Tennis is Better than Prozac

Last month, on Thanksgiving Eve, I get this text from my friend Nancy:

thanksgiving nancy bitmoji

“Happy Thanksgiving Tangin!! (my tennis nickname due to my tan). Are you around this weekend? Let me know. I might need some singles play to work off the feast.”

Giving thanks at Thanksgiving, or feeling “blessed” around the holidays — all of that crap, makes me want to chuck my remote at Chuck Todd’s face.

But Nancy’s text, her delirious Bitmoji passed out across cartoon bowls of food, makes me smile and admit I was indeed thankful for tennis, and the depression that brought this awesome game into my life.

Thankful for depression? What?

I know. This everyday battle is who I am, and as shitty as it can be for way too many days, depression has been the catalyst for most of the joy in my life, including meeting my husband in a yoga class. Tennis is another one.

The journey started on September 24, 2013. I had moved to a completely foreign neighborhood of San Francisco, Golden Gate Heights, and was suffering a mental meltdown caused by a combination of buyer’s remorse, financial freak-out, feelings of isolation and out-of-placeness, you name it. Work was slow (see “financial freak-out) and I needed a distraction. So I horned-in on a meeting my business partner (Robert) had planned at Flipboard in Palo Alto to get out of my head and out of the house. Volunteering to attend a meeting = desperate.

On the way back, we stopped at our P.O. Box in West Portal, a cute commercial strip down the hill from my house, to pick up client checks and comped magazines. It was here where we bumped into Leslie, whom Robert had worked with years before. “What are you doing down here” Robert asked. “I live a few blocks away” replied Leslie. “I live up the hill!” I motioned. And with that, Leslie invited me to a hot-tub party (you can read all about that here) she was having the following week.

I go. It’s fun. She’s great.

Paula Mangin + Leslie Edelman compressed

We talk about my new neighborhood and the cool little park in between our homes that houses two beat-down tennis courts. I decide it would be fun to hit some balls. Mind you, I didn’t own a racquet, or balls, and hadn’t played since high school. I suppose it’s like asking someone to dinner and making them pay. Nonetheless, Leslie brings me a racquet, balls, and a large thermos of Gin & Tonic. A precedent is set.

Two months later, post-move funk still in full-effect, I’m in L.A. visiting my dear friend Dave. He takes me to The Mulholland Tennis Club, his second home, for a boozy lunch to cheer me up. Dave loves tennis, plays almost every day and is really, really good. He knows everyone. Everyone knows and loves Dave. I feel so at home here with him. A few weeks later, an odd-size package arrives on my doorstep: it is one of Dave’s old Babolat racquets.

Paula Mangin + Dave Geha

One year later, on the way home from my Saturday tennis lessons I’d recently started, I run into Nancy of the above Thanksgiving text, at Cris Consignment on Polk Street. I’m preening in a gently used black mink coat, tennis racquet slung over my shoulder. “Paula Mangin!” I hear over the racks. “Nancy?” I yell back; I’d always adored her, and hadn’t seen her in years. “You play tennis?” she asks, tennis racquet being the dead giveaway. She gives me a ride to the N-Judah and talks me into joining the San Francisco Tennis Club AND a USTA team. This all terrifies me. But I do it.

Two years, eleven teams and a trip to district playoffs later, Nancy and I are playing singles,  Thanksgiving grub sloshing inside our guts. We are laughing. I am happy. My darkest hours brought me out into the sun today to play tennis with a dear friend.

Paula Mangin + Nancy Barrett tennis

I am often asked how long I’ve been playing and what brought me to the game. As I’ve illustrated, this is a long, long story. But I go back to the depression, the need to get out of the house, to connect, to “play” like a kid with abandon, to continue to learn and improve, to saying “yes”.

I can’t imagine a life without this game. I just can’t. Strangers have become lifelong friends. I spend more time outside than I could have ever imagined (see this post about my aversion to the great outdoors here). That fuzzy yellow ball is slowly taking the place of my tiny white pills.

And don’t get me started about the style opportunities. My latest obsession is vintage wrist bands. More about that later.

Tennis, anyone?


Style note: Thierry Lasry Sunglasses.

6 Responses

    1. Paula

      Hi Stacy! If you ever want to hit (I have an extra racquet) let me know. So many fun little parks to play in. Hope you’re great. Would love to grab a drink sometime. Thanks so much for writing. xoxo

    Mayra Koury

    Hi Paula! Love your blog. It’s so great you are still enjoying Tennis too!
    I still look back with a smile at all the fun we had on the Tennis trip to Mexico!! So fun.

    1. Paula

      Hi Mayra! What a pleasant surprise to get your note. That Mexico trip was one of the best weeks of my life – and a huge reason I fell in love with the game. I still remember what a great and ELEGANT player you were! I think I may go back in 2018 – maybe you and your husband (Bob?) will too? Take care, and hope you are happy and healthy. xoxo


    Paula, I feel the same about tennis! It’s been the best thing I ever did. Began about 7 years ago when a neighbor asked me to take lessons. I played in high school, but literally hadn’t in almost 25 years. Now, after 6 years of playing, I cannot imagine life without it. I have made the most unique group of friends from all over. It’s awesome and I never mind going unlike other exercise. Anytime I’m out there I feel lucky to be in the sun, hitting balls with friends. It’s great. I love your blog by the way! Have a great holiday! x Kim

    1. Paula

      Hi Kim! Wow, your story mirrors mine almost exactly – I played a little in high school, and not again until 35 years later. It truly is such a joyous game. I also hate “exercise”, and tennis is such a great workout, which is a bonue. Because of the holidays and work, haven’t been out there in 2 weeks and it’s killing me! But will be playing on 3 teams come January and can’t wait. Thanks for the kind words, and have a great holiday too! xoxo

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