Yesterday, at our weekly swim date at the local county-run pool, my friend announced that she’d forgotten her swimming suit. She rifled through her backpack a second and third time, took out all the assorted bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and lotion, found her goggles but no suit.
“I’ll go see what’s in the lost and found.” She came back with a pair of black men’s basketball shorts. “The girl lifeguard said that as long as I have a sports bra, these will work fine.” My friend’s sports bra was white, so I pulled my black one out of my locker and gave it to her. Thus, was born a swimming ensemble.
I would never, in a thousand years, wear basketball shorts and a sports bra to go swimming in a public pool although I have often swum in my clothes in lakes but as an impulsive thing, not an adaptive one. Plunging into, say, Lake Superior, fully clothed is dramatic and outrageous, more so if one’s life and personality tend toward conformity and rule compliance. It’s something I did last summer and the delight of it stays with me still.
A few weeks ago, I stopped in the shower room on my way to the pool because there was a sign that said, “You Must Shower Before Entering the Pool.” While I stood under the shower, making sure all parts of me were wet, my friend said, “Are you serious? Nobody takes showers.” And so now, when we walk down the tiled hallway to the pool, I shrug at the shower and point at the sign. “Nobody takes showers,” I say, but because my friend is behind me, I don’t know if she is smiling or ignoring me.
When we get to the pool, my friend always goes to the deep end, and I go to the shallow. I like to ease into the water, stretch my shoulders a lot, and contemplate that tiny second of freezing that comes with the submersion of one’s upper body. I don’t dive. My friend dives.
Yesterday, from the other end of the pool, clad in my new flowered suit from Land’s End, I watched my friend in her black basketball shorts and my black sports bra and her giant, extra sturdy swim goggles as she readied herself to dive, and I prayed her shorts wouldn’t fly off in front of the two teenage lifeguards and the old guy practicing his backwards dive while filming it with his phone propped up against a chair midway down the pool’s side. Her dive would likely also be captured by his video. It was hilarious and mortifying at the same time. Of course, and this is the whole point, it was neither of those things to her. I love that. I depend on that. Have for forty years. Everyone should have such a friend.
In the locker room, after our swim, an older woman who had been swimming in the open area next to our two lanes came in. “You girls are good swimmers,” she said. “Ha,” I said, “We are old swimmers.” But I loved what she’d said because we are both – old swimmers and good ones – in basketball shorts or not, showered or not. We swim every Friday at 3.