Saturday, March 22, 2014

Mr. Christian Man, Martina And I

For years I'd played alot of tennis and usually with men because that was my level of competition.

It was 1976, my husband of one year, Mr. Christian Man, and I were fanatical tennis players.

He was athletic, I was athletic. I jogged every morning to improve my endurance on the court. He ran. Like,really ran. Runner, running.

We'd wake super early and sneak off to the the courts before work. What a treat it was when sometimes I was able to get a few games in at lunch. Of course we played every day after work and on the weekends in the morning and again at evening. We still always felt like it wasn't enough. Good times.

We played singles against each other, relishing opportunities to team up and challenge other players, me, as a female, with skills, being the surprise element. In 1979 when Sarahjoy was born she accompanied us to the court, first in a playpen, later we'd haul her wind-up swing and we were set for the day.

Tennis magazines were arriving at our home and instantly consumed by whichever one of us got it first. Tennis tips, training ideas, motivational articles.

But, as they say, 'the times they are a 'changing,' and that was certainly true in the 60's and 70's. 

Womens professional tennis was undergoing dramatic changes. Besides establishing itself as a serious sport, radio and television sports channels were now madly abuzz regarding lesbianism 'running rampant' in womens tennis. 

For me, personally, whether I'd heard the news stories or not probably wouldn't have meant much. I didn't know what lesbianism was, it was so outside of my white bread, vanilla upbringing.

What it meant in my home however was that now I was being accused of being a lesbian, because I played tennis. I was actively involved in a sport fraught with lesbian proclivities.

And of course that meant punishment. 

Punishment varied. It included being scorned and being berated.

Domestic abuse can come from way out of left corner (or right corner), which adds to the fear level, heightens the constant state of panic, heart racing, wondering what you did, wondering how far, how long, how many days, weeks, months, years is this current punishment going to last. 

Mr. Christian Man had used something as innocuous as playing tennis and assailed my principles, fired upon my supposed beliefs (I like to play tennis?).  The punishment allowed him to corner me, usually in the bathroom up against the corner near the shower, being taller and bigger than me, standing over me, raging at me, physically grabbing a body part, often an arm, his hand on my chest, fingers pressing into my throat. I am no longer standing, afterwards. I have crouched down and curled up in a ball. I am diminished. Not only could I not stand face to face and have a marital conversation, I was no longer worthy of it. 

One day I'd been his partner and now I didn't know how to even get on the same ground. Fear, panic and the resulting bewilderment caused me to be a babbling idiot. 

An athletic sports event that was being bantered all around the Country, the names Billy Jean King and Martina Navratilova of note infiltrated my home, leaving me afraid to be swung at and hit, but further psychologically wounded due to my newly-arrived-at immense inadequacies. 

Where's my athletic Daddy, I hear the loop.

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