Last month, on Thanksgiving Eve, I get this text from my friend Nancy:
“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.
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.
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.
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.
Style note: Thierry Lasry Sunglasses.