Friday, April 30, 2010

Tennis Lust & Squeaky-Clean Balls

Though the title suggests raunch, I promise this post has absolutely nothing to do with Shakira’s steamy new hoochie-coochie video, starring tennis hottie Rafa Nadal getting in touch with his inner porn star. (Be still, my percolating hormones!) No, these fevered ramblings are all about the lengths to which this tubby li’l tennis freak will go in order to satisfy her rediscovered tennis lust.

If you only know the older me, a little background may help. I played tennis competitively in my high school glory days. Well, glory days may be pushing it. High school was something to be endured, with its bitchy cliques and locker room nudity anxiety: are they too big, too small, did I de-fuzz everything that needed de-fuzzing? (Sing along: If you dare wear short shorts, Nair for short shorts. This to the accompaniment of that distinctive chemical odor as it dissolved hair, penetrated mosquito bites and probably removed a few layers of skin.) Fast forward many, many, many years later; I have 1 hubby, 2 kids, 2 cats and 1 large mortgage, along with a forty-something baggy-saggy bod. Somewhere in the midst of obtaining & maintaining all the trappings of adulthood, I’d misplaced my love of & lust for (ironically, since I’m lusting) the sport of monks.*

Screw that.

Armed with this attitude, I bought a new racket and a can of fluffy yellow balls, then took a lesson with a tennis pro at a local indoor tennis facility. I was a-huffin’ and a-puffin’ at the end of that lesson, but suffered no coronary catastrophes – sweet! Turns out that tennis is a lot like riding a bike: you don’t forget how to play, but you’ll need to kick off the rust to regain your mojo. For a true tennis freak, there’s nothing quite like the bounce-swing-thwack of a tennis workout. Forget the hot tub time machine – I can transport myself back in time nearly 3 decades by merely stepping foot on that hardcourt & letting it rip. So there I was, elbows-over-asshole in love all over again.

But then Reality, ever the party-pooper, reared its fugly head. Indoor court time (a must during the nasty winters here in Chicagoland) ain’t cheap at $20+ an hour, and in any season it can be tough to find another tennis freak whose schedule meshes with yours, so factor in ball machine rental. Total hourly cost of your fix: about $30. If you want to sate your lust several times a week, well, y’all can do the math. Crap.

But I would not be denied – frugality and lack of a winning lottery ticket shall never triumph over true love! What I needed was a ball machine, a portable one small enough to tote without painful herniation. Did I want a battery-op unit or one that requires an electric plug-in? (This is also a concern when buying, er, personal small appliances, but that’s a pervy post for another day.) Could I find a reliable one that would fit my tightwad budget? I compiled & crunched data, tabulated results and presented them to my darling hubby – who’s darling because he didn’t bust a gut laughing or give me the all-male “OK, what now?” eye roll (you know the one I’m talking about). The boy ain’t stupid; he’s learned a lot during our 20+ years of wedded bliss, or at least enough to accurately gauge the extent of my re-emerging tennis mania. One quick cost/benefit and ROI analysis, a quick web search, and my little object of lust was delivered via UPS (the Boys in Brown – I just love a man in uniform).

Again, Reality piddled in my corn flakes. As I sped through the instruction manual, one fact in particular jumped out at me: do not use new tennis balls in the machine. Apparently, the manufacturing residue and the bits of loose fuzz found on the new balls will gunk up the machine’s innards, ergo, one must feed it only used tennis balls. WHAT THE HELL?! Where am I gonna find 100+ used tennis balls? Not to mention the fact that I’d already purchased several dozen brand spanking new ones!

Now I’ve got balls on the brain.

I pondered my options feverishly – maybe I could buy old balls from that indoor tennis facility. Nope – duh, they need to keep their old balls for their own ball machines. I couldn’t think of any other source for old balls and I was dying to use my new toy, but I didn’t want to give it indigestion or full organ failure the first time I used it. Then it hit me – eureka! I could WASH my balls in my front loading, heavy duty washing machine! I’d just put them through a few rinse & spin cycles, then give them a tumble in the dryer on a low setting (didn’t wanna melt the fuzzy little bastards).

It worked! Truly, it was a sight to be seen – and heard. You just haven’t lived ‘til you’ve experienced the thunka-thunka-thud of dozens of tennis balls pinging around inside the stainless steel drum of your washer & dryer. It’s oddly rhythmic and soothing, maybe even musical, and the end result has been very satisfying. The laundered tennis balls don’t give my sweet little ball machine indigestion, or even the hiccups, and I get to feel like a kid again, satisfying my tennis lust while battling the dreaded middle-age spread. Truth be told, I may not have the finest footwork or the sweetest strokes on the tennis courts, but I’d bet the farm that I have the cleanest balls in all tennisdom!
* Tennis as we know it is believed to have evolved from a game called paume, played by French monks in the 11th or 12th century. May this factoid someday help you kick ass at Jeopardy!