A rite of childhood summer is enjoying the swimming pool. A time for frolicking in the sun, doing cannonballs off the diving board and throwing Nerf balls in the pool. Most kids looked forward to venturing out to the neighborhood pool. Alas, I was not one of them.
Since I was a morbidly obese child, it was quite difficult to find swimming trunks. Even at the Big & Tall store it was tough. (I guess they thought “We are doing fat people a favor by not making trunks so you can avoid the humiliation of the pool.”) So, I ended up wearing the same super-elastic hot pink cotton gym shorts I wore to gym class. The boys recognized them and of course made the comment that I only had 2 articles of clothing: my uniform navy pants (Big & Tall) and the hot pink gym shorts/swimming trunks. The problem with wearing these cotton shorts was that they would shrivel up and ride up into your crotch.
The shirt or not to shirt?
Hamlet tackled the meaning of life in his “To Be or Not To Be” soliloquy. Quite a stirring piece of prose, Mr. Shakespeare! The second biggest metaphysical quandary is “To Wear or Not To Wear a Shirt.” Overweight people, young and old, have tackled this question. “Should you wear a shirt into the pool?” “Does it mask your obesity or accentuate it?”
Well, like many overweight people, I thought shirt-wearing would mask the rolls of fat and my man-boobs. Now on one level it works because the shirt obscures the ubiquitous stretch marks and other skin abnormalities. But overall it doesn’t, for if anything the shirt adheres to your skin so tightly it warrants more attention. Now if it was a plain white cotton shirt, maybe not, but I didn’t have many of those. I had bright, neon 80’s-fashion shirts. Sometimes I would go in with a shirt, other times without.
The Well-Executed Plan
Akin to Lemarc, the French thief in Oceans 12 who did those capoeira-inspired moves to steal the Faberge egg, I was very calculated in my entrance into the swimming pool. Just like I retold in my Locker Room confession, I had to wait until just the right moment to run to the pool to jump in. The neighborhood pool had 45 minute in-15 minute out policy so people could enjoy the pool for 45 minutes and then the lap swimmers could do laps for the other 15.
So I had to time my entry and exit perfectly. The entrance would need to be right at the beginning of the 45 minutes. I would try to set up my towel as close as I could to the most obscure spot in the pool complex (there were two pools). Once the whistle blew, I would scan the area and wait until no one was looking. I would hustle my way ASAP to avoid the glares and snickers. I thought that once in the water would obscure me and I would look like everyone else. (Which I suppose is partly true.)
Once in the pool I could relax a bit. I tried to keep to myself to avoid the attention of the boys. My favorite occupation was swimming underwater with my goggles. I loved the tranquility of the underwater world and the challenge of swimming underwater as long as I could.
Prior to the whistle blowing to come out, I had to hatch my Escape my Alcatraz plan. I was too fat to pull myself up from the pool ladders. And there was no way in hell I was going to lift myself over the ledge. My only egress was through the steps. So I would lurk under the water near them and when the whistle blew I would stampede out of the pool ASAP pushing over all toddlers and floaties that got in the way. I had to get to the somewhat secure obscurity of the towel.
Of course the bullies would on occasion pester me. They would comment on my breasts and rolls of fat, whip me with wet towels, and slur the perfunctory “Hey, hey, hey it’s Fat Albert!” The absolute worst thing, similar to Locker Room, was to steal my trunks while in the pool. Now unlike regular trunks, which may be tied tightly, mine were loose-fitting elastic. Pulling them off was as easy as peeling off those 10 fruit roll-ups I was going to feast on upon returning home. Future Wife-Beater #1 would jump on me while Future Vicodin addict #2 would pull down the shorts. They would then swim off and throw my pants in the garbage dump. I was left in the pool naked, crying, pleading the life guards to help.
Now you see a solidarity exists among the popular kids. Similar to the ruling elite which runs this nation, regardless of what ideology they allegedly espouse to their respective constituency, they have more in common with themselves than the common man they supposedly represent and thus will look after their interests first. Popular people are the same. Like the Freemasons, regardless of the age or sex, they share the look, nod, and handshake. The lifeguards didn’t help out. After all…I wasn’t drowning.
The only recourse I had was the owner, who of course worried of bad press, would threaten to kick the kids out of the pool if they didn’t return “the trunks.” Unfortunately for me, the owner wasn’t there all the time. So just like I who planned the entrance and exits out of the pool with perfection so did these proto-sadists. They would wait until he wasn’t there and their popular-kids-in-cohort lifeguards would turn a blind eye. Like the Good Samaritan, on occasion, some compassionate parents would help out.
You might ask? Why even subject yourself to that torture by even going to the swimming pool. Well, I had to go because my parents dropped me off or I went with my brother and had no other choice. Also, I liked swimming. And even then, mired in the humiliation, I wasn’t going to let them take that pleasure away from me.
In my skinny years, I continued to wear a shirt. Honestly, it wasn’t until these last two years that I have doffed it. And I am in my 40s! Despite the weight loss, I still boasted the vestiges of that period: the stretch marks, the loose skin, and most importantly, the lingering feeling that I was still Fat Albert despite my skinnier visage.
I’m available for consultation.
A. Gregory Luna, double-certified Health Consultant
(I would appreciate your comments below.)