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All whipped up |

Fashion and Beauty

All whipped up

I spent 30 hours of this weekend all by myself in bed, like a stone. I have no particular fever nor am I in any particular pain. But I spent most of the week playing badminton – hard games, against men– and I am just tired of moving. Moving hurts. So here I am in bed, curtains drawn (so that it’s dark and dreary even at high noon), and I’m thinking of the assorted tortures these men subjected me to.

Well, I asked for it. These are A-level players, many notches above my game, and I really have no business playing against them. They are men, they’re young and aerodynamic, and they play like devils. But I told them to bring it on, no mercy, and so they whipped me. And here I am.

I tell a friend I am seriously fatigued, and she worries that it is no longer healthy exercise, what I do. And she’s right. But that’s precisely the point of my playing hard all week: I am not out for exercise anymore; I am out for war. Not against men– or women, for that matter – but against my mind, which shifts to panic mode whenever I play competitively. I get scared. I get into a mode of semi-paralysis, and I’m there with my fingers gripping my racket hard while shuttlecocks land on my nose. It’s like stage fright.

At my age (and physical composition), I don’t aspire to raise my game to A-levels anymore. I’m a happy C-minus, what with my now-defective spare parts. I made a bad pivot three months ago, and my right knee swelled so that it looked like an overripe melon. I went to a sports doctor. He tinkered with it, gave my little kneecaps a few shakes, and said patella-something and prescribed an anti-inflammatory drug, which I took, and a rehab program, which I didn’t. I just kept on playing until one day I attempted to lunge and my knees locked and I felt a small explosion in my joint. I went to a different orthopedic doctor (because I can’t tell the first one I defied his orders) who would not tell me anything until, he insisted, I got an MRI. And after the MRI? I asked. "We’ll see if we need to operate," he said. So then, I remembered my mother who, at 84, suffered pain in the knees. She took an MRI like a good patient, went through a knee-replacement operation, and died. That’s too expensive. I went to a sporting goods store and bought four knee braces (they get sweat-soaked) for a few hundred pesos each.

I play a decent C-minus level, but only in the safe company of friends. I am what they might call a strong player, even, because I am tall and can do a mean drive every now and then. But take me to a real match and I’m like a desiccated tree on the court. Two years ago, my friend Tini was absolutely traumatized by our 5-0 performance in a tournament. I was not. I was laughing. I had humor going for me, and I would have written a hilarious account of that painful humiliation and sent it to the tournament e-group had it not been for the bruised feelings of Tini, which I took into account. Then, again, in July this year, I joined another tournament with the same results: four losses, no wins. "Don’t we get a medal for that?" I asked, grinning. But in August, when a pair of nine-year-olds – my goodness, they’re as high as our waists, barely– beat Racquel and me to a pulp, I said, no more eggs for me. This is it. I want to win. Not the whole freaking tournament, darn it, but one set. Just one set.

As it happens, there is going to be a tournament among neighbors in Ayala Heights where I live. I’m playing mixed doubles with my friend Pancho as my partner, and I am determined to win us a game. I figure that if I just play within myself, within my real game, I will be all right. I just have to watch the mind, see that it does not go to that place where I become a virtual tree on the court with my feet firmly rooted on the Taraflex. And that’s why I played with the best of them last week–a kind of desensitization of my nerves. They really gave it to me, these men. They whacked and dropped and jump-smashed and sent shuttlecocks zinging like bullets past my ear (I got good at ducking them, is all). I was all over the place keeping the play alive, the wind going out of me, feeling a mix of pride and oppression with every pass across the net. Feeling good.

But now, of course, this. I am dead weight. Something tells me that after the friendly neighborhood tournament, I will settle peacefully on my writing desk and set my knees up comfortably on a stool where they belong. Maybe.
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E-mail me at or visit my blog at

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