Dear Diary,

It’s no secret that I’ve become a pickleball fanatic. I’d play four hours a day if my body would hold up. Sadly, however, my body can only handle an hour or so a couple of times a week… if that.

Why? Because pickleball.

I never had knee problems until I started playing pickleball. Now I’m looking at replacements for both of them in the near future. But until that day, I’m focusing on losing weight, building muscle, and increasing my stamina so I can get on the court as often as possible.

Most of the players I know are as addicted as I am. I think it’s because pickleball is the great equalizer. You can be young and speedy and able to sprint to every ball on the court, or you can be 73 with bad knees and hit a perfect shot instead. You can drive the ball 100 miles an hour, or you can angle it into the corner of the kitchen for a win.

It’s an easy game to learn, and a social event for most. We have players at our resort who vape a little before a serve or hold a beer in one hand while they play with the other.

I love the strategy of a good game: The soft game that becomes fast when an opportunity arises; the fast game that’s reset until the next winning shot is set up. I’m not necessarily a fan of the slamma jamma game, but I think that’s how a lot of older men around here like to assert their male power and authority.

Who we are on the court is who we are in life as well.

There’s a tendency in mixed doubles for men to push their partners aside, to poach their shots, to act like they’re playing singles instead of doubles. You can see it in the pros, and you can definitely see it in rec play, too.

At our resort, there is an established system of play to ensure we’re mixing partners and opponents. The advanced players play in the morning, and the beginners play in the afternoon. Most people self-sort pretty well. (Of course, there are always a few exceptions.) When we’re playing, where your paddle falls in the lineup is where you eventually enter onto the court. It works pretty well… until someone decides it doesn’t. 

The last time I played, I was matched with a female who’s a good, competitive player. We were opposite two men—one of whom likes to slam the ball like his life depends on it. I’m not afraid of him. I wear eye protection, and my hands are typically fast enough to block his shots. And if I get hit, it’s just a bruise.

But we all got onto the court, readied ourselves for play, and this slammer said, “Hold up! This isn’t fair. We’re going to DOMINATE you two. We need to mix it up.”

Was I offended? You bet I was. Was I enraged? Of course.

I said, “Are you kidding me? Did you really just say that? That you’re going to DOMINATE us? Because we’re women and you’re men??”

But by the time my hackles were fully raised, the other man said, “Kat, I’ve been waiting to play with you all day.” I’m sure he meant to diffuse the situation, but I was PISSED.

Here’s the thing, dudes. We women deal with the patriarchy and mansplaining and misogyny every single day of our lives. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Some of us deal with it from strangers, some from partners, some from husbands. We’re tired. We don’t want to deal with it any more. We don’t want YOU telling US what we should or shouldn’t do.

On or off the court. 

You think you’re going to dominate us on the pickleball court because you have penises and a hard line drive? Prove it. (Spoiler alert: You won’t. Also: I don’t want to see your penis.) But even if you do win, it’s not your place to say whether or not we’re “good enough” to play you. If I didn’t think I was good enough to hold my own against you, I wouldn’t be on that court. So bring your best game, but leave your misogynistic predictions at home. 

I find that who you are on the pickleball court is who you are in life. If you’re welcoming and encouraging and kind as a human, chances are that’s who you’ll be when you play. If you’re a male chauvinist pig at home, chances are I’ll see that on the court, too. 

I play with some lovely men at our resort. They’re inclusive and supportive, and they treat women as their equals. They’re also competitive as hell—which is great because I am, too. But they also don’t feel a need to assert their manhood all over the court. Let’s be more like them, men. The good ones. The ones who don’t feel the need to tell you what you’re doing wrong (without being asked first) or how you can improve your game (unless advice is solicited) or whether or not you should even be there to begin with.

Is it so emasculating to be beaten by a woman that you can’t even allow the possibility? You may be able to hit the ball harder than me. That’s just biology. But that doesn’t mean you’re a better player. That doesn’t mean I can’t outsmart you, out-maneuver you, or out-skill you.

We women grew you in our bellies, dudes. We nursed and nurtured you when you were young. We’re pretty powerful in general. Consider a little humility and a little kindness. It goes a long way—in pickleball and in life.

Love,

Katrina

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