There comes a time in this lady’s month where I find myself less inclined (than usual) to desire a trip to the public pool. Cramps, fatigue, and crankiness lead me to prefer a hiding place under my covers, or curled up on the couch. However, my ill-behaved children, who spent the entire afternoon ignoring everything I said, pushed me out of the house and to the pool. Not because they were begging to go and I thought it would make them behave better, but because it would be okay if they ignored me there. It was loud and busy and I could ignore them back.
Plus we had an understanding. I would not be getting in the pool, period. And if they could not accept that, and/or felt the need to whine about it, we’d turn around and go back home right now, don’t test me. But as it turned out, they couldn’t have cared less that all I did was dangle my legs in the almost-refreshing-but-mostly-luke-warm water as they played.
It was actually pretty nice. The pool was busy, but not too crowded. I had my matronly striped tankini on to hide everything I was feeling. I had my big sunglasses on and my hair was pulled back in a low bun under the rim of my huge–I’m not exaggerating HUGE–floppy hat. I was set. The girls played together the way they could not in the house, occasionally swimming over to me to hang on my legs. But for the most part, I made my own shade and hid in it.
And then these two girls, no older than 13, started swimming between me and my daughters. Now mind you, there was plenty of room in the pool. Yet these girls kept doing a slow, exaggerated water-walk between us, once even brushing against my legs, which gave me the gross chills. 1.) Because they were way closer to me than any stranger ever need be 2.) that closeness was not unlike finding hair seaweed somewhere on my person 3.) I was pretty sure I hadn’t shaved my legs, which was my business, not theirs.
I called my daughters over and tried to engage them in conversation, but they quickly tired of my voice, and swam off. Their presence was replaced by the teenagers, who now numbered five. And when they water-walked past me, they looked over their shoulders, directly at my face, and smiled. Not the judgmental teenage smirk I excelled at as a youth, but a stare that melted into excited whispers after they’d passed.
I started feeling anxious. Was there something on my mostly-hidden face? Could they tell I was bloated and thought it would be funny to get a better look to make sure? Was the back of my bathing suit stained? Honestly, I’m not the kind of person who stands out in a crowd. If you stare at me long enough I usually blend in with my surroundings until you forget what you were looking at.
But as they openly gawked at me from across the pool I got the feeling that they thought I was somebody. A celebrity. (At a public pool. In Arlington.) From time to time people tell me I remind them of Sarah Jessica Parker, probably because of my nose and curly hair. But I’ve never been mistaken for her. And besides, my hair was pulled back and these girls were too young to be acquainted with Sex in the City…unless their mothers watched it while breastfeeding. (Which I did, but that’s neither here nor there.)
And then I heard giggling behind me. I slowly turned my head and found the girls taking turns standing next to me and snapping photos with their phones. They were literally feet away from my bloated bottom and water bottle. And when they saw me look at them, they giggled and skittered off.
So there it was. My fifteen minutes of fame. Or infamy. Totally not the Oprah’s couch dream I’d had when I was their age. Though just thinking of a couch inspired me to get back home where I belonged, where I could curl up and be ignored again in a proper fashion.
Though part of me still wonders if there was something glaringly wrong with me that I didn’t notice, and who on earth they were mistaking me for…and who else has seen photos of me in my bathing suit this summer.