I mean I can only sort of swim.
For twenty or thirty seconds.
As long as my face stays out of the water.
And I can put my feet down at any time and stand up.
Sure, I can float on my back. But panic would soon set in, I'd start flailing my silly little hands, and before you know it, I'd be in Davey Jones' Locker, even in nine feet of water. (Yes, I know that drowned people float, but I have a feeling I'm different.)
For over twenty years, my inability to swim didn't bother me in the least, because I'd have sooner set myself on fire than take off my shirt in front of other humans and hop into a pool. It was completely out of the realm of possibility. (Although I suppose that at some point in the self-immolation, the water might start to look more appealing.)
It was three years ago that I first set foot in a pool again. It was already several years after my mastectomies and chest liposuction, but I had still never worked up the courage to go swimming. Darren's sister had a pool at her house, and since it was basically a private setting, I finally was able to take the plunge, as it were.
I immediately remembered how much I liked being in the water, but it also struck me that I really have no clue what to do once I'm in it.
Even when I was a kid, I never learned to tread water or do real strokes. I just splashed and bobbed around the shallow end of the pool to cool off on hot summer days. I've never gone down a water slide, jumped off a diving board, or dived head-first into water. (It's still beyond me how anyone can do that last one.)
In third grade I did take beginning swimming lessons at the YMCA, but after foundering one day in the deep end while struggling miserably to traverse the pool (and subsequently needing to be rescued by the teacher), I begged my parents to let me drop out of the class. My pleas fell on deaf ears.
I was forced to concoct a devious plan.
The next day I changed into my swimsuit (with a little picture of Flipper on the right hip) but then hung back and hid in the locker room when the other kids headed down to the pool. I figured I'd just wait out the class, then wet my hair with water from the sink, and meet my dad in front of the YMCA in an hour. No one would be the wiser. Since the class only lasted two weeks, I figured I only had to pull my scam six more times and I'd be home free.
Much to my chagrin, the instructor came back to the locker room to find me. He asked me if I wasn't feeling well, I told him tearfully that I was too scared to go back into the water.
He crouched down to look me in the eye and said he would make sure nothing happened to me. He was very kind, and he called me "Sean Connery," which made me feel cool. (I also remember being very intrigued by his muscular thighs and hairy stomach. I was one very queer third grader.)
I let him walk me to the pool where the other kids were waiting impatiently for class to start. I have no memory of the class itself, and I don't recall if I ever went back to the YMCA. I don't think I did, because if I had finished the class, I'd probably be able to swim at least a little better today. Honestly, the last thing I remember about my swimming lessons is that guy's legs.
Anyway, thirty-two years later, my gym workouts are boring me to tears, and my calf, shoulder, ankle, or some other part of me is always in pain these days. I starting think it might be nice to try a form of exercise that is gentler on my body. (Not to mention that it would be cool to know how to stay alive in water if I ever had to.)
So I'm considering taking private swimming lessons at my health club. Just considering, mind you. Frankly, water remains scary to me, and it's also really hard to contemplate having to interact with a stranger while I'm shirtless.
All that makes me feel super lame (especially when I have a studly friend who's a triathlete), but I have never claimed to be other than an anxiety-plagued neurotic mess.
Pity poor Darren. He puts up with so much.