I’ll Never Wear a Speedo Again

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Summer officially arrived this week. Finally, our swimming pool is at a perfect temperature. Every afternoon after work, I jump in to swim a couple of laps. This started about a month ago, when the water was Barton Springs Pool cold, which meant I jumped toward the ladder so I could extricate myself quickly. Now the water is just right. By July, likely it will be bathtub lukewarm. I will continue to swim, determined to, if not get my money’s worth, at least get some physical compensation for the amount of money this pools costs to maintain. Buying a house with a swimming pool was the second-happiest day of my life, as the saying goes. One can guess what the happiest day will be, though that will occur no time soon. We are not ready to deal with selling, moving and finding a neighborhood we like as well as this one.

The other day I peeked in at the local recreation center, which is on the same campus as the non-profit for which I do contract work. We old-timers know it as the “Old YMCA.” Our summer program operates out of the gym there, serving about 45 sixth-through-tenth graders. The back door to the pool is usually open, which is how I slipped in to take photos of our kids playing volleyball. I spent a lot of hours in that pool in junior high and early high school, since I was on the swim team for two years.

My mom taught all of us how to swim not long after we learned to walk. She had been a lifeguard in her teens and wisely believed all kids should learn how to swim as early as possible. Once we moved to Texas, I quickly figured out I would not be playing football or basketball, since I was barely 5-feet tall and weighed about 120 pounds. I finished out a bit taller and certainly heavier, but there was no way I would be playing either of those sports at Foster Junior High. So I joined the swim team, where Ken Johnson was the coach. Years later, I ran into him in Round Rock, where he still worked in parks and recreation.

Swim team was pretty rigorous, and Johnson was a demanding but fair coach. We used paddleboards and kicked laps, did “no breathers,” swimming 100 yards without taking a breath. We practiced a lot for the few meets we actually entered. Our team was evenly divided between boys and girls. Since I was a shrimp and not a fish, I was one of the team’s weaker members. At meets, my participation was limited to select events, such as the breast stroke, which is what I was best at. I was terrible at the butterfly, mediocre at side stroke and back stroke, adequate performing the crawl. But I enjoyed the teamwork’s and the rigor of practice.

There is a solitude to swimming that is unlike any other form of exercise. All you see is the water and the horizon — whether that is the other end of the pool or the shoreline. And, when you’re nearsighted as I am and take off one’s glasses to swim, it really becomes a hazy, visually indistinct affair.

I wore a Speedo then. Everyone did. That was our uniform. My Speedo would fit in a pill bottle. I tried it once. I have not worn a Speedo since leaving swim team at 15, a fact for which those who know me doubtless are grateful. Back then I was so skinny that it was not super gross, just semi-embarrassing. Those days are long gone. I would not dare subject an unsuspecting public to such a sight.

Whenever I see old men with pot bellies — which, in varying degrees, are virtually all old men — I wonder what they are thinking. My instinct is to look elsewhere.

After swim team, I did a few mile swims as a Boy Scout in the murky waters of Lake Murvaul in Panola County. But swimming as exercise lost its allure after that, and I pursued other ways of trying to stay fit. For decades, my swimming has been limited to a few laps just to loosen up and cool off. I wear baggy shorts and put my shirt back on quickly. No sense frightening the neighbors.

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