Every summer the kids talk me into taking them to the public pool. For them, it’s a fun way to cool off on a hot day. For me, it’s a toss up between looking like a pool-Geek in a T-shirt and capris, or a fresh-plucked frying hen wearing a swimsuit.
Friends of mine, who frequent various weight-loss clinics, mistakenly assume my lack of excess pounds means I have a tanned, toned and totally hairless body. They imagine me waking on the first warm, summer day, tossing a tank top over my French-cut bikini and calling to the kids, “Let’s go for a swim!” If I ever ran into them at the pool they would see by my flaccid, albino anatomy their reasoning is flawed. But the only mothers I see at the pool obviously never nursed, still have abdominal muscles and shamelessly sport a genetic flaw that has left them with extra melanin and no follicles.
If I go to the pool fully dressed, the trick is to look too involved in the latest bestseller to care about showing off my breaststroke. Or, with my cell phone clutched to my ear, I pretend to be involved in an urgent business conversation, far too important to participate in something as frivolous as water play.
If I decide to wear a swimsuit, I have to confront the issue of whether or not to get in the pool. Safe on my chaise, the hope is that onlookers will mistake me for just another sunbather trying to deepen my tan; despite the fact my white legs reflect more sunlight than they absorb.
Getting in the pool is tempting on especially hot days. I just wish it didn’t require walking past all the college boys lounging poolside who, instead of reading a good book, are whale-watching. I have no need to wave hello as my thighs are doing it for me.
If I do get in, I immediately submerge myself neck-deep in water. If I’m having a good hair day I begin to relax, until my children spot me and come over to play. Soon I look like I have just stepped out of the shower. Wet hair, clinging to my head, accentuates all the facial flaws my hairstyle is designed to conceal. My bangs have disappeared, revealing a fleshy soccer field, complete with line markings. And now, to get to my comb, I must parade past all the whale-watchers again, this time looking ten years older.
With my bangs reclaimed and cover-up on, I call to the kids it is time to go – NOW. Time is ticking, and I know I have precious few minutes before my naturally wavy hair, blowing softly in the summer breeze, dries – giving me the appearance of a startled sheepdog.
This is the moment when Athena Perfecto, the Cleavage Queen, emerges from the pool calling, “Cora! Remember me? Winnetonka High School? Home-Ec?” There we stand, toe-to-toe, a stark contrast of good genes versus bad, of Beauty and the Beast – and she wants to catch up on the twenty-plus years since we’ve seen each other. I say she must be mistaken, as I attended Polar Bear High School in Nome, Alaska and have never taken Home Ec.
The kids and I scurry off to the van, and for the first time in my life, I lay rubber.
Suffice it to say, the notion of spending an afternoon at the pool is about as appealing to me as parading around in front of a bunch of strangers in my underwear.