One of the voices in my head sounds like Serena Williams. She firmly believes she has a killer forehand, a maniacal serve, and is feared by anyone who dares to oppose her on or off the court. She is my inner badass. And she only gets meaner if I don’t let her out to play once in a while.
Who I actually am, as the other voices in my head will tell you, is a 37-year-old woman who started playing tennis a few years ago and quickly became addicted, largely in thanks to Serena yelling in my ear. On the court, I am usually dressed in a hot pink, pleated tennis skirt, white top with pink insignia, and matching white and pink shoes. (So what if I don’t play like the pros. I can still dress the part!) In my mind, I am fantastic. In reality, I am an average beginner level player who can keep the ball in play, win a few points here and there, but isn’t going pro any time soon.
Three weeks ago, dressed in my perfectly adorable tennis outfit, carrying my complimentary and quite fabulous tennis bag, I walked from my car to court 8 of my local tennis center. So that I wouldn’t chicken out, I paid in advance for the day’s torture: an adult tennis clinic taught by the former doubles tennis champion Luke Jensen.
I arrived early and spent my last few minutes before my clinic watching Luke Jensen run a bunch of 10 to 16-year-olds into the ground. Watching them move with jelly legs, barely able to hold their racquets after an hour and a half of “fun”, I knew a few things to be true:
- I was about to humiliate myself, as I had never done before. (Acting on a stage in front of thousands? Easy-peasy. Showing off my lack of athletic skills in front of a handful of participants? Terrifying!)
- I might die.
- If I walk back to my car and quickly drive away, I will live, but that bitch in my head will never forgive me.
At promptly 6 p.m., I summoned all of my courage and walked onto the court knowing full well that I run like a slow Kermit the Frog and sweat like a trucker on meth at the mere thought of physical excursion. But after a few seconds of doubt, the Serena of my mind took over. She confidently walked across the court to the player’s bench: Oh yeah, I have a fully stocked bag with not one but two racquets. Fear me. She sized up my competition: three men, two old enough to be my father, all completely unsuspecting my badass-ness, all at a much higher skill level than me. That may become an issue. She silenced the other voices in my head: if any of you whiny bitches get in my way, I will destroy you.
Over the next hour, I ran alongside the men during every drill Luke Jensen threw at us, too stubborn or too stupid to quit. I quickly earned the nickname “Pink Panther” after showing Jensen that a nearly middle-aged woman in a pink skirt can surprise the hell out of you with a line-drive bullet of a shot. I proved that youngish and bouncy can hang with old-man-strength and I’ve-been-playing-since-before-you-were-born skills. (I may not be as good as you, but you’ll need the defibrillator long before I do.)
The real challenge came in the last thirty minutes. Jensen set us up playing doubles, two on two with Jensen rotating in on both sides. After an hour of showing off and honestly just trying to survive, I stepped up to the service line ready to return serve. My advanced-level opponents must have collectively and secretly decided to give this newbie a reality check. The first serve hit me square in the chest. Two more balls would hit me, rather than my racquet, over the next several points. Luke Jensen, when serving to me, tried to “treat me like a girl” and floated the ball over to me. My inner Serena wouldn’t stand for that. “Don’t treat me like a girl! I paid my money like everybody else!” I yelled at him. To that, Jensen responded with a 110-mile bomber to my forehand. I didn’t return it successfully, but I got my racquet on it and did not start crying when the impact felt like it broke my hand.
By the end of the clinic, I couldn’t fight Serena for control over my behavior any longer. I was too exhausted to think clearly. So, after the ball hit me for the fourth time, spinning into me as old man #2 showed off how he can make the ball do silly tricks in the air, I had had enough. On the next point, old man #2 hit a slice, convinced that he had bested me again. Miraculously, I got to the ball just in time to softly lob the ball over the net and set it dribbling at the man’s feet. Victory! I then smiled at the man and winked. You’ll have to hit me a lot harder than that, Grandpa, to get me off this court. Sometimes being a badass calls for a soft touch and a cocky expression.
For an hour after, I laid on my bedroom floor, too sweaty to sit on any of my furniture and too nauseous to take a shower. I was convinced that my right hand was permanently disfigured and that I may never walk correctly again, but Serena was pleased. Maybe this will shut her up for a while. But maybe I shouldn’t shut her up at all? Maybe, I shouldn’t be so nice all the time, but instead demand from the world what I have earned: a fair shot, high expectations, and interesting challenges. Yes, I should let her out to play more often. I may not be Serena Williams in real life, but at least my inner badass refuses to let me hide away, afraid of new challenges and ridiculous circumstances.
So, do you have an inner badass? When do you let her out to play? Share your thoughts with me below!
*Special note: A few days after this clinic, I decided to let Serena out again. My opponent for the day? The ball machine. I got hit in the face. Apparently, my inner badass is slow.