Looking back, it was presented as such a harmless, innocent, fun activity. It’s completely safe, my neighbor said, adding under her breath, “most of the time.” The way she said it I was reminded of prescription drug commercials where everyone looks so happy but the low voice in the background is saying side effects include maybe, possibly damaging your perineum. (Look it up. You do NOT want that damaged.)

Just try it once and you’ll be hooked, said another friend, his face supernaturally bright from having just indulged. Just don’t overdo it at first. Pace yourself.

Honestly trying pickleball for the first time was accompanied by a lot of weird advice. It’s like when your friend slips you a CBD gummie and says cryptically “Just eat the bear’s ear and see how it goes.”

Sorry. I prefer FDA approved dosages that are more logical. “Take 1 tablet before bedtime.” Not this notion “if after an hour one ear doesn’t do it, you can eat the other ear off the teddy, then possibly start in on his mid-section.” What the what?

With pickleball, the advice almost always concluded with an ominous “whatever you do, don’t run backward.”

No problem. I don’t run forward either. So, I borrowed a paddle and connected with the ball about 15 times out of 100. Turns out to the surprise of absolutely no one, I have almost no hand-eye coordination!

My partner was Duh Hubby because couples our age keep the mojo going by trying new things together. I learned that from the woman on the next court who was playing with her husband who was, at that moment, running backward despite her repeated screams.

They never listen.

A group of regulars greeted a man my age with gusto when he walked in. He was a solid player, could knock the snot outta the ball someone said. No fewer than four of my new pals walked over to whisper: “You know he technically died on that court over there. Heart just stopped. Good thing we had that defibrillator gizmo. Lookit. He’s good as new.”

And running backward.


When we entered the city gym, Duh and I had exactly the same amount of pickleball playing experience, which is to say none. By the time we had to vacate for the basketball players two hours later, he was winning games and learning first names and I’d gone in search of the snack machine. Which is basically how every attempt at participating in sports has gone my entire life.

You could say Duh had devoured the bear’s midsection and was roaring for more.

Two months later, he plays pickleball six days a week and is happily obsessed with boosting his official skill rating. For our 35th anniversary recently I bought him a paddle that was the exact amount of my first mortgage. He practically wept.

“You get it!” he said, cradling it like a newborn. “Spin. Control. Power. It’s not just a river in Egypt…”

“That doesn’t make any sense.”

“I know. I just got excited. It’s got a bigger sweet spot but I’m going to sacrifice some reach because it’s shorter. I know what you’re thinking…”

“Pretty sure you don’t…”

“You’re thinking losing the reach is no biggie because I’ll have more maneuverability with the lighter swing weight and that means I can be a lot quicker for those battles in the kitchen compared to the more elongated paddles.”

“You’re going to be in the kitchen? That’s encouraging.”

“That’s a pickleball term, silly. The kitchen is the 7-foot area on each side of the net and it’s a no-volley zone. Well, unless the ball drops in it….”

My head is beginning to hurt. I’d take something but I’m worried about my perineum. Maybe I can find a gummie ear under a couch cushion.