Off the Bench

You know on The Biggest Loser (What, you don’t watch it? You’re too good for Biggest Loser?) when they tell the contestants’ backstories, the reason they’ve been driven to come on a weight loss show? It seems like the most common reason is children – they want to live longer for their kids, they want to be able to play with their kids, they want to be part of their kids’ lives instead of just observers. Then it shows a clip of a contestant at the park watching sadly from a bench as her kids and spouse play soccer, fly a kite, or run around together, with a voiceover lamenting all the years of play lost because of physical limitations.

Whenever I see that, I really identify with the mom on the bench – not because I can’t join in the fun but because I’m just too lazy. Anywhere we go – the pool, the zoo, the amusement park – I go straight for the bench. Just walking from the parking lot and getting through the admissions line is really taxing. And someone has to be there to watch and cheer them on, right? Someone has to take the pictures. If I don’t do it, no one will. So I’ve assigned myself the role of Passive Observer in our family life.

I exercise daily so I consider myself to be fairly active. But when I really stop to think about it, I honestly only exercise so I can eat cake. I’m just a couch potato who happens to take a break for exercise each day. I sit for my job and then to rest from my work, I sit some more. I am a naturally sedentary person. I have friends who love to stay moving, who feel cooped up if they’re stuck inside the house for too long. When they tell me this, I nod and try to appear understanding  but really I’m thinking, “I don’t ever feel that way. I can’t wait to go home to my bed.”

Which brings me to the naps. I love naps. I never thought I was an excessive napper – I take just the right amount of naps. But judging from comments others have made, apparently I nap a lot. One high school friend visiting from out of town called to say they’d be an hour later than they had planned. I said, “Oh, good. That’s just enough time for a nap,” and she said, “Aw, you’re taking a nap? That’s how I always remember you!” When we moved across the country for grad school, my husband’s uncle and aunt gave us their couch because they knew I really liked napping on it.


My past experience with trying to be active tells me I should never, ever  try to be active. Like the time I tried shooting hoops with my son and on my first try the ball bounced back with great force and smacked me on the face. I literally saw Looney Tunes stars and my glasses smashed into my nose and left a red mark there for a week. Or like the time I tried wakeboarding and my back went out. Or every time I try to play volleyball and I jam my finger just in time for a piano performance. Every time. And are you supposed to get really sore from bowling? That doesn’t seem normal. I’m just not sporty. I know this and I’m ok with it.

That’s why this week’s challenge is a bigger deal for me than it might sound to others. Even though I have a tendency to injure myself in comical ways when I try to get off the bench and play, this week I tried racquetball. Because what could possibly go wrong?


I reserved courts three times this week. I chose to play with my husband first because I knew he would be nicer to me than my sons would and he was less likely to make up bogus rules. I’m still not sure he didn’t invent the part about scoring. The first two matches are won when one of the players gets 15 points, but the third match only goes to 11 points? Doesn’t that seem fishy to you, like he totally made that up? He was very nice though, especially considering how clownishly bad I was at it. At one point he said, “I’m not laughing. I’m just smiling because I’m friendly.”

The second game I played with my most competitive son. We’ve been known to get pretty violent when we play Wackee Six together so I was worried about injuries. For safety, I left my glasses at home and wore contacts. He is a more aggressive player than my husband and he did hit me twice with the ball but I don’t think it was on purpose. At one point, the ball bounced off the wall and smacked me in the back of the leg. I could tell it had stopped bouncing but I couldn’t see where it went. Then I realized that when it hit me, the ball stayed there. It was stuck between my legs without me even noticing. I obviously don’t have that thigh gap that’s so popular with the skinny folks these days.

I played my last game with my 11-year-old. So far, I had only won one match out of the six. I knew that this was my only chance for victory. Aside from letting him serve more often than he deserved, I was a stickler on the rules. I told myself I wasn’t letting him win because I was preparing him to play against his brother in the future and I knew there would be no mercy there. But after beating him twice, I felt sorry for the kid and told him he was allowed to let the ball bounce one extra time after hitting the back wall since most of the shots he missed were because he’s a lot shorter than I am. Giving him that small advantage meant another loss for me.

This week’s experiment confirmed what I already knew: that I am not an athlete and will probably never win at racquetball. But I also learned that I really like playing it. I want to go back again for our next date night. I loved the uninterrupted hour spent one on one with my sons that didn’t involve nagging them about homework or chores or listening to them talk about video games. And it was much more enjoyable to play with them than it would have been just sitting on the bench watching. Who knows, I might just become an active participant in my own life after all.

And please enjoy my first attempt at my phone’s time lapse setting (with my reaction to finding where the ball got stuck at :35.). It’s very professional.


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