Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Safina has been having a terrific year

I didn’t write about this before because I did not get to see the match. It is against my principle to write about a match I have not seen. But for Dinara I will make an exception.

After I got home from playing tennis on Saturday, I kept checking the Tennis Channel to see if I would catch this match. Instead I spent hours being tormented by World Team Tennis (WTT) which I promise I will write about as soon as I figure out what the heck it’s all about.

I checked after tennis on Sunday and landed on WTT again, followed by a pompous sounding John McEnroe as he made a speech inducting somebody into the Tennis Hall of Fame. Except being John, it quickly became all about himself. He went on and on. When he finally revealed that at his own induction, his speech had lasted 45 minutes, I switched off the TV. If Dinara’s match was featured, I was clearly not going to see it.

It’s possible that the match was never shown. After all, this was a Tier II event, third in rank of importance behind the Grand Slams and Tier I events like the Qatar Total Open and the Rogers Cup. And when it comes to tennis coverage on TV, let’s face it, men’s tennis still dominates the screen.

Dinara had won the East West Bank Classic, a Tier II tournament played in Los Angeles, not to be confused with the Bank of the West Classic, also a Tier II event held in Stanford. The latter tournament was won by Aleksandra Wozniak, Canada’s highest ranked player. Indeed, Wozniak became the first Canadian in 20 years to win a WTA singles title. Her win against Serena Williams at this tournament helped push her from a singles ranking of 85 to # 45 in the world.

So it’s probably fair to ask why I am choosing to celebrate Safina over Aleksandra. Part of the reason I believe is because Wozniak should and would have lost to Bartoli if Marion had not been injured. Which is not meant to diminish Wozniak’s accomplishment in any way. She came through the qualifiers and even beat Serena along the way. But her win over a plucky but clearly injured Bartoli left something to be desired.

Safina on the other hand has been having an incredible year. Thus far she has won two singles titles – the East West Bank Classic and the German Open [photo left], the latter a Tier I clay tournament. Safina has amassed a total of seven singles and eight doubles titles. She has won tournaments on all surfaces and is currently ranked an impressive eighth in the world, just behind Venus Williams.

Safina had the honor of being the last woman to beat Justine Henin just before the former #1 decided to give up on tennis altogether. I’d like to believe that she saw the writing on the wall and recognized that with her slight frame, she was no match for 6-foot plus tall Powerbabes like Safina.

At Roland Garros, Safina mowed down Maria Sharapova, Elena Dementieva and Svetlana Kuznetsova before losing to the eventual winner (Ivanovic) in the finals. And in Carson LA, she disposed of top seed Jelena Jankovic in straight sets in the semi-finals, thereby denying the Serb the opportunity to become the world's top player.

Despite all this, Dinara surprisingly did not initially make the cut for the Beijing Olympics. That is how competitive it is at the top of Russian women's tennis. The good news is that Russian Olympic team captain Shamil Tarpischev has since changed his mind.

UPDATE: Safina won the Rogers Cup. Now seeded seventh, Safina easily beat the unseeded Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia in a 6-2, 6-1 victory at Uniprix Stadium on Sunday on August 2nd. I love it when I'm right. :-)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Yes, men feel used too

"What the hell kinda title was that?"

The caller was a friend, so he could dispense with all of the niceties and preambles preparatory to starting a conversation and get straight to the heart of his concern. Anticipating well his next volley, I promptly broached the topic of men also feeling used in relationships. Understand that, for me, it isn't a question of whether men feel this way or not, because I am certain that women have not cornered the market on feeling exploited in relationships.

But I was curious as to whether my friend would concede that there might be important gender differences in how this being used is expressed or at least perceived. Specifically, I was wondering whether women are more likely to feel sexploited in relationships, while men perhaps feel used more for their money or status.

My friend countered with the observation that a woman could sexploit him any day. He had no problem with that. But he was fed-up, he had had it up to here with being used by women for money.

Then he launched into an angry diatribe against a young woman who had just recently treated him exploitatively. Turns out he had barely befriended the woman before she was asking him to pay her cell bill. And since this seemed important to the further development of their relationship, he had paid. The next thing he knew, he was paying her rent and buying Pampers for her youngest child. And he continued to pay, all the way to a better apartment and her diploma. After which, he alleges, she dropped clean out of sight and has not been seen or heard from since. Now, is that using or not, he demanded to know.

How could I not agree? It was difficult not to concede that my friend had indeed been thoroughly exploited. But surely there was more to it than that?

After empathising with his distress, I wondered whether he had ever considered that he had given so much because he might have been getting something very valuable in return. What had there been in it for him? Was there perhaps a self-esteem boost that came from being able to take care of a woman's every financial need, I queried gently?

My premise was that self-esteem probably plays a crucial role for men and women who remain in exploitative in relationships. While low self-esteem may propel a woman into allowing herself to be used sexually, it is perhaps the desire to raise his own self-worth that may make a man vulnerable to financial exploitation.

Furthermore, while money and transactions around money often play a central role in the relations between men and women, money often means something quite different psychologically between the sexes.

For every man going through a divorce who thinks his wife is only seeking to empty his wallet, it may be important to consider that it may not be about the money at all but about her need to feel emotionally secure in the face of psychological abandonment. And for every woman who resents the fact that her husband does not give her complete access to his chequebook, the issue again may not necessarily be about money but perhaps moreso about power and control. Paying for everything may allow the man to feel all-powerful and in charge. He who controls the checkbook, controls the woman. And he can thereafter take credit for her every achievement. After all, he paid for them.

But similarly, there is also usually some kind of secondary gain for the woman who allows herself to be exploited by a man. Perhaps this affords her a sense of emotional security. Perhaps it meets the desire to be held close, and to feel cared for in a cruel world.

But sometimes the exploitation is mutual, as in the case of the much older and successful man who secures himself a trophy wife whom he can display. She gets all of the emotional and material benefits of his wealth. He gets the bonus of a self-esteem lift.

My friend could concede that indeed, the usurious woman had met his need to feel grounded within a family setting. And he had really liked the fact that she was so busy concentrating on her studies that she never pressed him for marriage. He had thus been able to enjoy a semblance of marriage and family without ever having to commit to the real deal.

I remarked that he had paid dearly for his illusion. That invited a well-deserved parting shot. He retaliated with the tired joke about marriage not being a word but a sentence. I laughed and allowed him the last word. I understood that his self-esteem needed the boost.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Should ball kids have to wear safety gear?

A few days ago I was watching the match between Feliciano Lopez and Radek “Sexy” Stepanek in an early round of the Rogers Masters event in Toronto. At one point, the left-handed Lopez returned a ball with vicious pace. It hit the ball boy squarely on the jaw. The ball boy grinned and shrugged it off. Cameras zoomed in for close-ups. Lopez approached him to make sure he was OK. He continued to grin cheerfully. It was no big deal, his body language suggested offhandedly. Just another day in the life of a ball boy at a professional tennis match.

But see, I didn’t trust his reaction. He may have been motivated to play down the incident, what with all those cameras in his face. Besides, ball kids are trained to carry on regardless of whatever happens to them on court.

Becoming a ball kid is a highly competitive affair. The US Open even has a mentoring program for hopeful aspirants. Hundreds audition for the honor of running up and down after balls in the hot sun. They are required to master such arcane skills as making the perfect throw and knowing how to kneel. Some do it for the free clothing and a few dollars. Most do it because they aspire to be pros one day. Federer has been open about his years as a ball boy in Switzerland. He recalls those years with great fondness. Maybe it’s because he never got clocked in the face by a ball going over 100 miles per hour.

Then again, even kids who get smacked seem to recall the experience with great affection. Caroline Hall, a former Wimbledon ball girl, recently told the Guardian about an experience in which she was hit on the side of the face by a ball that Tim Henman slammed into the court in a fit of anger. “You're trained to just carry on no matter what, so that's what I did”, she said. “I didn't feel that bad and besides I was 16 and I didn't want to lose face.” Spoken like a true teenager with cameras in her face. And that’s why I didn’t trust the reaction of the ball boy in Toronto. For all we know, his mother spent the night soaking his face in ice packs as he sobbed into her bosom.

If this were the era of slice and dice tennis using wooden rackets, there would probably be little cause for concern. But this is the era of power tennis, when even a dirtballer from Spain can hit the ball so damn hard that he ends up winning in three sets against a higher-ranked player whom he has never beaten before. [And just so you know, it’s not just Nadal who seems to be defying the odds – so far seven Spaniards have won ATP tournaments this year. If Lopez hangs on in Toronto, he just might make it number eight. But I digress.]

I know that the danger for ball kids is far greater in other sports. In 1994, 9-year-old Timothy Herman of La Crescenta died four hours after being hit in the head by a pitch in a baseball game. At the time, he was wearing a batting helmet. At first he actually continued playing. Once he got home, he complained of pain in his right leg. His mother later said that she left the room for two minutes – and returned to find her son collapsed on the floor. And more recently, 7-year-old Dominic DiAngi had to be put in a medically induced coma after he was hit in the head by a foul ball at a Cubs Game.

Tennis has no similar horror stories involving children. As far as I am aware, the closest we have come to this was an incident at the 1983 US Open. During the boys' singles final, Richard Wertheim, a linesman, was struck in the groin by a ball coming off the racket of Stefan Edberg. Wertheim fell backwards onto the court and fractured his skull; he died in the hospital a few days later. One ironic aspect to this story was that Edberg was just the nicest guy in tennis. To this day, he has an award for gentlemanly behavior named after him.

Tennis does however have some other bizarre stories involving ball kids. I remember as if it were yesterday the incident in which Sampras asked a ball kid to reach up inside his drawers to retrieve a ball that had rolled in there. To his credit, the kid refused. Rumor has it that Pete’s first coach was a pedophile. You’d think that his judgment would have been better under the circumstances.

Then there was the incident in which Djokovic clocked a Hugo Boss model in the head, sending her cap flying. To be honest, I did not feel too sorry for her. Models have no business on a tennis court. And besides, the incident probably helped her career.

But kids are innocent and deserve to be protected. If my daughter ever decided to become a ball girl, I would have some strict rules. For a start, she would have to be outfitted like a Canadian ice hockey goalie. Plus she would need to wear cricket pads – no daughter of mine is kneeling on any hot tennis court. All this plus a helmet and Kevlar suiting and she should be good to go. And knowing her, they would all have to be designed by Prada.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The second time they came

The second time they came, I was on my way home from tennis. It was early evening, just at that point when darkness starts to be really dark and lights have to stay on. They were expecting me. They knew my comings and my goings. They had studied my movements closely.

I lived then in a beautiful garden apartment, the bottom level of three, the road up at the top. The people in the middle had moved away to Australia. I hadn’t liked them and they hadn’t liked me, but their absence reinforced my aloneness. I would walk past their dark apartment and curse the habit of electricity companies of cuttting off the power when people moved out. That stretch of staircase had become unnaturally dark.

Really, it was not a safe place for a woman alone to live. But I had not been a woman alone for most of the time I lived there. My aloneness had been recent, that too unexpected, shocking really, but not traumatic, not then. And at the time, I had been sad, grieving this unexpected loss. That night I had come home, full of tears. I was tuned into myself, into my own feelings, my sadness, as I lumbere
d down the steps, burdened with tennis gear, and grief, and the groceries I had picked up on the way home.

As I rounded the corner past the darkened apartment, my right foot in mid-air, I felt someone lock my neck from behind; his muscled arm like a steel beam wrapped itself around my throat. It happened so quickly that I was unable to pull my foot back, and remained suspended, choking, unable to breathe. He had been hiding in the darkness behind a pole in front of my upstairs neighbor’s apartment. He had been waiting for me.

I quickly became limp, dead weight in his left arm, and we went straggling down the steps, my tennis bag grating against the railings as I landed in a heap at the bottom. Get up, get up, he said. You coming with we. I touched my throat and struggled to breathe. I was disoriented, light-headed. I knew that I was in serious danger.

My landlady said afterward that it was my screams that alerted her. I have no memory of screaming.
That memory is lost, gone, completely disappeared into that part of the brain that blocks out trauma and turns on the instinct to survive. I remember whispering hoarsely that I was unable to move, that I was feeling so weak. Sorry, I whispered, sorry, I can’t move, I can’t breathe. Oh God, I said, I can’t move. I was exaggerating. I was buying time, trying to figure a way out a way to avoid being kidnapped. On this island, kidnapping had become a profitable business; as a doctor, I was an attractive target. Get up, get up, he commanded. You coming with we! You coming with we! He started pulling at me to make me stand. I made myself limper, heavier, more pathetic and helpless.

A neighbor’s light went on. That startled him. I sensed the shift in his body language. My landlady came out on her balcony and started shouting Fire! Fire! Her voiced seemed weak, thin, distant. But in that instant he decided not to bother. Gimme the bag! Gimme the bag! He wrenched my tennis bag roughly from my shoulders, and grabbed the car keys that I still clutched in my left hand. Then he walked down the steps, and, as he reached the bottom, another man emerged from around the side of the house. I realized that he was the one who had given the signal to call it off. Together they strolled casually out of the yard as if they had just been paying me a friendly visit. I hurried up the stairs to my landlady’s apartment, and together we watched them saunter up the hill, two young men, one in white, the other in red. That’s all I could later tell the police.

It was my landlady who noticed the blood dripping on her carpet. I was not even aware that I had been cut, that he had locked my neck with one arm and held a knife to my throat with the other. And this too is part of the body’s amazing mechanism for dealing with physical trauma. He had cut me on the side of my throat but I had not bled. I did not start bleeding until it was all over.

I fled the island as soon as my contract would allow. I have never gone back. I will never go back. I am aware that this avoidance is not good. I know that the sooner you get back on the horse, the sooner you can recover from having fallen off it. Avoidance only makes it worse. It keeps the arousal at a heightened pitch. It keeps you hypervigilant, looking always for signs of danger. It keeps you numb, trapped, living in fear.

But I have worked very hard on my recovery. I live in a ground floor apartment again. I play tennis at night. My sleep is undisturbed. I do not have PTSD.

But I know that my complete recovery ultimately rests on some day making a trip back to that island. On some day driving up the hill to that apartment, the one where my landlady subsequently installed razor wire and motion sensors around the periphery of the property. On walking down those stairs and facing the demon hiding in the dark behind the pole and the other lurking in the bushes, and on knowing that they are not really there, just the memory of them, and that memories though painful, cannot kill you. If I were my client, that’s what I would tell me to do. But I probably won’t.
(Part 2 of 2)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The first time they came

The first time they came, I was not at home. There was a sign that they were coming but I did not realize it at the time.

A friend had come over with her young daughter who wanted to see the strange-looking lizards that lived in my backyard. They were a scary-looking species and I remained afraid of them even while knowing that they were even more deathly afraid of me. After all, I was human and naturally capable of cruelty.

So we
went outside, and there behind the back door was a pair of dirty white sneakers I had never seen them before. They were placed neatly side-by-side next to the door, as if the owner lived inside with me. I wondered briefly if they belonged to a male friend who had recently moved to the US. But his feet were large, over-sized really. Perhaps they belonged to one of the gardeners who came to cut the grass, I thought idly.

It was already twilight and the lizards had gone to bed so we went back indoors, closing the door behind us but not fully locking it. When I went to lock up properly later, I glanced outside. The shoes were gone.

I should have known. I should have put it together. But I did not.

They came back several days later. They cut a neat square into the wooden back door. I wondered afterward why no one had heard the sound of sawing wood. I marveled at their ability to do such neat work in the pitch dark. Having carved out the
wood, neatly, they must have then discovered the burglar bars inside. I had gone to a lot of trouble to persuade my landlady to install those burglar bars. She had laughed sarcastically, stating that nothing had ever happened there and why was I being so paranoid? I insisted, pointing to the high crime rates on the island. She relented. They were made of reinforced steel. They could not be sawed through.

So the bandits then went around to the front of the apartment and broke down the door. They completely ransacked the place. They turned it upside
down. The police said afterward that it seemed as they were looking for something. I didn’t understand what I owned that could have invited such a thorough search. I was not a drug user. I am allergic to gold.

But it didn’t take me long to figure out. It was the single US dollar of top of the bedroom TV. It was the last dollar remaining from a trip I had made to the US Open several months earlier. It was a joke, testimony to what a wonderfully expensive time I had had at Flushing Meadows that I had come back empty-pocketed, except for a single dollar. I jokingly cal
led it my tennis dollar, a reminder of an exciting trip, proof that my love of this sport has always come at a cost, which, when I can afford it, I am happy to pay.

And on that island where I lived for a while and which I will never even visit again, knock wood, fingers crossed, God please – on that island the US dollar used to be king. The dollar ain’t worth shit anywhere now but back then it had served as a distraction. A single US dollar on top of my bedroom TV had turned the bandits into a frenzy of searchers. They must have thought I had more. They turned over every inch of the apartment. They flipped the mattresses and left the freezer door wide open. My clothing was scattered on the floor, all drawers emptied, make-up strewn.

In the end they took just a few items including an unopened bottle of Elizabeth Taylor White Diamonds perfume, and of course, my single US dollar. I figured that one of the bandits must have been thinking of Valentine’s Day, which was a few short weeks away. Imagine that, I thought, a bandit who, in the middle of his frenzied search of my apartment had stopped to think of his sweetie as he plopped my unopened bottle of perfume into his bag. I didn’t really like the perfume anyway. That’s why the bottle was still unopened. It had been a gift. I had always suspected that I had been re-gifted.

But I am forever grateful to that US dollar and the greed it had inspired. A greed that left a team of bandits oblivious to the other valuable items in my apartment as they searched desperately for more money. And the truth is that I had none. I was still recove
ring from my expensive trip to the US Open.

Friends helped me to clean up. I considered moving. My landlady changed both doors, back and front, and installed more burglar bars. Like the rest of the island, I now lived in a cage. And after a while I started to feel safer. I stopped double and triple-checking my locks. I started sleeping with the lights off.

My friend and her daughter came back during the day to watch the scary-looking lizards. The truth is that they were gentle creatures, their brown and black ugliness a camouflage that allowed them to blend into the color of the mottled stone walls to which they clung. I regret not having taken their pictures before I fled the island, after the second time they came, and I got a firsthand lesson in trauma.
(Part 1 of 2)

Friday, July 11, 2008

How Rafa recovered from the beat-down he put on Federer

You know I had to eventually go there. Yes, I have been avoiding it. Certain topics are just too painful. The blasted match itself was painful to watch. Not that I expected a different outcome – the result was a foregone conclusion – but did they have to drag in out into twilight?

A friend of mine has a theory that Federer eventually threw in the towel because he just got tired of the squinting and guessing where the heck the ball might be. I disagree. I think he put up a valiant fight but in the end Rafa just beat him to hell down. Like we all knew he would.

OK, deep inside I hoped that Rafa’s left knee would not hold up. After all, the picture of it looking red and angry was not a pretty sight. But John McEnroe once famously said that the fifth set is not about tennis. It’s about mental fortitude, regardless of the state of your busted knee. Rafael Nadal, at 22, showed us that he is mentally far stronger than Roger Federer. And that is why he was able to put a beat-down on him.

Now let me be clear on something. I accept that you may not have the same definition of a beat-down as I do. And in truth I am very inconsistent when it comes to defining a beat-down. For instance, a beat-down may be determined by the score. In which case a beat-down was put on Federer by Rafa at Roland Garros when Federer succeeded in winning an embarrassing total of four games.

But I believe that a beat-down also occurred at Wimbledon. Or maybe it was just a cut ass, I’m not sure. Because you see, this was grass. And Federer is supposed to be the King of Grass.

Heck, even Sampras with his hypocritical self had predicted that Federer would erase his record. From the moment Sampras said that I knew that Federer was in trouble. Pete Sampras seems like he has access to some powerful obeah. When he praises you, think of it as goat-mouth, a kind of blight, a curse wrapped up in filaments of sweet candy. So when he opened his mouth, days before the final, to portend that Federer was king and would someday erase his record, I knew that Federer did not have a chance in hell of doing so.

You don’t believe me? Check back on the fates of the people who have dared to beat Pete Sampras. Guga ended up with a broken hip. Patrick Rafter ended up with a sweating problem so severe that not even botox could fix it. Richard Kracijek ended up with two busted knees, although in truth I didn’t really feel sorry for him because he also dissed women’s tennis and hell hath no fury like a bunch of dissed women. And Federer failed not only to defend his crown but also to win the finals on his favorite surface.

It immediately became clear. Not only is Rafa the best tennis player on clay. He is the best tennis player in the world. Never mind the 545 points separating him from Federer and relegating him to the #2 spot in the rankings. That is chicken feed. Rafa can and should erase that in no time.

More and more Federer is starting to remind me of Hingis. That is not a good thing.

Remember when Hingis was the Number 1 player in the world? At the time I defended her tooth and nail, pointing out that it was not her fault that the Power Babes were beating her left and right and still could not claim the number 1 spot. I said that it was not her fault that the system rewarded consistency and frequency of play over winning.

The ATP responded to this embarrassing fiasco by creating two ranking systems. There is the player’s overall rank. And there is his rank thus far this year. In the overall ranking, Federer remains king, but Nadal is nipping at his heels. In the rankings thus far this year, Nadal leads by a mile. And Djokovic is within striking distance of Federer.

Federer has not been having a good year. I honestly don't know what the solution is to his dilemma. I'm not even sure if a new coach will make a difference at this point. Seriously, I am starting to give up hope.

I have no idea how Federer is recovering from the beat-down he received from Rafa. But in the meantime, Rafa can clearly afford to take some time off to spend with his honey at the beach.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

What my body said

I love PBS auctions. It’s the one time of year when I get to spend money doing a good deed with no guilt over ending up with crap I don’t need. And sometimes, ever so often, I end up with some good crap. One year I got a beautiful signed lithograph. Another year I got a pair of lovely vases. I’ve even won a gym membership.

Most times I end up with crap – but it’s all good because we need PBS to remain on the air. I mean where else would children learn how to count to ten and say the alphabet if folks like me did not hand over our hard-earned money to fund shows like Sesame Street? See, this is how I justify my annual splurge.

Well this year I could not afford to splurge. So I placed my bids most carefully. I decided that I was going to bid mainly on alternative therapies, you know stuff like Rolfing and Reiki and Acupuncture. I ended up with two sessions of a treatment approach called “Body Talk”. I had never heard of it before but was certainly open to the experience.

I called up the Body Talk specialist. Her voice on the phone was very soothing. I explained that I had won the session with her from PBS and she seemed genuinely thrilled at my success. We confirmed an appointment.

The waiting room was not sound proof. I had arrived early and could hear her consulting with the client before me. I felt uncomfortable. Trained in rigorous respect for client confidentiality, I was uncomfortable with anything less. A tall gentleman came out. He did not seem dissatisfied.

She asked me to give her a few minutes to change the sheets. That made me feel good. About three minutes later she returned and we went inside. She gave me a quick explanation about Body Talk while looking at my paperwork. I had indicated that I had no real problem but that I had simply come for the experience. She seemed a bit taken aback. I would be too if someone had made an appointment to come and see me and then said that they didn’t really have anything to talk about. Having read her body language, I decided to come up with a problem and mentioned my old rotator cuff injury, which had indeed started acting up again thanks to playing a lot of tennis. I gave her the history of the injury – which had actually happened in the gym and had been exacerbated on the tennis courts. I made it clear that I was not open to being told to quit playing. I was all up for grinning and bearing it. She grinned, and escorted me to the massage bed.

I lay down on my back as instructed, fully clothed. She held my wrist and started tapping it. She told me to relax. I breathed deeply and let my body go limp. She tapped again on my wrist. And then again. After about five minutes of apparently useless tapping, she elected to place my arm across my body and instructed me again to relax. I realized that she meant to specifically relax the arm, so I made it heavy across my stomach. That did the trick.

She said that she would look first for blockages. I said OK. Tap tap tap. Tap tap tap. Apparently I was blocked. She unblocked me by tapping further on my wrist. I unblocked myself by trying genuinely to acknowledge and then remove any attitude of skepticism towards the experience. Thanks to our joint efforts, my portals apparently opened. She instructed me to take two deep breaths while she tapped my forehead and my sternum. Except that I am inclined to be somewhat boobalicious so instead of my sternum she caught the top part of my breast and tapped away. It didn’t feel too bad to be honest.

Back to my wrist. Tap tap. Tap tap tap. She “saw” an experience that had happened to me between the ages of 12 and 18 involving my parents. Not possible I thought. My mother was long dead and my father long disappeared. Oh really, I said, that is interesting, hmmm. More gentle taps. Nothing that bothered my wrist, or that irritated. Tap tap tap. Could I think of something that had occurred between those ages?

Is it connected to my rotator cuff, I asked? I wasn’t kidding – I wanted to know if she was trying to say that I had actually injured myself earlier in life. It wasn’t unfeasible – I had been a table tennis champion.

Oh no, she reassured, the messages I get are usually emotional, something to do with your parents between ages 12 and 18. I pondered if to tell her my truth. In the end I gave her half of it and told her about my dead mother. Could it have been my grandmother, I asked, she was certainly as much of a mother to me after my mother died. No no, it involves your parents, something to do with the both of them. Well I was definitely stumped.

She continued tapping. One of my “should” statements was coming up. Was there something I felt strongly should or should not occur? Creeps, I thought, I am a fricking psychologist. I know better than to be shoulding myself all over the place. I did not say that but instead adopted a pensive air. Tap tap tap. I thought of the boyfriend I had dated between ages 16 and 20. He had dumped me for an older woman, who had found me where I was living, blissfully ignorant of being cheated on, and had taken me to her apartment to show me his clothes hanging up in her closet.

I replied that I felt that relationships should be ended honorably. Tap tap tap. Yes, that was it. Tap tap tap. My body spoke to her. She listened and but did not speak back much. I was there for an hour and a half. What she said altogether could fit in five minutes. Periodically she asked for us to take two breaths together, and tapped me on the forehead and upper breast. At one point I may have napped. Whenever I drifted off the tapping would bring me back.

Afterwards we aligned my cortices. She taught me how to hold my head with one hand and tap forehead then sternum with the other. I didn’t have the heart to ask what the heck cortices were and why they needed to be aligned. It didn’t matter. My body had spoken. I had an old rotator cuff injury that may or may not be related to a psychological trauma I had experienced in teenage hood involving my long dead mother and long disappeared father, the result of which was that I believed that something should or should not occur. But the Body Talk specialist reassured me that within seven to eight sessions, at $100. per session, cheaper if prepaid, she could get me realigned again.

I have a free coupon for anyone reading this blog.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Finally…the Sisters face each other

It’s been a while since they have met in the finals of a Slam – at least five years by my calculation. Time enough for them to ponder their relationship with the sport that has made them famous. Time enough to try on other careers, try out new boyfriends, and try to squash the image of their father, Richard, as puppet master deciding which sister gets to put which trophy on her mantle.
And with just a few ill-chosen words, Elena Dementieva erased all that and once again set tongues wagging and minds wondering. She said afterwards that something had been lost in translation, that she had meant to comment on the family “situation” not its “decision”. I would have believed her if this was the first time she had said this crap. It wasn’t. The difference on this occasion was that, with the passage of time and the absence of the Sisters from the winner’s circle, the audience has become a lot less receptive to Dementieva's insinuation.
As a grown-ass woman herself, I would have assumed Dementieva capable of understanding how offensive it is to imply that Venus and Serena, as two grown-ass women, cannot play their own matches but need their father to intervene and decide which one of them will win the next Slam. But the Russian would have us believe that the problem was her poor command of the English language. I wish I knew how to say bulls**t in Russian.

But all of this is distracting me from my celebratory mood. The Sisters are finally facing each other again in the finals of another Slam. Yeah!!!!
As a psychologist I can think of few dynamics more fascinating than the notion of two Sisters, at the top of their game, facing off in probably the biggest tournament of the season.
As a tennis player, I can only hope for as great a level of tennis as they played in the semi-finals against other opponents. The match between Serena and the spirited Jie Zheng of China was certainly as good as any Slam Finals.
But this level of play has rarely occurred between the Sisters. To this day I remember their very first finals at the Liptons. It was an awful match. In fact, it was one of the worst finals I have ever seen. The match was so bad it was almost funny. What made it difficult to laugh was the acute awareness that these were two sisters who adored each other, who were each other’s best friend, and each of whom was desperately trying to out-power the other from the baseline. In the end, Serena won. But forever after that the whispers started – that they faked injuries, that they took turns winning, and that it was Richard who decided whose turn it was to win.
Look, I am not a Williams insider. Few non-relatives have the privilege of being able to call themselves that. But as a younger sister myself, I can only imagine how tremendously difficult it would be to face either of my sisters in the finals of a tournament. I remember once playing tennis against a niece who herself had probably only been playing for about a year. It was the rain that saved me from a 6-0 spanking. I simply could not compete against her.
That Venus and Serena can do so at all is testimony to their tremendous mental strength. That Serena has a 5-1 winning record against her sister in the finals of Slams suggests that she may be the mentally stronger of the two. I certainly hope that she can find this inner strength to spank Venus for a ninth Slam trophy come Saturday.
And afterwards, it will be fascinating to watch them put aside all feelings of competitiveness against each other and combine their resources to play in the doubles finals against Raymond and Stosur. What remains breathtaking is their ability to do all of this while remaining sisters who love each other and have each other’s back. To that I can only say “wow”.