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Thursday, August 03, 2006

40 is the new fuck you

posted by bitchphd
So a couple of days ago I took PK to the community pool, and realized something kinda cool.

Although I'm a good swimmer, I haven't swum regularly since I was doing my MA--the overhead of changing and showering and conditioning my hair and swimming and then showering and conditioning my hair again and changing and rinsing out the suit and all of that makes what should be a half hour workout into an entire afternoon, which sucks.


So now I am getting pretty close to 40, and the last time I was swimming I was in my 20s. And now I have a kid and a mama belly and my ass (which has had a good long run and has been very good to me and has many years left, thank you) is getting a little dimply in places and shows that I've been sitting on it too much in the last couple of years.

But I didn't really think of any of this while PK and I were getting ready to go, because it was Fucking Hot and I just wanted to get the hell out of the house as soon as possible. So I got PK and myself into our suits (ugh, tight, sticky) and threw a shirt on each of us and wrapped a skirt on me and grabbed a couple of towels and a pair of shorts for him to change into and off we went.

And then we get to the community pool and I start to realize that I'm the freaky hippie lady who is comfortable with her body, and comfortable being naked in front of her opposite-sex child, and whose opposite-sex child is comfortable being naked in a locker room full of girls and women. We walk in and we grab a locker and we shed our coverup clothes. And I realize that everyone else--mostly adolescent girls, but a few moms with younger children--is sneaking off into little "changing rooms" that are set off from the main locker room, and changing in private, and that they haven't just worn their suits under their clothes but are, actually, changing. And that all the other moms are wearing one piece suits (which is fine and practical and I wear them too on occasion, but it made me realize that the bikini-wearing 30-something mom is an anamoly, at least in this town). And that all the teenage girls are hiding themselves under towels.

And we go out to the pool, and I get in, and PK (who can't swim yet) climbs down the ladder after me, and a little girl climbing down the ladder after him challenges me, demandingly, "is that a boy or a girl??" Because PK is wearing a boys' suit and has a ponytail to keep his hair out of his eyes. I say with just a little hint of "dumb question" in my tone that he is a boy. Okay, fine.

But damn! When I was a girl in the 70s, my sister and I would go to the beach and swim in our undies. And we'd play outside without shirts on in the summer all the time (I remember the asshole neighbor boy saying something at one point about "will you do that when you're thirteen, haw haw" and thinking, "what a dick"). And we weren't the only kids who did that stuff, either, although we were on the hippier side of normal, for sure. It's irksome, taking a little kid to the pool and having people (even other little kids) get stressed because his exposed little-kid body doesn't bear clear gender markers. Gimme a break.

We play in the pool, and I work him up to the bouncing-up-and-down-and-one-two-three-dunk! game that you play when you're teaching small children to put their heads under water, and he finds a raft to float around on and I swim under and around the raft to entertain him, and again I realize that I'm about the only mom--actually the only parent--who is actually swimming, albeit not much b/c PK can't so he needs me with him at all times. Dear god, I'm at the age where people are supposed to get into a pool and sort of wade around but not get their hair wet. What is this?

And after an hour or so, the whistle blows, and we go back into the locker room to change, and I--as I always do/did when I swim--strip in the shower and rinse my suit out thoroughly. No one else is stripping in the shower; everyone is washing their hair with their swimsuits on. (?!?) And PK is playing around in the shower with me in that "I shower with mama all the time" way. And somehow I realize that I'm the adult woman whose body used to freak me out a little when I was an adolescent--it just looks so frank, with the belly, and the softer ass, and the larger areolae. But what I realize now is that the frankness is largely a function of just not trying to hide when naked.

I wrap a towel around myself and one around PK, and we march back to the lockers, where I drop our towels on the bench and bend down to get our clothes out and PK gets out of his suit, and suddenly I can feel the sidelong glances we're not-quite-getting from the teenagers because omg that's a little boy naked in the women's locker room. And I help PK get dressed first, of course, without being wrapped in a towel myself because managing a towel while dressing a little kid is a hassle (plus I want to air out a bit), so I'm naked for a good long time. But no one else is naked, because they've all sneaked off into the side rooms to change. And he gets dressed, and then I wrap my skirt back around myself and pull my tank over my head and no way am I going to comb my chloriney hair so we walk out of the locker room, sans bra and underwear, tangled damp hair dripping down our backs, past the women and girls drying their hair at the mirrors and re-applying makeup (?!?!) and back out into the now-tolerable heat.

And I'm thinking, yeah. I really don't belong here. I'm glad I'm moving to Cali, where outside living is an all-year thing, and where heading to the beach wearing a swimsuit with a sarong wrapped around your waist is perfectly normal, and where the the slightly dissheveled "I've been swimming" ponytail is a regular hairstyle, and where women of all ages wear body-conscious clothing without standing out. And where hopefully I can avoid the flip side of all that, and ignore the LA angst about having a "perfect" body and instead feel good about having a body I'm perfectly comfortable with.

Earlier today a friend linked me to this post, which encouraged me to write this stuff up. Hooray for 40-something women who roll their bikini bottoms so that their 40-something asses can get some exposure! And the "oddly arousing" thing makes me wonder--and wish--that more men would write honestly about sex and sexiness. The only time you see guys writing about sex is when they're playing stud, or bragging on how hot some 19-year old model is. And it's tiresome, because in private (comment threads, chats, conversations) these same guys talk about women who look *nothing* like 19-year old models in ways that demonstrate real appreciation of, and love for, real women. But in popular culture we continue to perpetuate the idea that all men find 19-year old models to be the creme de la creme of female attractiveness.

I wish straight guys had the balls to talk about sexuality the way feminist women do.

Though to be fair, I suppose feminist women should talk more about real men and real men's bodies. It's funny how easy it is to talk about the socially-approved script--hot soccer players, hot models--but the real, honest stuff is so much more difficult.
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