I gave an interview recently, which got me thinking about an interview my grandmother did a few years before she died. She'd had knee replacement surgery and the local paper in Rehoboth, where she and my grandfather had retired, wanted to do a profile of her. A little background information: my grandmother had to be one of the most hilarious individuals I've ever met, whether she was trying to be or not. She loved cocktails (Beefeater martini, two olives, please), she could give TMZ a run for its money when it came to the collection and distribution of gossip, and she never left the house without lipstick. Several years before the infamous interview, she'd had major back surgery and mostly used a walker to get around. Not that that stopped her from much of anything, especially a good happy hour.
As long as I can remember, she and my grandfather went bowling. They loved it and even played in a league. But other than that, she wasn't particularly athletic. So you can imagine our surprise when the interview was published and it noted that "up until a few years ago, she even played tennis." What? Tennis? This one gaffe was the source of merciless teasing of my grandmother by my mother, my sister, and me. We just couldn't let her get away with that kind of tall tale. Far as anyone in the family knew, she hadn't played tennis in more than 20 years. And this story has gone down in family lore, never to be forgotten.
The reason this story has been on my mind lately is because, as I was giving my own interview, I felt a tremendous amount of pressure to be interesting. You never know who is going to be reading (and judging), and that's a heavy burden. I answered the questions as thoughtfully as I could, but in the back of my head there was that little voice saying, "You're just not that cool." And truthfully, I'm probably not. The worst part of the interview, for me, was when the reporter asked, "What local organizations are you involved?" Blank. Nothing. This was my grandmother moment. It would have been really interesting to say, "Well, I volunteer with Friends of the National Zoo fostering baby golden lion tamarins until they're weaned," or "I volunteer at a soup kitchen every Thursday cooking gourmet meals and I recently won an award for outstanding community service." But there was nothing I could say. Instead of making something up, I decided to acknowledge my own shortcomings. I told the reporter that I am, literally, not involved in anything. Oh, the shame! (Fortunately, she didn't print that part of the story. Though I guess I just put it out there for the world to read now, haven't I?)
The good news is that doing the interview was a process of self-discovery. I mean, now that I know I'm not involved in anything, a light has been shined on my fatal flaw. The only thing left to do is find some way to reach out to my community and become a player. I wasn't sure how . . . and then it hit me. Tennis. I'll teach tennis to disadvantaged youth. What better tribute to my grandmother? Just one problem: I have to learn how to play first.