The thing that's great about tennis is that once you get out on that court, everyone is equal. All that matters is the ball and the racquet.
LOL. Just kidding. We're going to talk today about the real terms of play. This post might just be for the ladies. If you're a 2.5 guy, you might perhaps be able to identify with this, too.
So last week, I picked up my racquet for the first time in a month. Just an informal group of folks pairing up for doubles, and usually, I'm the only woman. I expected to be rusty and as a considerate tennis player, I made sure to inform all my partners that I hadn't played in a while, but if I'm being real, I knew how the next two-and-a-half would unfold. It's how it almost always unfolds when I play with men.
First set: Just about the way I'd expect. Missed a few volleys and my serve toss was all over creation. One of the regulars noted this and every. single. time. I. served I heard about my toss. He was on the other side of the court! I botched a volley down the middle, and when I turned to walk back to the baseline, there was my partner with a life lesson, which boils down to this: Let me hit those.
No matter what I did -- if it was a mistake -- there were all kinds of hot takes. This has been going on for years, mostly because I enjoy playing mixed doubles. I consider it a challenge because I know I'll probably be the target and the match will hinge on my performance. But let's be real. There is nothing worse about mixed doubles than the men who are nitpicking you the entire match.
Now, this doesn't happen every time with every man. You know the times it doesn't happen for me? When I played 9.0 and was on the court with 4.5 guys or better. Once, I played with a 5.0, and he said nothing -- not even the standard eye roll or shoulder slump (ladies, you know what I mean). I knew he was obviously far better than me, and I had to ask him what he thought we should do to turn the tide of the match. He told me, and we won the match. See, that's how doubles should work -- as a team effort. But just go ahead and play with the ham-and-eggers of the world, and they have all the answers for the ladies.
One thing I noticed was that when the guys missed a shot, there was no commentary. Partly because I don't feel the need to offer such input. He'll figure it out. (Spoiler: Just like I will!) But even these men who have loads of advice for me don't have it for each other. That's kinda weird, isn't it? It's almost as if the only difference is ... nah. Couldn't be.
Sometimes, we have this one guy who essentially comments on everything. He's our on-court ESPN analyst. He showed up last week, and by the end of the evening, our own Brent Musburger had managed to talk through an entire point, and guess who was serving when it happened? So I miss the first serve (comment about my toss), make the second serve ("Oh, that toss ... oh, you made it anyway!), my next crosscourt (oh, heh-heh, that's a good one), his partner's volley (That's a good one, Jer, heh-heh), my partner's pickup at the net (hey! How'd ya yet that one?"). It was our longest point of the night, in many, many ways.
I'm saying all of this to say that: Mansplaining is real, and it's everywhere. Because I didn't even ask for help and yet here I am, getting unsolicited advice from literally every person on the court. (One of them is my husband, and he's been doing this since we met. I give him a pass because he's actually a coach by trade. He will also shut up when I tell him to.) This involuntary mansplaining is also unintentional sexism. It's a super-micro look at why no one complains about on-court coaching for women only in pro tennis. It's an automatic assumption that every mishit is a cry for help. It's an assumption that if my toss is off, I can't figure out why. (But time out: Why is it so hard to catch a bad toss? This, I know, is a question that vexes both sexes.) This has happened to me for each of the 16 years I've been playing tennis, and it really only took this extreme instance to realize that this assumption is at work. I'm sitting here trying to think of an instance where I assume I need to give advice almost every second during a process -- and I keep coming up with teaching a kid how to read and on-the-job training at work.
This isn't one of those posts with a nice little bow at the end that offers a solution. It's more a challenge to any men who cheated and read this to ask yourself why you trend towards giving a woman advice much faster than you do another man. Also? Ask yourself if you actually think she'll listen to you. If she's looking at your game and it's a hot mess, probably no.