NYC Table Tennis
Dave wasn’t athletic. He had been overweight as a kid, and never understood his own body. He didn’t pay attention in gym class, and played most sports as if no one had ever taught him anything. In basketball, he would attempt to grab rebounds by lunging forward, throwing his hands out waist-high, and waiting for the ball to drop.
Normally, something like this would have been a deal breaker; I always insisted on dating athletes. Nevertheless, there was one sport Dave could play better than anybody else I knew. Ping pong.
The first time we played at his parents’ house in Michigan, our sweaty basement session went on for hours, until we were too hungry to continue. The points were long and intense, and I can still picture Dave’s definitive backhand wrist snap. It usually sent the ball spinning past me before I could even react. When he played ping pong, his hand-eye coordination was astounding.
I lost to Dave more times than I care to count, which was particularly humiliating because I considered myself something of a ping pong prodigy. Having grown up with a table, I would beat just about everybody I knew. I won amateur tournaments from England to Panama. My friends nicknamed me Smashley. I took my paddle everywhere.
I packed my paddle for New York City, the ping pong capital of America
The only thing more fun than beating just about everybody, though, was being at the table with Dave. He had also grown up with the game, and played nearly every afternoon during high school. I was in awe of his skill, and I never quite got over it. Eventually long distance split us apart, and he married a designer who doesn’t even play ping pong. But to this day, I am hopelessly drawn to men who can defeat me.
This winter, I packed my paddle for New York City, the ping pong capital of America. I had heard that a bunch of new venues had popped up there, including a glitzy ping pong night club founded by actor Susan Sarandon, and I planned to spend several weeks immersing myself in the scene. I had also learned that a ping pong dating trend had emerged: people were apparently reserving tables for tennis rather than dinner. Ping pong groupies were scoping out players at tournaments. Bets were often made for beer and the removal of clothing.
It seemed like the ideal environment in which to do some ping pong dating and see how I measured up. Upon arrival, I placed an ad on Craigslist:
“Hi there. I’m a single, 31-year-old woman looking for a man to play ping pong and drink beer with. I am particularly interested in men who believe they might win. If you have no backhand or don’t know the rules, I will not find this cute. I carry around my own paddle. I’m 5’9, 135, blond, fast and long-limbed, which means I can return what you were sure would be a winner. If you are up for this challenge, drop me an email and let me know where you like to play in New York City. We can meet there. Loser pays for beer.”