Three weeks ago Jonathan and I drove to Dicks Sporting Goods and bought ourselves two new tennis rackets. We had consulted with a tennis fanatic friend prior to our purchases, and Jonathan did some research on the internet, including reading reviews on each style of racket. He knows all the fancy details, but to me we bought a yellow racket and a green one. The day we bought the rackets it was about a thousand degrees out with five thousand percent humidity, but Jonathan insisted that we stop at the local court to hit some balls.
"We have to try them out," he said. "Aren't you curious about how much better the rackets will be?"
Truthfully, I wasn't. However, I didn't argue, because he had that happy kind of 10 year old boy who just got a new toy look on his face and his enthusiasm was genuinely cute in spite of the weather.
Once we hit a few balls we realized that the new rackets were basically machine guns compared to our old rackets, which were like cap guns. It was going to take a lot of practice to get used to the supreme power of these new beauties. Of course, we really suck at the game since we haven't played in something like fifteen years and we weren't all that good back then, but we seem to enjoy the physical torture and mental anguish that tennis provides for an out of shape body. Jonathan was having trouble with his forehand. I had absolutely no backhand, because I'm ambidextrous and I used to just switch to my left hand when I saw a backhand ball coming. Clearly, we had a lot of work to do to polish up our rust encrusted game. Within a half hour we were soaking wet, Jonathan's shoulder hurt and my ankle was bothering me so we called it quits for the day. There had been glimmers of good shots, which buoyed our hopes that the rackets would help us play a more competitive game.
"Think of how good we'll be by the end of the summer," I said once we were back in the car with the a/c on hurricane mode. "We just have to keep practicing!"
Jonathan's enthusiasm had been drowned in the heat, but he managed a weak smile and murmured, "Uh huh,"
Fast forward to yesterday, which was about our fourth, or fifth practice session. We would be playing more, but there's this pesky barn full of horses that we look after, plus people who ride the horses and need instruction and bug us to go to horse shows all the time. If it weren't for the fact that we have to earn a living, we'd be ready for Wimbledon by now. Anyway, we arrived at the court to find out that we've come during recess time for the school whose property abuts the courts. Gaggles of children were running, swinging on swings, shrieking and generally having a fabulous end of the year romp. This meant one thing to me...I was going to have to watch my language. When I hit a bad shot, I curse. Never the same word either, I like to mix it up. I took a deep breath and focused on my substitute swears, like "sugar", "son of a biscuit", "dang it", you get the picture.
For some reason on this day, Jonathan isn't getting his groove on. I watch his face go from concentrated focus, to murderous, ax killing demon. He doesn't swear while playing tennis, but I'm beginning to think he should, because the faces he makes are downright evil and I think holding in that anger is bad for his blood pressure. I'm hitting okay, a few very good forehands, and Jonathan helped me with my body position for the backhands, so I'm feeling pretty chuffed in general.
"Maybe you should try to relax a little, focus on a straight trajectory for the ball, think of the position of the face of the racket when you hit the ball," I offer to the ax killing demon across the court from me.
"What do you think I've been doing?" the demon explodes back. I swear his head spun around on his shoulders.
Okay, I've been to this movie with Jonathan before so I know to just be pleasant and he'll figure it out on his own. We're batting a few good volleys, back and forth, with occasional wayward hits, when I hear little voices chanting a name. I look over toward the school yard and there are three little girls in a row, and when they see me look toward them the volume increases, "Brittany!!!!!!", they scream. What? Are they yelling that name at me? Who the fuck is Brittany? I'm totally confused.
"That's not my name!" I bark toward them. It doesn't seem to register with these little girls. More little girls appear and now there are ten, or so little girls yelling, "Brittany!!!" at me.
I look at Jonathan, who shrugs, shakes his head and serves me a ball. How the hell can I be expected to concentrate with a flash mob of 8 year olds yelling "Brittany!!!" at me? I manage to hit some good shots, actually the little crowd causes me to step up my game a bit. Nothing like the pressure of small schoolchildren watching you to make you up your ante. I decide to ignore the kids and just keep playing. Any time I glance in their direction, they nearly swoon and scream louder. What in the living hell is going on here? Is Brittany a popular babysitter in town? These kids are too young to remember Brittany Spears before she had kids, went crazy and shaved her head. They couldn't think I was Brittany Spears anyway. I have brown hair and my thighs are slim, with scrawny calves. These kids were really starting to get on my nerves.
"Maybe we should stop. I'm getting tired," Jonathan said.
"No, let's hit a few more. Sometimes you hit your best shots when you're tired," I reply.
In all honesty, the kids were freaking me out and I didn't want to have to leave the safety of the chain link enclosed court. Who knew what those half crazed little buggers might do? They might attack me, pull out my hair and steal my yellow racket. Finally, the school bell signaled that recess was over and my wee fan club grudgingly headed back to the building, yelling a few half hearted, Brittany's over their small, slumped shoulders. It almost made me feel badly. Maybe I should've handled the situation differently? Should I have waved back and said, "Hi Kids!! Yes, I'm the fabulous Brittany! Have an awesome day!!"? They might've all died of instant little heart attacks. Instead, I played the part of an aloof, spoiled star. In fact, I freaking rocked that part, I could totally be famous and pull it off. I WAS famous for a few minutes on that parched tennis court in the middle of the village of Millbrook. Except it wasn't for playing tennis, it was for being "Brittany, iconic figure to little girls, but for what we have yet to determine".
"Let's go honey," I said to Jonathan. "Brittany's tired and needs a drink."