One of the pitfalls of, well, life, is pretending you’re better at something than you actually are. In and of itself, this is just an exercise in everyday arrogance and, let’s be honest, who hasn’t done it? It seems harmless but the danger lies in being found out.
Somewhere along the way, I told Varun that I had “played tennis” growing up. I’m not sure what I meant by that, but what he perceived is that I was good/proficient. I let him believe that. Until one summer day when we were engaged and Varun asked me and my brothers to teach him how to play tennis. Armed with worn-out racquets, mismatched balls and the faux-humility which is all too easy to embrace when asked to “explain” or “teach” something from your culture, we headed to the courts.
How can I say this?
Varun KILLED us.
No matter how we manipulated the teams, Luke/Varun v Amelia/Mark, Luke/Amelia v. Varun/Mark, Luke/Amelia/Mark/Random passersby v. Varun, he matched us serve for serve and even corrected our scoring. Fact: Tennis, the game in which we thought we had a cultural leg-up, was actually Varun’s specialty. It turns out that where I had over-advertised my abilities, Varun had forgotten to mention he had spent hundreds of hours watching professional tennis as a kid.
Whoever says watching isn’t the same as playing did not see our match. Or every subsequent match.
After one too many fights on the court due to my shame at my lack of skill, we decided to take lessons. We spent the winter working on our serves, improving our grip and missing every backhand. Eagerly I waited for spring to arrive so I could flaunt my skills when we took outdoor lessons in our neighborhood.
The funny thing about being very, very terrible at something is that when you improve, even an iota, people notice.
(One day, during lessons)
Varun: Wow, Amelia, you’re like a real opponent!
Fellow-lesson member: Awww! He said you’re a really good opponent!
Me: Um. He did? (Turning to Varun) You did?
Varun: Oh, no..haha. I said she’s a real opponent now. Like it’s actually hard to beat her.
So there you have it. Tennis, anyone?