April 27, 2006
Guppy

I am not, nor have I ever been, athletic. I am quite likely the only woman who avoided the vault and the flexed arm hang for all four years of high school. At the height of my prowess, I once translated a tipped softball into a ripe black eye one week before the prom. I was also born with a paunch that never did reabsorb with the rest of the baby fat; after a year of very adult anxiety, at the age of 10 I pulled my father aside to inform him that, although I couldn’t explain just how it had happened, I was very much pregnant.

Then again, I was never the last to be picked on the blacktop, either, a combination of early training for what would manifest in a Senior Superlative for Class Flirt and uncanny hand-eye coordination that I am convinced only fully developed as a result of years of Connect Four. But I’ve always been mediocre. The one who was better at steering the golf cart than using the driver, the woman at the work picnic who keeps throwing the damn Frisbee into the street.

And so, in this year of taking on new things, those things I’m afraid of, I am taking my athletic avoidance head on: I started swimming lessons this week.

I should clarify something. I have always felt at home in the water. On long road trips I would beg my parents to drive to the next hotel – PRETTY, PRETTY PLEASE – in case it had a pool. I would whine to my poor mother until she would force my poor father to carry a five-year-old me into the ocean.

But my swimming advancement has always been hindered by the presence of one oddly-evolved survival technique. As I don’t know how to breathe properly while in the water, at a very early age I learned to create an airtight seal between my upper lip and nostrils.

(I’ll pause while you try it out.)

I didn’t think anything of it until, at the age of 17, I emerged from a dive to find my lifeguard boyfriend wearing a look that said he sincerely hoped I would be good at having sex, as then it might be worth staying with such a woman.

(This move also proved adaptive during second rounds of sorority rush. During a particularly excruciating bout of small-group “what is special about you?” sharing – when I could no longer take the testimonials about volunteering their summers to save the animals of Equitorial Guinea and oohs and ahs about the ability to play the cello without hands – I broke out my nostril/lip-suction, party-pleasing move. The moment that followed may have been the very genesis of crickets.)

So you can imagine my reticence as I stepped into the cold water this week, unsure as to how I was even supposed to strap those goggles to my head, that after initial instructions and short demos our instructor asked us to show our stuff. Only one quarter of one lap.

I stood freezing in the corner of the shallow end, shaking from what I prefer to think was the crisp water. You go first, their eyes begged. And so I did. I breathed deeply. I began to swim.

I'm actually breathing!

And I kept going.

Look Ma! No water in my lungs!

I eventually heard my classmates and teacher yelling through the splashing that I was well beyond where we were told to stop.

I am quite sure I have not felt that good since the Bicentennial.


And I basked in the smell of chlorine until finally washing it from my skin the next morning.


49 Comments:

Blogger Megarita said...

I can only imagine how you're sealing off your nose, but BRAVA about your swimming lessons! I have passing fantasies about getting back into piano lessons after my 13 year "break." Bring on the life skills, people!

Blogger Diet Coke of Evil said...

This post was hilarious! I'm not quite sure how you've managed to make this impervious seal over your nostrils, but I am glad it has somehow remained out of the limelight for your swimming lesson.

I mean, you don't want your instructor hoping you're just good at sex to make up for it. ;)

Blogger ❉ pixie ❉ said...

I so did the nostril seal and then the next line was: "I'll pause while you try it out."

Blogger Darbs said...

LOL @ the pregnant story...how cute!!!

Good for you...taking swimming classes...that's awesome. AND...it looks like you are going to be the star pupil!

Blogger I-66 said...

I think the question that really needs to be answered is whether you are good at sex.

Blogger Thérèse said...

Kris, I love that you're trying new things. I love that you're trying new things that scare you. It's much more constructive than a resolution to do things that scare other people, which I here and now have decided to resolve to do (mostly just directed at my roommate, Donna). And swimming is great for you. Really. Just ask Egan.

Blogger Oh, that girl. said...

First I must admit that I did try it, just as my boss walked over to talk to me about some stupid report. It was very hard to explain. Secondly, way to go girl! You will be swimming the english channel in no time, So long as they supply a little wine before hand.

Blogger Heather B. said...

Sweetie, those weren't crickets, they were motherfucking tree frogs.

Also, you were alive during the bicentennial?? Crazy.

(that's what you get for making fun of me for never seeing Silver Spoons.)

Blogger Finn said...

I sealed my sorority fate when I arrived at the rush party bleeding profusely on the heel of my new white pumps because they rubbed my foot the wrong way. I think a little even got my dress.

Good times.

Anonymous Jorge said...

Wow K-Dawg,

That's awesome.
That's been one of my weaknesses - the breathing thing.
And I don't have your wonderfully evolved lip trick.

It's something that I struggle with. All things athletic.
Breathing.

Running.
Swimming.

I don't know why.
One day I hope to figure it out, so that I stop limiting myself in how much I can do of any given sporty activity.

Congratulations!

Blogger Cheryl said...

You aren't the only woman to avoid those things. Also, thanks for the explanation of where my own little pouch came from.

Have fun swimming, and if we ever are fortunate enough to meet in person, I have to see this lip-sunction-trick thingy.

Blogger Biscuit said...

Way to go on the swimming lessons! I'm having a hard time imagining the nostril seal thing though. Picture please?

Blogger JJ said...

I'm slightly stunned and a little amazed. Did the lifeguard stay with you?

Blogger Sizzle said...

swimming is the best! yay for you!

:) sizz

Blogger mysterygirl! said...

I am so impressed-- way to start in on the lessons. I could maybe take swimming lessons, but my big fear would be playing a team sport, which I am almost universally bad at...

Blogger Amber said...

Kris, it's posts like these that make me think we might be the same person. Well, except for the nose/lip suction. I can't do that.

Blogger Wicked H said...

Um Kris, how does one break the seal? I am running out of oxygen.

HELP ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous mrs. jorge said...

I have witnessed this lip/nose suction procedure and it truly is an amazing sight to behold….

Seriously though, I’m proud of you Kris – it’s very inspiring.... thank you.

:)

Blogger Miss Scarlet said...

Aw, congratulations on a good lesson! I did sit here at my desk and try to do the lip/nose thing but to no avail. But maybe I spent too many years as a swimmer/lifeguard to be able to.

I'll look for you on the next Olympics!

Blogger J said...

Yay! Congratulations! VERRRY Impressive. I did try the lip/nose thing, but it didn't go so well for me...

Anonymous Eileen said...

In gym class I once vowed to kick that kickball like it had never been kicked before. Why I thought I might have gained athletic skill since the last class is unclear. I ran forward and kicked. I missed the ball (which rolled softly under my leg.) Having kicked with such vigor however, I lifted up off the ground to where I appeared to be levitating, then fell like a stone to the ground. Cracked my head open... shamefull.

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Blogger Stefanie said...

That was a superb post. I feel the same about sports. I was always last picked for everything which of course made me cry whenever I heard the Janis Ian song "At Seventeen" but I date myself. Anyhoo (don't you hate people who say that seriously?) I want to take adult gymnastics? Isn't that crazy? I'm a pube away from 40 and I want to take gymnastics. I always loved it as a kid even though I kind of sucked. So you have inspired me to look for a class. I'm sure I'll be met with laughter but I'm going to try.

Blogger Buffy said...

Ok. How the heck did you get out of the flex arm hang? And why was my much weaker younger sister always able to do it when I never could?

Ugh.

Blogger Slade said...

I enjoy the way pool water and ocean water leave your skin feeling tight. And the smell of the mixture of sweat and chlorine and salt. LOVE the water!

Blogger Jeremy said...

I too have the tendency to throw the frisbee into the street at the company picnic, so I feel your pain. I think I should take up frisbee-throwing lessons.

Also, I know this way that you can make some nice extra cash secret shopping. I totally made $900 last month having fun!

Blogger twobuyfour said...

Good for you! I'm glad you've taken on a hobby / exercise regimen you can enjoy - and which you are actually good at! Is there a radar gun at the pool? Did you hit 17mph?

Blogger missbhavens said...

Oh. Diving is muy sexy. All through high school I attempted to learn how to jack-knife. Still can't do it.

Swimming is terrific exercise and very "zen".

Pools are too, too expensive here.

Blogger Jessica said...

I can do the lip/nose thing....of course i can also touch my tongue to my nose, so i make no claims to normalcy! Congrats on the swimming! I've got taht on my list of stuff to do one day....

Blogger The Zombieslayer said...

Swimming is cool. It took forever for me to develop the lungs for it though, still far from where I want to be.

Keep in mind, water's not a good place to be when the zombie plague comes. We're just not very manueverable in water and they can bite underwater. But if it's a guarded indoor pool, that's an entirely different story.

Blogger work in progress said...

I thought my sister was the only genetic freak who could do that with her lip! I used to be jealous that while I had to sport those god-awful and entirely unattractive nose plugs, she could simply use her upper lip. To this day she swims much better than I. Like you, I never really got the breathing thing down.

Maybe I drowned in a former life.

Blogger Leezer said...

I'm glad there are others out there who feel this way! I thought I was the only one! Company picnic volleyball games where I have to serve underhand because I never learned the overhand way, frisbee in the street or hitting someone int he head, and - worst of all - coming up for air after swimming with my bangs over my face and snot coming out of my nose. You've made my day!

Blogger Amanda said...

congratulations! and that nose suction thing is a talent, when you paused i tried it, and i mean, that's tough! don't sell yourself short.

Anonymous sandra said...

Um...I'm jealous. Because I can't seem to do the nostril seal, and I'm sitting at work trying (and being stared at oddly by the guy next to me). You're so talented!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

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and put in your zip to see what's available in your area.
I made over $900 last month having fun!

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Anonymous Kristin said...

How do the punkass secret shopper spammers get in here?

The smell of chlorine is kind of a lovely thing. Kudos to you for trying something outside the comfort zone.

Blogger Aimée said...

I'm so happy for you dawg! What a great feeling and what a great post :-) We can train together when the public summer pool opens ... hot.

Blogger Spinning Girl said...

I think we really need a photo of the lip-nose seal.

I've GOTTA see the lip/nostril thing!
Take a picture!
You don't have to show us all of your face lest we fall in sweet luuuuuuuv, but I wanna see the lip thing!
Um....don't expect me to kiss you afterwards though.
Ewww.

Blogger Bill said...

As a kid I use to swim in Lake Huron. But I hated pools because of the chlorine and thought of people peeing. (Yes, I know, the Great Lakes are sewage magnets but at least they didn't smell like that when I was a kid.)

And in high school gym we use to have to climb these idiotic ropes to the ceiling of the gym. I use to stand around until the instructor was looking away. When I saw he was turning back around, I would jump up and cling to the rope, then jump to the floor, going "Whew! Glad that's over."

I don't think I ever fooled him. He just assumed I was too pathetic to waste his time on.

Blogger Zya said...

You've definately made *my* day:)

Anonymous MappyB said...

I LOVE the smell of chlorine. It's the best. In high school, around lunch (we always had morning swim practice), someone once told us to lick our arm, and then you could still smell the chlorine. I know. Try it. So odd. Chlorine is the best. I'm proud of you for taking swimming lessons too! Swimming is the best, and lessons are so important!

Blogger Lisa said...

I have no idea how I got here, but I'm so glad I did! And now is where I say the lame "Great blog" - but seriously - Great blog! I love it and I'll be back for more.

Blogger sadielady said...

That is hilarious! I love it. I have always been scared of sports, because I am so, so, so bad at them all. My firm is thinking of starting up a kick-ball team this summer, for fun, and I am quaking at the thought of it, swimming in horrid memories of poor eye-foot coordination in p.e. in middle school, everyone screaming at me "how could you miss the ball with your FOOT???" I also remember the ONE time when I did hit the ball, hit it well, and everyone ran the bases, a home run in kick-ball, yay me!, and then a cute boy who I had a crush on gave me a high-five when I crossed home plate, and I MISSED HIS HAND!!! Yes, poor eye-hand coordination as well.

Blogger Plunky said...

That's awesome! Congrats to you! I need to go do something to improve myself, dammit!

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