Recently, it occurred to me that maybe I’m not running into Mr. Right is because Mr. Right doesn’t shop for lipstick at Sephora or hang out on my couch watching The Bachelorette. I need to figure out where he spends his time.
I’m not into reading magazines on the toilet, so I join a flag football team, shaking off the memory of a pre-teen me plucking dandelions in the softball outfield. Now, I’m a grown woman — I have the fixings for martinis in my pantry, and a mortgage! — and flag football is just a game … like Scrabble.
I show up for the game, decked out in long sweats to protect against skinned knees. My teammate Jared playfully hurls a football toward me. I crouch into tornado safety position and shield my head with my hands. Jared tells me I need to tuck in my T-shirt so I can Velcro this unattractive flag contraption around my waist. I try to explain that if I tuck in my T-shirt, my waistline will look thick and rumply, defeating the reason I’m here. “It’s a rule,” he says.
“I’ll be the quarterback,” I joke in the team huddle. No one smiles, because this is serious business. One guy seems kind of cute — cropped hair, big muscles, five o’clock shadow. “I’m Jennifer,” she grunts when I introduce myself.
The rest of my team includes a nondescript selection of guys with square-jawed faces whose obvious goal is to — yawn — play football, and two Pamela Anderson types with tanned legs sticking out of short shorts and T-shirts tied into cute knots revealing pert abs. Hey, isn’t that against the rules? Anyway, betcha these girls cry the first time the ball sails their way.
Team captain Matt scratches X’s and O’s in the dirt with a stick, like in the movies. I wonder which X I am … or are we the O’s? I take my place alongside my teammates on the field. “We’re going the other way!” Matt snaps at me. “Block that woman over there.” He points to a horse-like creature snorting at me from the other side of the field.
The ball snaps, and I run toward the Horse. She tramples all over me and gallops off into the darkness. Ouch. This is only a game, I remind myself … like Pictionary. I wonder how soon halftime will arrive so I can buy red licorice at the concession stand.
“Run that way and try to catch the ball,” Matt orders. Before I can explain the multiple reasons why this is not a good idea, the ball hurtles toward my delicate facial bones. I put my hands out, not to catch the ball, but to prevent it from inflicting permanent damage. It smacks my middle finger in a direction nature did not intend. OUCH! But I will not cry. I will NOT cry.
The score skyrockets to 13-0. We’re the zeroes. Blonde twin Krissy skips onto the field to replace me. I get to work braiding blades of grass on the sidelines. Krissy turns out to be a speed demon in waif’s clothing. The Horse tries to trample her, but Krissy darts away, managing to look adorable in the process.
Halftime. Sweet halftime. Is it only halftime? As Matt swipes his X’s and O’s, he directs his comments at me as I’m munching on my red licorice. “LA-dies, this brown object is a FOOTBALL.” I’m a grown woman with the fixings for martinis in my pantry and a mortgage. And it’s only a game … like Monopoly. And I will NOT cry.
Jennifer is ejected from the game for kicking the Horse in the hoof. Krissy leaves the game because she has a date. “Next play is a required woman’s play,” Matt tells us. Collective groan from the guys. “Kandy’s injured.” Kandy cradles her fingernail, chipped on the last play. “Which leaves … Amy.” Another collective groan from the team. “When the ball snaps,” he instructs me, “run to the right and look for this BROWN OBJECT.”
That’s it. My finger may be broken, my waistline rumply, but I’ll show them. The ball snaps. I run to the right. Which is when Matt swoops in, literally picks me up and carries me around the field, planting me where the ball is headed. I’m so stunned the ball sails over my head. The Horse whinnies. Matt curses. The Zeroes remain zeroes.
That night I curl up with an ice pack on my finger and Icy Hot slathered on my wounded pride. What was I thinking, trying to meet Mr. Right in his own habitat? Boys will be boys. And in some ways, I’ll always be that pre-teen plucking dandelions in the outfield.
Say … I wonder if Mr. Right plays Monopoly?
“I dreamt my whole life about being a mother,” says Heidi Jellison. “I never dreamt about a big wedding, honestly never even dreamt about the husband part.” Jellison, a 35-year-old concert harpist and harp teacher, laughs at this last bit, but then her face settles into a quiet solemnity.
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