Lawn. And Tennis.

“If you can keep playing tennis when somebody is shooting a gun down the street, that’s concentration.” ~Serena Williams

If the closest you’ve come to tennis is watching Wimbledon on TV every two weeks in July, then you probably think the game is akin to golf, with nattily dressed people playing a gentlemen’s or a ladies’ sport while spectators “Ooh” and “Aah” over their precise shots and acumen. Of course Wimbledon, being on NBC for so long, was accessible to the masses. Regular folk like you and I could watch it and feel like we were transformed into the strawberries and cream loving crowd that filed in and out with spectacular precision from the grounds of England’s Lawn and Tennis Club. Lawn. And Tennis. That’s what we imagine. But that’s not the only tale of tennis.

Around here there is an old tennis court. I use the term loosely, because ages ago, when the weeds began to grow through the cracks in the cement, someone decided to take the posts out and transform the area into a place to ride skateboards. They didn’t take a broad stroke to it, though, as you could still see where the posts had been, and the ghosts of the lines still show through in places. I used to stand outside the fencing and imagine what it must have been like in its heyday, probably in the ’80s when pretty much every place had a tennis court within walking distance.

Of course the ’80s were for stars like Chris Evert, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, and others. Continue reading “Lawn. And Tennis.”

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The Trouble With Dating

I haven’t been single for too many periods of time in my life. You know, outside of my teenage years when I was generally seen as a pariah by both girls and boys. It was so easy to be celibate back then that I could have been the poster boy for virginity. I used to imagine going down into the subway and finding a huge advertisement for just that, with my face plastered all over it.

I was single for several months back in 1997 that somehow stretched into 1998, and in that space of time I had dates with several women, but none of them were particularly special. Perhaps because I still wasn’t over Amanda, but that’s another story for another time. That may have been part of it, but the other part is what I never really wanted to admit. I’m just not that good at small talk.

Did you know that dating is mostly made up of small talk? At least the early dates are, when you’re feeling each other out and figuring where you might fit in the long term. Which is ironic, considering that making a long term decision based on small talk is like getting a cat when you know you’re allergic. You need something to build off of, and small talk is the last thing that can help with that.

That’s why I was never good at being single, but also why I was never really good at dating either. I’ve never been good talking about the weather, or the price of tea in China, or how high gas prices have gotten. I generally skipped straight to “Have you ever been in a serious relationship?” or “How many kids do you want?” And I was surprised when they didn’t ask for a second date.

It was either that or my jokes, I’m sure, that turned them away. I think I’m ridiculously funny, but somehow I don’t think every single woman feels the same way. Especially when they give me a look that says I’m probably only a step up from an amoeba. That’s not good, particularly when I was on a first date. When I saw that look I knew there wasn’t going to be a second.

I was single for several months back in 1997 that stretched into 1998, and in all that time I went out with no less than 10 women on first dates. Only 2 of those first dates turned into seconds, and on those dates I withheld my jokes. Coincidence? Probably. But there were certainly no thirds, and I’ll take some small measure of blame for that. I know now, though, that none of those worked out because I’ve never had patience for small talk.

Because I was waiting for a woman who would appreciate my jokes, who would talk to me about big things right from the start, and who would understand that I need to be the center of attention more often than not. None of them lived within my radius in Philadelphia back then, and I’m glad of that now. Because I never would have found the woman of my dreams if any of those dates had led to more.

Sam

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