Legions of moms brought their kids to the pond every weekday. I knew them by sight, and I taught their kids to swim. I watched as they hauled buckets and coolers and chairs down the path from the parking lot, some of them with babies strapped to their chests, pausing to bark at a straggler, refusing to pick up a toddler — or worse — giving in and adding to their burdens. They were always running late. We offered six weeks of lessons, and they signed up for all of them. They arrived when we opened, set up umbrellas, applied sunscreen to uncooperative kids, and stayed for lunch. Sometimes they swung their babies to sleep in car seats like pendulums between their spread legs, the pose so unflattering I had to turn away, and if that worked they stayed through the afternoon. What else did they have to do?
Nothing, I thought. I bit my lip, already thinking of the scathing way I would recount this story to my friend, who was on break up by the bathhouse. Maybe we’d be sent over to the dock together in the next rotation, where we could stand side by side facing opposite directions, scanning the water for signs of trouble. She was, and still is, a good friend. We both considered ourselves to be witty high school iconoclasts, and we had artistic ambitions. I told the story and got just the eye-rolling reaction I’d hoped for. I didn’t even have to state the moral of the story, because it was so heavily implied: I’ll never be like them.
Swimwear that hides problem areas has come a long way in twenty years. Great things are being achieved with ruching. Last year I ordered a short-sleeved SPF swim shirt for myself, and this year I went whole hog and bought a long-sleeved one. It’s white with horizontal navy stripes, and it would be faintly Gallic if I didn’t wear it with my crusty cap. I realize this getup borders on the Victorian, but my freckled skin has had all the sun exposure it can take for one lifetime.