THE BOYS OF SWIMMING
I have spent the last week on the couch every night glued to the Olympics. As I have mentioned before I LOVE the Olympics. This week I have really been loving the swimming competition. In particular the men’s swimming competition. Most specifically Ian “the Thorpedo” Thorpe in the men’s swimming competition. I don’t know who the Megan Thorpe is on the web address, but I hope it’s not his mom – that would be weird.
In any case there’s just something about a wet boy with a big nose encased in a black latex glove - although surprisingly I find myself sorely missing the bygone days of the Speedo. It’s funny how something that is totally repulsive when worn by a regular guy at the beach is pretty fabulous when worn by a 20 year old boy with a swimmer’s body.
I am such a perv.
Of course, I have always enjoyed men’s swimming not just for the wondrous examples of physical prowess, but also because the long lean legs and broad shoulders featured on most swimmers are my physical ideal. I had a huge crush on Mark Spitz after the 1972 Olympics and if you think about it, it’s amazing that he did what he did with all that hair. The moustache alone had to have created tremendous drag. I remember watching adoringly, yet cringing with embarrassment as he attempted to translate Olympic gold into an acting career on an episode of Emergency. Randolph Mantooth had nothing to worry about. Anyway, I’ve never been one to go for the chunky, husky boy build of a football player. (I am such a liar – the major reason I enjoy football so much is because I love all that booty in tight pants. But evenso, it’s mostly the wide receivers and running backs. I don’t go for the no-neck steroid boys on the O-line, or those great behemoths who play defense.)
It’s just that this year in particular I am feeling like such a total perv because these are little boys for God’s sake. I could be their mother for crying out loud. Um, Eeuw.
But beyond a deep appreciation for the visual perfection I am amazed at how effortless they make it look. I remember a million years ago when I was swimming on the high school swim team and I honestly thought I would drown before I even made it once across the 25 meter pool. And it wasn’t just because I was wearing an old aqua colored wool one piece that had been in residence at the school since the late 40s – although it is a lot harder to feel speedy when your bathing suit is sagging from the weight of the water it has absorbed. No. It’s just plain hard to move your ass through water. Especially when it’s a challenge just to float.
Oh and I’m also scared to put my face in the water.
Why did I choose to participate on the swim team? Well that’s easy – it was so I could have closer proximity to the boy’s water polo team. I had visions of myself sluicing through water like Esther Williams – who always swam with her head out of water balancing a tiara on her hairdo. It was one of those things that was a lot more fun in theory than in practice.
Since they didn’t have any events in “sidestroke” or “dog paddle” I chose the backstroke reasoning that since I was on my back my face wouldn’t really need to get wet. Ha! If you’ve been watching the Olympics and you’ve seen the backstroke then you cannot have missed the underwater angle they always show of the start, where after doing what is basically a back dive into the water, the swimmers proceed to swim about half the length of the pool. On their backs, yes, but also UNDERWATER!
Needless to say none of my starts ever looked like that. In fact, that whole starting thing was a real challenge for me. I have almost no upper body strength – none. I have been known to knock on my neighbor’s door for help in getting a wine bottle uncorked. So to have to pull my entire body weight up into a hunched position on the side of the pool, my sodden bathing suit drooping unattractively, waiting for the startling blare of the start horn, knowing that I was expected to hurl myself backward into the water – well that wasn’t very much fun.
And then once I was actually swimming water DID get in my face because the people in the other lanes would splash water into my lane when they swam. Especially since most of the time I was swimming about where their feet were churning up frothy tidal waves. And more than once water went in my mouth while I was trying to breathe and I choked! It was horrible. I didn’t last long on the swim team because they expected me to compete and the water polo team wasn’t around for those meets so I wasn’t incredibly motivated to be there. It was just an opportunity for me to humiliate myself by choking and losing and then having to sit around shivering in a baggy, wet wool bathing suit.
They wouldn’t let me just come to the practices and swim around leisurely in my tiara so I quit the team. But I stole the wool bathing suit as a keepsake. In hindsight I consider it an excellent character building experience and it definitely gives me an deep appreciation for the accomplishments of all the swimmers who make it to the Olympics.
And I will always have a special weakness for boy who compete in the pool wearing lycra.