As I was leaving to play tennis, I noticed my partner had left a message on voice mail saying she couldn’t play and had gotten a sub, not saying who the sub was, which was odd. Still, I headed to the court, looking forward to playing.
Fortunately for me I saw her before she saw me. I stopped. Trying to control my anger. My partner knew better than to pair me with a woman who had done her best to isolate me from other players, telling lies about me, accusing me of cheating, criticizing me in front of others. I thought about leaving, but that wouldn’t be fair to the other two with whom I played regularly.
When the woman saw me she smirked. I took a deep breath and made a quick decision. I’d kill her with kindness. I returned her nasty look with a faked smile, deeply satisfied by her puzzled expression.
When I hit a ball out she scolded me for not running fast enough. Normally I would have responded with a dirty look or a defense. Not this time. I shook my head and said, “You’re right. Next time I’ll start sooner.” Another bewildered look.
When she hit a ball out I said, “Good try.” When she hit a hard line drive I said, “Well done!” No matter what she did or how she played, I reacted with feigned caring and support, enjoying her confusion.
I could see her staring at me as we changed sides. Hostility had given way to incomprehension. I grinned when she couldn’t see me. When one of the other two women tried to console me about having to play with a woman who had maligned me, I told them it was fine, and in a weird way, it was. She was a pretty good tennis player and with every compliment she played better.
Much to my astonishment, after I hit a hard ball to the far left of the opposite court that won us a game, she muttered, “Good shot!” I thanked her.
We ended up winning two of the three sets. As we were about to leave the court I said, “Thanks for playing with us today. You’re welcome to sub any time.” She nodded, looking baffled.
When I got to my car I couldn’t stop laughing. Who knew reacting to hostility with smarmy kindness could be so much fun.
Have you experienced a time when you reacted in ways that contradicted how you felt?
Life tales from a woman different living in The City Different.