Intimidation

A couple of weeks ago, Serena Williams pulled out of the 2018 French Open due to a pectoral injury.  She dropped out before meeting Maria Sharapova in the fourth round.  In 21 their meetings, Wiliams has beaten Sharapova 19 times. Nineteen.  One-Nine. Her overall record is 19-2.

Before Serena pulled out, however, she was interviewed by Bill Simons from Inside Tennis.  Aside from dismissing her time with her daughter, telling her to “work with [him]”, and calling her “baby”, Simons asked, perhaps the most ludicrous, insulting, and outright clueless question that anyone has asked a female athlete in the history of the world:

“After the 2004 Wimbledon match with Maria, I had the opportunity to interview Donald Trump on his L.A. golf course, and he said that Maria’s shoulders were incredibly alluring and then he came up with his incredible analysis: that you were intimidated by her supermodel good looks. My question is: Have you ever been intimidated by anyone on a tennis court, and what are your thoughts about that occurrence?”

#1 – Really? Are we now taking tennis analysis from Donald Trump, the man who openly admits to grabbing women by the p*ssy? And you waited 14 years to ask Serena that?

#2 – So, I’ve been an athlete since 1986.  Actually, I was playing sports before then, but I was first on an organized team in 1986.  I went through playing sports in high school, at a Division 1 college, on the national stage at the Final Four, and then internationally as a professional.  I’m even going to an open gym today.  And I can say, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that an opponent’s good looks have never intimidated me on the court.  Not once.  Not when I was 11, not when I was 21.  And not even today when I’m 42 and playing after 2 c-sections and a hernia.  In fact, I never even thought about equating good looks with athletic ability until this interview question.

#3 – You want to know the one other woman that I can ever remember being openly intimidated by on the court?  I was playing for University of Virginia in 1993 and we were awful.  I mean, like we-only-won-2-conference-matches-that-year awful. I went to college early so I was only 17 and in early October that year, we played against George Washington University… and Svetlana.  She was this foreign player from Russia. Obviously.  And at that point, she was the biggest woman I had ever seen on the court.  She had to be 6’4” and must have weighed over 200 lbs.  When she called for the ball, she had this crazy Russian accent.  And she hit the ball like she was using the hammer from the Russian flag itself. Think Ivan Drago in female volleyball player form.  And when I was in the back row, she was in the front row, and our blockers were probably about 5’6”.  When she went up to hit the ball, I prayed for my life.  Yep.  Svetlana intimidated me.  And as chance would have it, Jen played against her, too.  It’s one of those funny, small world things that happens between soul sisters.  And Jen remembers her by name too.  Svetlana looked at Jen through the net one time and said, “I block you,” in that same Ivan Drago voice. Intimidating.

#4 – One more thing… Jen and I (and all of our teammates since the beginning of time) would probably actually like to play against some pretty girls.  And we hope they have little pretty names. And we will destroy them.  I know this because when I was thinking about names for my second daughter, I really wanted to name her Cosette.  I thought Jen would be all in because we both love Les Miserables.  Seems legit, right?  But I still remember Jen telling me, “Do you know what I would do to a girl across the net who was named Cosette?  I’d block the hell out of her and tell her to go back to her Castle on a Cloud!”  Ouch.  Truer words were never spoken.

So Mr. Simons, and all of The Media, please stop with this kind of ridiculousness.  Stop pitting women against one another based on looks, because we really don’t think about that kind of stuff on a daily basis.   We women are just out here being the best mamas, teachers, athletes, grandmas, real estate agents, oh, and PEOPLE, that we can be.  With or without our lipstick.

 

Living in the Digital Age

These past few weeks have been filled with nostalgia and dust. Lots of dust. At the age of 93, my Grandma Betty has moved into an assisted living home. Her health is touch and go, her eyesight is bad, and sometimes, she just can’t remember to eat. For us grandkids, this is devastating. Grandma Betty has lived in the same house since the 1950s. And it was last redecorated, I think, in 1979. Translate that into this: for my whole life, nearly, that place has not changed. No new carpet. No different sofa. The lamps? Same spot. The kitchen? Can we call it “vintage chic” or perhaps just waaaayyyyy outdated?

Walking into Grandma Betty’s house is a like walking into a time capsule. It looks the same as it has for my entire life. It smells the same. My handprint that we gave to Grandma and Grandpa when I was two months old is still on the original nail from 1975. So leaving it has shaken us to the core.

For my cousins Dawn and Sarah, and me, going to Grandma’s house was like going to a safe-haven. At Grandma’s house, we played ping-pong with Grandpa Art, we dug in the sand box (remember when we would find the toys we had buried the previous summer?), and we had Coke floats, and fires in the fireplace. We would eat breakfast on the patio, wrapped in Grandma’s fluffy pink robe. We would go for bike rides or walks in the evening. We tried on her clip-on earrings and her amazing shoes. Rummy Cube, Rack-O, Clue, Uno.

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But no matter what we did, even just sitting together reading books, there was always an abundance of love. We were cherished, treasured, indulged. We were the smartest kids, or the funniest. She would say, “Why I never!” through her giggles. We were the most talented. “Where did you ever learn to do that?” And no matter what we did, it was cataloged in pictures.

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The picture albums at Grandma’s house begin in the year 1969. Everywhere she went, her camera went too. There is evidence of our Halloween costumes (in 1980 I was Chewbacca), evidence of our school performances. There are snap shots from evenings spent climbing trees or afternoons painting her white picket fence. And going through these pictures has been a blast. Dawn and I have spend more than a few hours gasping (Do you remember how high my bangs were?), groaning (I can’t believe I wore that!), giggling (We look like a couple of sunburned lobsters!), and remembering (I felt so special when Grams and I went shopping together.).

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In her closets, too, I have found some real treasures… more pictures of Grandma’s brother, Marvin who went down over the Pacific in WWII:

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Pictures of her sister Mazie, who my older daughter is named after:

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Pictures of her first (yes, first) fiancé, Warren:

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And a real gem, a picture of her mother’s mother, dated 1871:

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Finding all of these treasures has made me reflect on my own record keeping. It’s easier than ever, now, to take pictures. And don’t pretend that you’re not just like me and that you don’t whip out your camera for an especially good latte:

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We snap pictures and videos like crazy, but how many of us still get them printed out? I know that I don’t. And right now, I’m a little sad about that.

What about when Mazie and Violet’s children are packing up my house?   Will they sit in front of a computer and look at my iCloud? Will it even exist any more? Will they find their mamas’ baby pictures? See them in funny outfits?

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Will they find pictures of me and my dad, and see his nose or his smile in their own faces? And one more question… Does it really matter?  Do these events, unimportant to everyone but us, have a place in our lives?

My answer is a resounding, “Yes!” Yes, they matter. Maybe not to the world. Maybe not to anyone but me. But they still matter. They provide a sense of belonging. In the pictures I can still feel the emotion of the moment, and I realized that Grandma and Grandpa were there, sharing them with me.  Here’s the literal moment that I caught the final out for a CIF softball title:

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Here’s where I laid my head on my dad’s shoulder on a Saturday:

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Or when I signed my national letter of intent to go to University of Virginia, at 10:55pm, in Austin, Texas, she has written:

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In the older pictures, pictures of my mother as a teenager, I see the hope and sparkle in her eyes and I realize that she was a girl before she was my mom:

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I see Nana, Betty’s mother, standing with pride on the porch of her home that had just been painted, a home that she purchased, maintained, and lived in all on her own until she was 103:

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This is where I am from. This is the very fiber of my being. These are the moments, big and small, that made up my life. And I am grateful to have seen them again.

We’re Coming for You, Ladies

It’s time to tell some truth about Dana and me. I know we come across as level-headed, educated former English teachers. I know we seem calm, cool and collected. Rational. Reflective.

These things are true about us. But not all the way true. Underneath, there’s something else.

Underneath, we are beasts.

It’s a huge part of who we used to be, years and years ago. Before this week,  I would have said that we’ve moved on to be kinder, gentler wives and moms. But this week has proved me wrong.

We’ve joined a bootcamp together. And the beasts are back.

Dana says she hasn’t worked out in ten years. I’ve been a bit better than that, but not bootcamp better. This last week we got our butts kicked all over the gym. Lunges across the entire parking lot? Check. Four minute plank? Check. Four sets of one minute suicides? Check and oxygen, please.

It’s ok, though. Because Dana and I used to play some volleyball. The Division I college athlete kind. Our lives for years and years were all about winning or losing. It was our job. We trained every day to beat someone, driven by coaches whose job it was to win, at schools where athletics was the biggest money maker. And she and I are fiercely competitive. We don’t talk about those days in terms of “We beat Notre Dame at home” or “USC had a weaker team that year”. Oh no.

We wiped the floor with Notre Dame in front of their own folks. And USC sucked. I’m leaving out the expletives because we’d like this to be a G-rated blog, but there were lots. And most of them started with an F.

For us, there was no second place. There wasn’t even any second team. Dana played in an NCAA Final Four and knows this better than I do.

There were the winners. And then there was everyone else.

Right now, at the gym, we’re everyone else.  The winners are shorter, younger and in better shape than we are. They never played sports in their lives. They whine and complain and crack jokes while they sprint faster and lift heavier weights. They don’t know what we used to be.

They don’t care.

I wish I could say that Dana and I are past all that now. That we’ve grown and are humble and happy to accept tips on form from a woman who put make-up on for a 6 am workout.

But we’re not past it. And we’re going to get them.

Just as soon as we can sit on the toilet without wincing in pain. Raise our arms to blow our hair dry. Lift our babies.

Then we’re coming for you, ladies. You may be faster and stronger now, but not for long. Not. For. Long.

Jen playing for Hofstra University, 1990

Jen playing for Hofstra University, 1990

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Dana playing for Long Beach State, 1997