Somebody once told me that tennis is your husband, your boyfriend, your fiancé, and your best friend all rolled into one. It takes up every second of your time, every ounce of your energy, and every thought in your head. It had also been my adolescence, my education, my entry into adulthood, and my ticket to see the world. It had been my entire life and had tested me on every possible level. Somehow I'd come out the other side in one piece. Even better than one piece: I'd come out whole and healthy and strong. While staying out of the public eye, I'd been able to rebuild and fortify my core and I decided to put it to the ultimate test: ballroom dancing in front of millions of people. If I was going to test my newfound inner strength, what better way to do it than by risking total and complete public humiliation on reality television? Dancing with the Stars was my mom's favorite program, so when the opportunity arose to be on it, I gave it some serious thought. I had several strikes against me: two left feet, the inability to wear heels, stage fright, and absolutely zero dance experience. My mission to embrace my fears would be taken to a whole other level. My friends thought I was crazy when I decided to do it: "Monica, you know that you have to actually dance on that show, right?" they asked. "Are you sure you want to do it?" No, I wasn't completely sure, but what did I have to lose? I gave my new favorite answer to every opportunity that life threw my way: "Why not?"
I was paired with Jonathan Roberts, a show veteran who looked as dashing in person as he did when he partnered Marie Osmond, Heather Mills, and Rachel Hunter on television. One of the most patient people I've ever met, Jonathan wasn't fazed by my hips' complete inability to shake. Over and over he painstakingly went through the steps for our first two dances together, the fox-trot and the mambo. I had some prior work obligations, so we couldn't hunker down in the L.A.-based dance studios like the other contestants. Jonathan gamely met up with me all over the place: we practiced in any empty rooms we could nd in Tokyo, Florida, and New York, eight hours a day for four weeks. With one week to go before the show, we headed to L.A., where the filming took place, for last-minute dance step cramming. My inner perfectionist kicked in when, with five days to go, I scheduled our dance sessions for seven in the morning.
"Seven?" Jonathan asked in disbelief. "I'm not even awake until nine."
"But I don't know the steps yet!" I was starting to panic. We'd just shared practice time with Christian de la Fuente and Cheryl Burke and they looked unbelievable gliding across the floor. I knew I was in trouble, and Jonathan -- who had seen some of the other practices -- wasn't pulling any punches. "Monica, I'm going to be honest. We've got an uphill battle." The whole I'm doing the show for fun mantra was being replaced with I'm terrified of making a fool out of myself.
"Okay, how about we compromise and make it eight o'clock?" he offered.