Plan for today: learn to swim. Okay, that’s probably not going to happen entirely today. But here’s the thing — my parents, despite coming from an island nation, don’t know how to swim. Most Sri Lankans have a deep gut-level understanding that the sea is trying to kill them, and so they wisely stay out of it, aside from perhaps wading a bit at the sand’s edge, fully-dressed, of course.
So when we moved to the U.S. in 1973 (when I was two), they certainly didn’t take me to any cute toddler swimming classes. At some point, the peer pressure must have gotten to them, because I did take some YMCA swimming classes eventually, when I was twelve or so. Enough to cover the basics, but also to discover that if you put your face in the water, sometimes you breathe water instead of air, and that’s not fun. That was the end of my swimming experiments for quite a while.
Then I was in college, and soon to graduate, and the University of Chicago has this weird fitness requirement for graduation, because some president of the university believed in “a healthy mind in a healthy body,” oh and also, you have to pass a swim test. For a university that is, by the way, not near any coast at all, so it’s not as if students might be studying by the ocean and accidentally fall in. Okay, Lake Michigan is pretty big and could totally kill you if you fell in, but I think my point holds. So despite rocking all my English classes (and let us not discuss calculus), I needed to swim to graduate. Thankfully, they didn’t care HOW you did you eight laps, as long as you did them, so I did them entirely on my back. Note: face, out of water the whole time.
As a completely grown adult, I mostly avoided swimming for a decade or so, although there was one notable pool party where I was hanging out in the pool, clinging to the edge, and told a woman there that I couldn’t even really float, that I just sank. And she laughed and said she was a swim instructor, and she could totally teach me to float. So she spent the next month — okay, just thirty minutes or so, but I swear, it felt like a month — trying to teach me to float. At the end of which she said, “In over a decade of swim instruction, you are the densest person I’ve ever met.” Thank you, thank you.
But my gym has a pool, and it turns out that I do rather love being in the water. Swimming is one of my favorite forms of exercise, despite my being so terrible at it, because the water feels great, and I can zone out and think about the story I’m plotting. Also, I can hang out in the hot tub / sauna afterwards, which is quite the boon during a cold Chicago winter. But swimming on your back, at least the way I do it, involves flailing your arms around a lot, so you end up taking up a whole lane, which is fine if the pool isn’t crowded, but sometimes it is, and then you have to either share a lane badly, or wait in the hot tub, hoping someone will finish soon. Annoying. So I’ve been thinking for some time that I ought to learn how to swim properly. Face in the water and everything. Only my gym charges something like ninety dollars per lesson, which is a lot. A lot, a lot.
Enter the fabulous Amanda Daly, who cheerfully offered to trade me swim lessons for curry. Whee! So our first lesson is at 9 this morning, and I am almost certain that I won’t drown even a little bit. I may swallow half the pool, though. Wish me luck!