This summer, we finally joined a pool to avoid the sweltering, equator-like temperatures of Crazy Town. Shady Grove Pool cashed our check and sent us a turquoise-blue membership card to swipe, along with a helpful schedule of special events and dates the pool would be closed for swim meets. What they did not send us is what I could have used most: a hierarchy of the pool.
I figured it out for myself on the very first day. Shady Grove’s members fit neatly into several categories: Kiddos, Rare Single Person (and its subset, the Tanner), The Moms, the occasional (obviously lost) Hot Guy, Model Teens, Neighborhood Dad, The Really Old People, and of course the
Lifeguards. At Shady Grove, even though the average Lifeguard age is 19 and there are no college degrees involved, the Lifeguards think that they run the show. They man the computers at check in, and announce (loudly) if you forgot to pay your dues or if your child missed his last swimming lesson. They are required to wear plain red swimsuits and an air of superiority at all times. They are immune to sweat. They brandish their all-important piercingly-loud whistles with authority, much like a police officer brandishes a gun. They sit high up on their perches, observing, vigilant; I feel almost afraid to ask them a simple question (“Will you be opening the diving board soon?”) for fear of distracting them while they are watching the
Kiddos. They wear florescent swim garb in beachy patterns, and they get mad when it’s adult swim time (even though they get to eat chocolate Popsicles when it is). They are oblivious to other people as they practice their handstands and play Marco Polo for the 25th time in a row. They bump into anyone and everyone because they are everywhere: in the shallow end, in the deep end, next to you, on your head, underneath you swimming like an attack fish. This can be very disconcerting to anyone who does not have kids, anyone like the
Rare Single Person. This person floats about, confused. He/ she wonders why there are so many miniature Michael-Phelps-wannabes splashing about. He may grow irritated by the excessive commotion and non-stop shrieking (noises that parents have become immune to after years of desensitization) and be forced to retreat to a nice comfy lounge chair to work on his tan. (If he is a die-hard Tanner, then he sets his cell phone to beep every 30 minutes so he can flip over, like a roasted chicken.) The Rare Single Person (RSP) most likely grew up in this neighborhood and used to frequent Shady Grove Pool as a child. Now the RSP is trying (unsuccessfully) to get a job or a life, and in the meantime, has moved back at home to mooch off his Dad and one of
The Moms. This is my favorite group, because it is the one that includes me. The Moms are a teensy bit envious of the RSPs lounging on the plastic chaises and reading their novels. The Moms used to be young and unencumbered once long ago, and they remember a time when they used to read entire novels or even paragraphs. The Moms all wear the same swimsuit (one-piece, full-coverage, black) and pretend they are not pale with cellulite. They have an unwritten code to not stare at each other’s problem areas (variscose-vein thighs, wide butt, jiggly arms, mushy back, pudgy tummy, melancholy neck, double chin, saggy boobs, fat elbows, obese ears, gloomy feet) which is easy to avoid given that everyone would rather be staring at the
Hot Guy (How did he get in here? Why have I only seen him once all summer? Can he please come sit next to me?) or the
Model Teens. The Moms try not to look at them, because they used to be them. The Moms are flabbergasted (emphasis on the “flab”) that people who barely passed their driver’s license test can have abs that look like a commercial for the Suzanne Somers sit-up machine, and legs like smooth telephone poles, yet subsist solely on a constant diet of ice-cream sandwiches and extra-large Cokes. Life is unfair. But that’s okay, because The Moms can commiserate with
Neighborhood Dad. He also used to be a Model Teen, or possibly even a Hot Guy. He is now bald. But that’s no big deal, because at least he’s not yet a member of the group called
The Really Old People. The Really Old People are well-aware that they no longer have the attention-grabbing physiques they once did. They wear gobs of sunscreen SPF 30, SPF 50, and SPF 100 (sometimes all at once) which they reapply frequently to protect themselves from skin cancer or additional wrinkles. They also wear a hat. And a full cover-up. In the shade. With an umbrella. They use an AARP magazine as a makeshift fan. An innocent bystander might be forced to wonder why The Really Old People have even bothered to come to the pool at noon in the middle of July when they could enjoy the air-conditioned shade of their own living room ceiling without having to grease up every 10 minutes? But then every once in a while, The Really Old People will venture into the pool and attempt to swim laps, or possibly enjoy playing with a baby great-grandchild in the baby pool.
All the groups co-exist peacefully, except when an evil wet tennis ball is being thrown back and forth in a game by the Model Teens. This can be quite distressing to The Really Old People who might unwittingly be caught in the crossfire. One of The Really Old People might even disturb the Lifeguards to express their dismay at such a hard object being tossed cavalierly above his head. The Lifeguards might shoot The Really Old Person down by saying something disrespectful like, “It’s just a ball, Gramps, balls are allowed,” to which The Really Old Person responds that he is ON THE BOARD (and it is apparent he does not mean diving board) and that tennis balls are most certainly NOT ALLOWED. The ball is confiscated, and apologies are issued post-haste.
The Moms smile and marvel at the verve of The Really Old Person. The Moms know that someday they, too, will be 93 years old, and they take great solace in the fact that someone will finally be forced to listen to them.
("Melting On Venus")