I START SWIMMING LESSONS THIS EVENING, AND ALREADY I DON’T WANT TO GO. Both the need for the lessons and the fear of them stem back to my childhood. Sure, I learned how to swim, just like every other kid in the neighbourhood, starting with lessons in a neighbour’s pool, then the community centre, and also at summer camp. I have my Intermediate Red Cross, for crying out loud. But for some reason, as much as I love the water, I hate swimming. I don’t like to put my face in the water, never mind under it. I can’t coordinate my breath with my strokes, and end up flailing about like a mouse in a teapot. Oh, and I can’t, or won’t, open my eyes under water because a) I wear contact lenses, and b) what if I come face to face with a sturgeon?


Neither of my parents swam, despite growing up near water: my father in Dublin, and my mother on the Quebec north shore. My dad was an avid sailor, in fact, but wore a life jacket when at sea, and my mother is part cat and does not like getting her hair wet. Nonetheless they thought their children should swim, perhaps to save them in a flood, so that’s why I hid under my bed every Saturday before being dragged off to the Pointe Claire Swimming Pool. I don’t recall hating anything as much, except perhaps for my piano lessons, which were on Monday afternoons, taught by a cranky old man named Mr. Wilde who would smack my fingers with a ruler when I hit a wrong note. I had a miserable childhood.


So why try to improve my water skills at this point in time? Good question. Partially because it’s an excellent form of non-impact exercise, and I need more exercise, and less impact. Furthermore, I believe in doing what you fear, especially if what you fear is good for you (as opposed to heroin, or stand-up comedy). As such, I signed up for adult swim lessons at a local pool. I really don’t know what to expect. They said to show up 15 minutes early, with a swimsuit, goggles and a bathing cap. Presumably there’ll be a change room; otherwise I’ll look pretty silly walking across the parking lot. I have the goggles, but I’m at a loss for the bathing cap. I have short hair, so maybe I don’t need one, but if I do, I’m going to get one with rubber flower petals all over it.



The lessons are now two hours away, and I’m wondering why I signed up for them in the first place. What if the instructor is mean? What if the other students are weird, or don’t like me? What if they’re all teenagers, or extremely elderly?  Should I eat beforehand, or afterwards? Is it an open locker room? Will I have to get naked? Should I bring my own towel?  What if I can’t last the full 60 minutes? What was I thinking?


If anyone needs me, I’ll be under my bed.


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