The truth is, there is a fashion component to playing tennis, one that’s rarely acknowledged. Before, I’d go for a run or to the gym for an aerobics class and just throw on any old workout clothes—usually a t-shirt, leggings and trainers.
Not so with tennis. It’s those damn skirts.
They remind us that we’re… (ick)… women… and we’re suppose to look… pretty.
Or at least, cute. What’s more, we all know that when we look good, we feel good, yada yada yada. And even the coaches say, when we feel good, we play good… er… well.
So yes, I spend too much time on Tennis Warehouse, and I spend more money than I should on pretty, color coordinated tennis outfits. Because if I look good, my game will be good, right? Of course, right.
Alas, my tennis wardrobe travails could fill a book. When so much neurotic attention is placed on something, it’s bound to go wrong, at least sometimes. Or in my case, many times. Like when I’m getting dressed in the early morning dark thinking I’m putting on a black skirt when it’s really navy blue, and therefore will clash with my mint green top. Or when I’m pretty sure my white sports bra won’t show up in a wet splotch beneath my favorite (therefore, worn out) black top, except it so does, showing an embarrassing white bra even after just a little sweat (since when do I sweat just a little, anyway?) Then of course, I’m playing against some slender, young thing with a wee waist and a rear that beckons, someone who rocks a white t-shirt and black sports shorts, making me feel ungainly as I drive and volley in even my cutest skirt and top. But I digress…
Three of my worst wardrobe malfunctions on court are for the books, never to be forgotten. Ever. I will call them Lulu Booboos. Hey, I’ll always be loyal to Lululemon, but I gotta tell the truth.
First: I am a size 10 in Lulu skirts. 9 times out of 10. Except for the 10th time when the offending Lulu skirt in question is made of non-stretch cotton. Most Lulu skirts have a lovely wide elastic waistband and the rest of skirt is of similar, forgiving fabric—that is, with give.
A dear friend fresh from a US trip had made a Lulu Outlet raid and passed me a couple of her sweet deal pieces. One of them was a striking, striped grey, black, and white skirt with the usual elastic waist. It was smart and spiffy looking. Think tennis skirt with a corporate edge. I snapped it up — it was a no-brainer. Didn’t even try it on. I’m a 10.
I set my outfit outfit the night before my 7:30am Friday clinic. And like I always did, overslept with barely enough time to get dressed. I leaped into my clothes, ignoring the slight pulling sensation. Pull schmull. It was on me, wasn’t it? I got to the courts five minutes late, and jumped into drills with my two companions and the male coach.
Then I felt it. Big time. I tugged at my skirt once, twice, and again, flubbing all of my warm-up shots. I fidgeted. Tight was an understatement. When we stopped to pick up balls, and I had picked a few, one of my co-players marched toward me with purpose than whispered with disapproving urgency, “Pull your skirt down!”
My fears were confirmed. Every time I bent over, I’d given them a big juicy vanilla moon pie in the face. The just wasn’t enough fabric to cover my ass, not by the longest shot, nor multiple short shots, either. What I had on display was a sight only Sir Mix A Lot of Baby Got Back fame would call pretty. Thank goodness, I had an extra, well-fitting black skirt in my tennis bag that I kept for period emergencies. I ran off-court, changed, and heaved a sigh of relief. I’m pretty sure my two co-players did, too. God only knows what the coach thought.
Second: I was playing an official match with my partner, a good friend, and things were looking very, very good. We had won the the first set, 6-2, and we were in the second set at 4-3. I should add that we were playing at one of those clubs with a huge gallery above the courts that allow viewers total visibility. Were a player to look up, she would see just how many people were watching her and what they thought.
So on we played, feeling confident, comfortable. By the start of the second set, our teammates who had already finished their matches were up in the gallery, clapping and cheering. Our opponents’ teammates were there too, looking at us the way opponents do, with sceptical, eagle eyes. And of course, there were club member kibitzers there as well, to kibitz.
I was on the backhand side, running to take an approach shot and just as I swung back to hit, a sharp pain struck in my chest, piercing me, it felt, right in the heart. I let out a small whimper, and of course, the ball fell lamely off my racket, not making it to the other side. I started breathing deeply in a kind of panic. Ow. Was I having a heart attack? Would I need to go to the emergency room?
“Are you okay?” My partner asked.
Our two opponents walked over to the net. “Is she okay?” one asked.
Short of breath and sweating like a pig, I clutched at my chest, and that’s when I felt it. The very thing that had caused me pain.
“No, I’m okay,” I said faintly.
The faintness was not health-related. I knew at once what the problem was, and it was, hella embarrassing.
The thing I felt was the curved underwire of the left side of my sports bra.
It had risen up in the exciting action, like a … well… like things that rise up. It had risen and poked a hole through the fabric, jabbing me right between my girls. My voice was faint, because I was painfully aware that over a dozen people were watching my every move.
And I had no place to hide.
Not knowing what else to do, I walked to the baseline, turned to face the back fence. I stuck my hand into my top and first tried to push the wire back in. It refused to budge. Then I took a breath and tried valiantly to pull the dratted thing out. As in all the way out. I tugged and I tugged in what felt like two long, sweaty, horrific minutes.
My partner, no longer concerned about my well-being, said, “Uh, are you doing what I think you’re doing?”
I did not reply. I yanked again with full force, and with fwip, out it came. I held it up triumphantly in the air… like a sword, like a baton, like a gosh darn flag. And then, I threw it aside, whereupon it fell on the court with a plink, plink, plinkety-plink. I almost heard the people in the gallery roar with laughter. That’s what rang in my ears as we resumed the set. Which we lost. Because promptly during that next game…I was hit in the right mid-calf with a cramp as I jumped for an overhead and I fell awkwardly to the ground… but that’s another story.
The good news? I don’t think Lulu makes those stupid underwire sports bras, anymore.
Third: I was solo on the court at the beginning of my first year playing tennis. I was doing a lesson with a male coach that I usually shared with a good friend who that day was ill.
With just twenty minutes to go in what I recall was a pivotal session up until then, the little hook that attached the strap of my bra to the base of the garment in the back chose at that very moment to unceremoniously slip out of its loop. Pling.
I felt the thing loosen and give way. And just like that, my left boob suddenly had no anchor. Cast at sea. It had escaped. Was cut loose. Not slightly off. I had zero support.
This was Lulu’s first generation TaTa Tamer, and let me tell you, my left Tata was whipping and dodging like a shark – so much for taming.
Now let me be clear. We’re not talking about the three hooks across the center of my back — responsible for fastening the bra itself. Hell, that would have been nothing. I am quite able to hook my own bra back on, just by reaching both hands beneath the back of my shirt. No fuss, no muss, no drama. But this wasn’t that.
No, this was the little hook at the end of each TaTa Tamer strap that goes through a fabric loop in that unreachable, impossible spot on your back. To set things right, I would have had to throw off my top, take off the undergarment, re-hook the offending strap, and then put the damn sweaty thing on again, as well as my top. A process that would take a few minutes. This meant I would have had to go down to the changing room and lose my precious (and not inexpensive) private coaching time.
I glanced at the other courts filled with intense, competitive tennis addicted women, deeply absorbed in their drills only two of whom I knew very slightly and none of whom I knew very well.
So I gave myself a split-second’s thought. Should I interrupt not only my session but the sessions of these intimidating women on the next court who might help me set my assets to right? Or should I prevail upon the young man coaching me to assist me, in what would be a very non-sexual way, after all, as any other person might do, with a move that really, would take only a few seconds, if he knew what he was doing? I made the decision.
Here is where I must stop, dear reader, for I do not know you well enough to feel comfortable relaying the end of this true tale. Suffice it to say that while I’m able to look back at this incident with a measure of mirth, the simultaneous embarrassment that overwhelms me is still fiery enough, even after six years, to make me blush so hotly, I could faint dead away if I continued to think about it, and with all my heart to wish to kingdom come that I’d just made the right decision, gone to the changing room and sought help from any woman in there, like any normal person would. Screw the coaching time. Just imagine the laughable but yes, unimaginable embarrassment.
Now you go off and think about that as you get dressed for your next court session.
Written by Noelle Q. De Jesus