Today was one of my assigned swimming days at Gold’s Gym. I am working with a trainer to rehab a hip plagued by osteo-arthritis—swimming laps two or three days a week, and on alternate days, struggling through an isometric and hip-strengthening workout.
For me, swimming is easy and Zen: I find it meditative and restorative, and my body tingles pleasantly for the rest of the day. It’s the only time I feel I can breathe properly, a technique I could never master in yoga, where I generally seem to hold my breath. A Pisces (okay, okay, but I AM something of a fish), I learned to swim as I was learning to walk, so I got the breathing down early.
I strive to get to the pool early enough to swim before the pool is hijacked by one of the aqua aerobics classes, which means I really need to get there no later than 8:30. This morning, I was happily on schedule. As always, I wore my bathing suit under my clothes for maximum efficiency. When I arrived, there were only two other swimmers in the pool, one in each lane, leaving room for just two more. We swim two to a lane. I staked out my spot, placing my goggles on the ledge of the lane in order to claim it. The gentleman swimming there alone politely scooted over to make room.
But as I started to lower myself into the pool, a tall, burly man, who looked right at me from across the pool, jumped in at the opposite end, claiming my lane. I’m certain he also saw my festive purple, four-footed cane, which was standing on the ledge of the pool right by my goggles. He then proceeded to swim aggressively toward me, as if I didn’t exist, splashing dramatically as he thrashed forward with macho movements. (Needless, to say, a skilled swimmer scarcely causes a splash!) Recognizing his ”type,” I simply sighed and moved over to the adjoining lane to share with the other swimmer. But I was angry—still am.
As I was trying to drift into my meditative state, I kept becoming distracted by this ridiculous peacock in the other lane, continuing to agitate the water as he did a posturing, exaggerated version of the crawl, a pathetic display of his “manhood.” The unfortunate adjective “dick-swinging” came to mind. I began to imagine his poor wife, no doubt a submissive, beleaguered mouse — if he even HAS a wife — having to deal with such an insecure brute. This led me to ponder all the recent incidents of piggish men in the news, entitled men in positions of power pushing women around and sexually harassing them: Fox News’ Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly, President Trump…the list goes on.
Back to the obnoxious swimmer. Such behavior is now sadly rampant in our culture–a lame explanation, but no excuse. Naturally, I began to fantasize about meeting the man face-to-face afterwards as we both left the gym. I confront him in the parking lot. No doubt he wouldn’t recognize me without my sleek pink swim cap…but I’ll wager he WOULD recognize my conspicuous purple cane–even if he pretended otherwise. So, what could I possibly say? I’m not a confrontational person, but as I’ve gotten older, I care a lot less about what people think. And I’m a lot more real. I AM a Southern girl, however, born and bred in Memphis, where I was conditioned from the time I was a girl to be genteel and yes, solicitous of men. (You know, the old honey-as-opposed-to-vinegar philosophy which admittedly, I can still strategically embrace.)
I imagine that his car–a showy Black Porsche that looks decidedly cartoonish in relation to The Hulk–happens to be parked right beside mine, leaving me no choice but to man up.
“Bless your heart,” I say sweetly as I open my car door. “It seems you left your manners at home today.” Whereupon, I blithely toss my cane onto my backseat, rev the motor of my funky little Honda Element, and lay some rubber.