My husband recently unearthed a pair of tennis rackets from the recesses of our garage. As he deftly swatted a ball against the house, he suggested that we start playing tennis together. “It would be great for us,” he said. “Spencer could chase the balls and the baby could nap in her stroller. It would be fun for everyone.” Fine, I said, but I would require a new racket, since the one I have is at least 25 years old, wooden with a small head — yet another object liberated from a dumpster, but this one came with a pedigree, since it was Princeton trash, after all.
For a few hours, I had visions of us, tanned and athletic, doing the ultimate summer couple thing: lopping bright yellow tennis balls back and forth over the net as our toddler frolicked in the fading sunlight. Then, as with everything, my thoughts turned to fashion. What, I wondered, does a girl WEAR when she has thighs that would frighten any flippy little tennis skirt back onto the racks in seconds flat? And what about shoes? I experienced palpitations just thinking about the cute little Tretorns I wore in college, wondering if they were still in my parents’ basement. Then, I thought, would I need some kind of contraption to keep my hair out of my face as I bounded from one end of the clay court to the other in pursuit of the elusive ball? And socks. Surely I would need a few pairs of those little ankle socks with the colorful pompon sewn to the heel. The list grew and grew. It’s like that whenever I consider taking on a new athletic endeavor. I pick an activity, try to envision myself committing acts of physical greatness and before long, the thoughts stray to costume. And every activity requires a different wardrobe. Were I to run, I would need pants allowing easy movement, as well as an industrial-strength athletic bra to hold the most visible parts of my anatomy firmly in their place. I would need a new watch, too, preferably of the plastic variety, like a SWATCH, to keep track of time. And then, there’s the aluminum jogging stroller for containing children. And the SHOES. Good heavens, the shoes. I’ve been wondering about bicycling, too, which would also be a great sport if I had a bike that made any sense. Of course, I own no fewer than three bikes, all of them huge, hulking behemoths from the 1950s: a pink and white Schwinn Hollywood, a blue Schwinn and a hot pink Columbia. While each boasts a broad and comfortable seat to support my generous bottom, none has anything resembling gears or handbrakes, both things I know I would require to keep up with my agile husband. I would still need something CUTE to take the bite away from the fact that I was actually going to do something more physical than carrying a load of laundry upstairs. I don’t suppose I would need new shoes for this sport, but I would need a helmet. And, in order to make use of any newly acquired wheels, I would also need one of those handy kid-trailers. Not only do they seat two kids comfortably, the kids would be safe if I hit a piece of gravel the wrong way and inevitably crashed. The truth is, even without a health club membership, fitness comes with a price tag. I would need different shoes for running than I would for tennis. If I were to adopt walking as my sport of choice instead, there would be no need for such a high-tech bra or fancy pants, since I could take a healthy walk in a prom dress if I had to. Shoes would still be important, and that jogging stroller could still come in handy, although my dual glider could also do the trick. I’ve pondered swimming, but I need a new suit, and perhaps a swimming cap covered with brightly-hued rubber flowers. Yoga means those cute wide-legged pants that hit just above the ankles. No shoes there, but I would need a decent yoga mat. I’ve tried bellydancing, too, investing in coinbelts and hip wraps encrusted with coins that jingle with every shimmy. But, while this activity comes with the very best accessories and leaves me feeling decidedly feminine, it does not offer the intense workout a girl in my position requires. Knowing that I am the kind of person who considers that every activity requires its own special costume, I realize that I will need to find a sport that combines great stuff and cute outfits with a decent workout: The physical activity that’s best for me has to come with the best accessories. After all, the best way to start a fitness regime is to go shopping.