Last night I was having a blast playing badminton with a mixed group of folks; young, old, big, small. Predominantly international and male, with a handful of female players, most of them more experienced than I.
Regardless, I have been going for the past 3 weeks now, and felt my skills improving. I know how to serve, play up front, and punt the birdie over the other side, even at short distances. One of the regulars, a stout older man named N, even complimented me: “You’ve really improved since the last time I’ve seen you! Wow!”
My cheeks lit up with appreciation. I was glowing, revering in a sense of accomplishment, and just straight up having a good time. The last few games I played alongside my friend, D, and we were starting to develop a good rhythm, with me volleying shorter hits up front, and him catapulting birdies from behind.
It was all going swimmingly until K entered the picture.
K is a grumpy older, white, American man who often refers to himself as “mayor of badminton group” (Huh. Surprise, surprise, an older white man snatching credit and authority for himself without even acquiescence from others). K is quick to critique others on their game, especially the women and newcomers (me, and me), saying things like “you really need to position yourself this way” and “I told you I was gonna hit it that way” every time a racket swooshes emptily past a missed birdie.
K’s game is fine. He misses his fair share of hits, too. And he is old, so doesn’t move around as much. In sum, he is your classic curmudgeonly old man (probably worked a lame-ass, blue-collar job and busted up his knee at some point, and is now thus reduced to badminton) who finds power in goading on others. Although in his ‘mayorly’ mind, he thinks he’s helping, mentoring even (Gah! spits pointedly on the ground).
Anyway, the last game had ended, and a group of 4, including K and I, were deciding how to split up teams. And, in classic K fashion, he turns to me and blurts aloud to the entire gym:
“you’re less skilled than the other players, so stay on that side”
That night, I was enraged. So much so I almost tore up my carpet. Because it wasn’t just his words. It was all they represented. The pride and glow he took from me in that moment, because he could, and he didn’t think any more deeply about how his petty, powerful words would make me feel.
with one line
he broke the evening
formerly filled with fun
and flying birds
now they fall
through my racket
to the ground,
I’m filled with murder
do old, bitter, broken
gotta fuck shit up?