The boy is not buoyant

April 7, 2014

Many of my blog posts have been about finding the strength and confidence to conquer things that previously brought fear or shame to me, so in the spirit of full disclosure, here is my next chapter.

Confession time: I’ve become the stereotype of the black person who can’t swim. And that’s not the weirdest thing you’ll read in this post.

As a kid, one of my first memories was my father taking me to a YMCA for swim lessons. We walked into the room and I recall being scared by the size of the Olympic pool. He kneeled down and told me, “I need you to learn how to swim.” When I asked him why, he replied that he himself didn’t know how to swim and there would possibly come a day where (and I am NOT paraphrasing) “I needed to save his black ass from drowning.” True story. It was the 1980s. Can you imagine the pressure this puts on a five year old? True to form, I did everything the instructor asked and became a great swimmer, happy in the idea that I as a child was contributing to keeping a 6 foot tall man alive. A few years later, I began packing on the pounds and became quite the happy little fattie flapper.

The site of my near-demise

The site of my near-demise

Moments later, I told my friends what happened to me, and I was told simply, “Fat floats better than muscle.” While I am incredibly grateful that I am at a point where I developed some tone, I didn’t think that it would almost signal my demise! I truly believed it would be the same as riding a bicycle, where I would hop on and instinctively have some muscle memory, but it was not that way.

Recently, I learned that it could be as simple as the manner I was breathing while I was in the water, and calibrating my new body with the water once again, so I signed up for a local indoor swim class to get up to speed. On the day of the first lesson, I arrived a few minutes late, changed in the empty locker room and headed to the pool, only to find a room full of five-year olds, parents and instructors. I was mortified!

pool1_500x332There’s no way to not look like a creep when you show up for the class reserved for “Lil’ Flippers” and “Taddy-poles,” full of children wearing those bright colored floaties (That truth be told, I’d wear without shame). There are many things you can be in this life, but a grown ass black man at “Tiny aquatics” is not one of them, I assure you. Embarrassed and confused, I ran out immediately. I couldn’t take a swim class with a room full of kids, right? There’s no way to live that down? When I got home, I looked at my calendar and realized that I showed up for the wrong day, but I never went back for my real lesson.

Coincidentally, the disclaimer on the website now clearly reads “Please ensure you register for the CORRECT CLASS & DAY.” It’s quite possible that it is because of me, and I have to live with that. Perhaps it’s time to spring for the private lessons? Clearly, the water is too damn high.

Stay tuned, folks. I’m going to conquer this beast by the summer.

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