Early this spring, in anticipation of my sailing trip in Croatia and as part of a new year's resolution, I decided to tackle a big fear and take a swimming course. I'd been needing to learn how to swim for a long time. Before you ask, let me tell you there was no swimming requirement in any of the physical education/fitness classes in school and quite honestly if they had required it, I think I would have protested and accepted a failing grade instead of hopping in. I remember standing in the group with the other black girls at many a pool party with our freshly straightened hair flinching at the slightest flick of water in our direction. None of us were going to risk having our tenuously straight hair shrink up to a very unstylish (in our minds) tight curly afro in exchange for one or two rousing matches of Marco Polo. No way were we gonna face the wrath of the hot comb (the source of many a scorched ear) so soon.
And so I found myself at the YMCA amongst the few other adults humble enough to step forward and say yes, we can't swim. I was looking forward to gaining some real practical skills that would help me avert death if our boat were to have an unfortunate accident or become besieged by pirates. Unfortunately for me, my instructor did not see fit to teach me all those handy things like dead man's float and doggie paddle; he chose, instead, to focus on the Total Immersion method in which I spent 6 weeks only learning how to breathe and kick and nothing of how to use my arms or actually stay alive in the water. I tried to speak to my instructor about this and express the urgency but I think he had to much water and chlorine on the brain so in his peculiar fake Austrian accent he would just nod and say "I know, but I just wanna see you kick right now. Kick kick kick". At the end of the first 6 week section when I told him I was now off on my way to the sailing trip he looked me sternly in the eye and said "Don't get in the water. Wear a life jacket the whole time."
Luckily, I had a wonderful trip and despite going without a life jacket there were no mishaps and I lived. I returned to Brooklyn ready for the next session of swimming, but after about two crummy lessons and frustration (mostly because I couldn't find a large enough swim cap-- i tried many!-- and the chlorine was drying my hair out and causing chunks to just fall out) I stopped going.
So it is one of God's cruel jokes that I am now a member of the gym where many members of the Slovenian National Swim Team train. Everytime I go into the locker room it is a serious reminder that I have unfinished business. Their slick smiling faces taunt me with the knowledge that if we fell off a boat, I'd better "come with them if i want to live". And so, I am filing for an extension of last year's resolution and hoping that I can get the job done next year.
There is one small consolation in all of this, if I fail to accomplish this goal my gym has a fully functioning liquor bar (pictures coming soon!) where I can drown (no pun intended) my sorrows. But here's to hoping that'll be a celebratory drink!