:: Life on Planet Dan-E ::

Thoughts, observations, and introspections from an art student waiter/bartender in South Beach. Arcane humor ensues.
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:: Sunday, December 09, 2007 ::

:: Tennis and Other things ::
I wrote the first section of this post months ago but I've been afraid to post it due its personal nature and redundancy to some of the related topics I've blogged about in the past. However, it's probably better to get some of these thoughts out there. The second part of this post deals with a follow-up. Like before, if you read this, please feel free to comment since I might come to my senses and delete this.

I've been playing tennis only once a week lately because of my work schedule. Like many things that require practice and repetition, my tennis game has suffered because of my lack of playtime. After this morning's session, one of pros who coached me before, asked me how I did. I responded with a scowl and disgusted groan. (Not unlike thw last few weeks.) "That's alright," he responded. "You know what I like about you, though? You keep showing up and trying."

His actual tennis skills aren't great but his understanding of fundamentals and strategy are off the charts. He is always upbeat, regardless of how well I did - or didn't - play. He could always watch me play and point out stuff I need to improve, yet made sure to praise the positive. Even if I got beat by some hack and left with a foul mood, he was unrelentingly positive.

I think my tennis game in many ways similar my dating life. I have the qualities that you might think women would find desirable, yet I'm not as good as I should be. Follow along for a minute if you will:

In my tennis game, many of the pros have told me that I have excellent ground strokes and fundamentals. For my dating life, I have that requisite "good personality" that women supposedly like. The sense of humor, the loyalty, the ability to hold a conversation, and the self-sustaining (non-clingy) personality that most would consider and asset.

On the court, I have a decent ability to analyze my opponent's strengths and weaknesses and develop a strategy on how to beat them. Likewise, I seem to have knowledge on how to carry myself as a somewhat confident male that can converse with a woman, get past her shield, and maybe get a phone number or two.

If there's a glaring weakness in my tennis game, it's my serve and game time execution. My serve is inconsistent at best. My mechanics are awful. Even when I'm able to get a first serve in it's not a great serve and a competent opponent can pounce on it and immediately put me on defense. If you ever saw Roger Federer, Pete Sampras, or Stephan Edberg play, you'd probably know just powerful an effective first serve is. With my strategy, I can set up my opponent but I fail in execution because my passing shot ends up going wide. The frustrating part of this is that I've lost games against opponents where I should have easily won. I play at an "advanced" level and I've lost 6-2 against several "intermediate" players. I'm not being self-aggrandizing, since after some of these losses the coaches would read my face and ask me "how'd you lose against him?"

Why? I've been playing tennis for so many years, I've seen so many matches on TV, that I should be able to rely on knowledge and instinct. But it's one thing to carry head knowledge and another thing to confidently execute that strategy into an actual match. I do fine at practice but once they let us play live points, I find that I either hold back, or I go for too much. Opponents whose skills are far inferior to mine have beaten me.

Like in real life, my approach is weak. In tennis, the serve is considered an offensive weapon. And at my peak, years and years ago, it was average at best. And now? I have nothing. I can't remember the last time I tried to start a conversation with a woman. Even the few times a woman was brave enough initiate a conversation with me, I couldn't follow up with anything of substance. Even if I got a phone number (which means nothing, absolutely nothing), I couldn't follow up. I couldn't execute my strategy because... well... I had little faith in my fundamentals.

And in translates as such into my love life. The fundamentals and game plan are sound. The approach and execution totally SUCK because I, in a word, choke.

I've seen men holding hands with beautiful women, despite the fact that they might have bigger guts that I do, less hair than I do, or less personality than I do. I used to rationalize it by thinking "they must be rich (or they're a tripod)." But regardless of the reason, the one thing these other guys have in common is that their confidence belies whatever shortcoming some third-party observer might have.

The similarities are eerie: when I'm playing well, I seem to attract some female attention (not that I'm able to do anything with it). When I'm not, I couldn't get a woman to look at me if I set myself on fire.

But the key difference between tennis and dating: with my tennis game, I "keep showing up and trying." The tennis clinics have regulars and many of those regular have either beaten me or heard me get beaten (I may or may not unleash a yell of frustration at times) so it's not like I'm sparing myself from embarrassment. The last six sessions have been highly frustrating to the point where I half-heartedly entertain the thought of giving up tennis. Yet I "keep showing up and trying."

Dating is the same way. I'm going to get rejected more often than not. That's the simple reality. But there might be just as good a chance someone will find me attractive and desirable. But how will I know if I don't "show up and try?" If my approach sucks, don't I owe it to myself to at least keep, for lack of a better word, practicing this? It's one thing to know what my shortcomings are, but what kind of person am I if I do nothing to remedy those flaws? Even if the best thing I can say about myself right now is that "I've never killed anybody," I deserve better than what I've had so far, right? I owe it to myself to not just seek better, but to be a better person for those I seek, right?

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Miami has hosted "Art Basel" this past week, which is essentially a city-wide collective of art galleries displaying modern art. Art Basel bills itself as "the most important art show in the United States, a cultural and social highlight for the Americas." Last month, I waited on a curator who installed an exhibit at a posh hotel for a world-renowned photographer. Her past work is with some famous artists, enough that that even if you never heard of her name, you might have heard of the artist.

The first time I waited on her, I simply remember her being friendly, engaging, and having a nice smile. I normally have trouble remembering customers unless they've been by at least three times, but the second time she came in, I remembered who she was, why she was here (she lives in New York City), and even what she ordered. It was slow enough that I was able to talk to her and flirt a little. She gave me her business card. When she left that night, she left me a nice tip and a kiss on the cheek.

Fast forward to this past week: She's back in town, working her ass off trying to accumulate clients and sell artwork. When she dropped by, she gave me a big hug. We weren't able to hang out since she was working the whole week but she always stopped by on nights I worked and tried to sit in my section. Nothing developed but I enjoyed our conversations nonetheless.

I wasn't expecting much out of this and I'm still not sure if there was any attraction from her but at least I made a new friend. But this experience made me realize one of the things that was holding me back:

There are several posts about how I believe being a waiter is a great way to make living, despite what anyone else may think. But perhaps due to insecurities and other factors I've deviated from that and let it affect other facets of my life.

When sitting at Starbucks or Taste Bakery with my laptop, I'd often see other women there, sometimes with friends, sometimes alone with their own laptops. I’m usually engrossed in whatever I'm working on, but occasionally I would make eye contact with these women. Some would throw smiles my way, and yet I'd never act on them. Why? They would be dressed very professionally, with pantsuits and ponytails. Or they might be University of Miami students studying either law or medicine (that particular Starbucks seems to draw that crowd). Either way, I'd let that intimidate me and I'd be afraid to say anything.

"She's a businesswoman/law student/med student/smart. She's not going to hook with some loser waiter" is what would go through my mind. I disqualified myself without ever giving myself a chance.

But it shouldn't matter what I do, right? I'm able to sustain a very good living with my job and I have other qualities and interests that should override any occupational concerns. Right? But that held me back.

Despite that I flirted and conversed with the curator enough that she kept in contact with me, gave me a kiss, and stopped in to see me when I worked. I was able to talk to her and flirt with her enough to keep her interest because she knows what I do and she talked to me anyway.

Isn't there something wrong with that line of thinking?

If I possessed true confidence, I should be able to say "she talked to me because I'm charming, fun to talk to, and I have a good sense of humor, and smart women respond favorably to that." Not "I'm a waiter and she liked me anyway."

What's holding me back? What am I afraid of? If I was working my "real job" in advertising, all that would change is my job title, since my pay would probably be about what I make now, so money isn't as issue. (Or it shouldn't be.) Is it the stigma of being a waiter? It shouldn't be. The friend I wrote about that offered me a management job; he recently got married to his beautiful, blonde, sweet wife, despite the fact that she's an office manager (or something, I'm not sure exactly) and they met while he was a bartender at some smelly little dive bar. It shouldn’t matter.

Yet, in my mind it does and my solutions are clear: either find my "real job" so I have one less psychological barrier, or work at simply believing in myself. If I can believe in my fundamentals and my knowledge of strategy, my serve would improve and my execution would certainly get better.

Except, like tennis (and so many other things), improvement takes time. It takes practice and it requires enduring setbacks and frustration. Even in tennis I endure considerable frustration, yet I "keep showing up." There was a point in the past where I was actually a pretty good tennis player and I "keep showing up" because I believe I can return to that level.

I've dated a few women, but I was never "good with women." Looking back, I sold myself short. And I probably thought I couldn't do any better. I never really put it all together enough to date a genuinely good woman. Some of the women I dated were garbage. Every woman I dated, I remember a subconscious thought telling me "you could do better. You deserve better." I would dsimiss it, believing it to be a case of the jitters, ignoring the obvious red flags.

With my dating life in the here and now, I need to just "show up" more, results be damned. I somehow lucked into some past relationships. I can't rely on luck. Luck might win a few points here and there but it won't win you a match. I need to "show up" and let the woman decide whether or not she wants me. I shouldn't make that decision for her. And I need to find a way to overcome my demons and find the fortitude to do that. How exactly? I'm still working on that.

As for the curator? This was a business trip for her: she was attending galleries, seeing clients, selling art, and installing artwork so there wasn't any time for us to hang out. I wasn't expecting much anyway but she tried to visit me at work when she had some down time so I take that as a good sign. She'll be flying back to New York tomorrow but there were a few positives I could take way from this. The really sad thing is that I'm 33. I should have learned this shit in my 20s.

But that's a whole other blog.

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:: Miscellaneous Ramblings by Dan-E at 1:36 AM [+] :: | 0 comments

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