personally when I had the poor
judgment to hit my own knee during a first serve in ladies doubles
the other day. Although I clearly need more practice in losing
my temper and my cool without resorting to profanity, my cohorts
were very solicitous. At first. They were all over me with the
Fireman’s carry, lots of ice, lots of supportive murmuring, and
lots of ibuprofen. But even with my head down to ward off fainting,
I knew they were glancing at their watches and at one another
over my head.

As I mentioned, these erstwhile loving wives and mothers had
already checked those roles at the sidelines. It is a very jarring
thing to become nursemaid to someone you were trying to thrash
just moments before.

If I had been really lucky, Sherri would have been there. She
is by popular acclaim the best Team Nurse. Instead, I was playing
with team members much more like me. My own boss (for lack of
a better word) has even called me a “Closet Nice Person”
I do not like to name names in this column, but their initials
are Sallie, Cathy and Carline. It could have been worse. At least
Harriet was not there.

I knew the clock was turning back to “tennis time”
when Sallie pointed out that BOTH my knees looked pretty bad when
you considered my shaving job. Cathy went to get a pro from the
tennis center — not to carry me off the court, but to give them
a lesson during the time they had left!! When he arrived, his
only question was whether my serve had gone IN!!

I really don’t mean to seem unappreciative. I know this is
Ladies Tennis — the Big Leagues. They actually saved me a trip
to the doctor because I hobbled off with no significant swelling
or hideous discoloration. They were as nice as they could be for
as long as they could stand it, which was probably longer than
I would have stood in their shoes.

When I am 100% again, we will take up our match where we left
off. And while I love you for all that soothing ice, the score
WAS ad-in, Carline. Cathy and I will make our big comeback on
strong, clean-shaven knees as we bring you and Sallie to yours!!

And afterwards we’ll all swap some more gab. 🙂

This post was originally published in The Greenville Journal in October of 1999. Copyright Joan Herlong.