P.B.K.G.: A Water-Soaked Life Lesson

Pull, breathe, kick, glide. She made it sound so easy.

Here I am, swimming laps at the local Y, minding my own chlorine-soaked business, when I see in my peripheral vision a lifeguard standing at the edge of the pool, waving her arms at me.

I can’t go anywhere without making a splash. So I wasn’t surprised about the sudden attention. I was either doing something unusual or illegal, no doubt.

My heart skipped a beat as I looked up at her – a big, hulking brute with a whistle around her neck and a notepad in her hand. But I wasn’t going to let her intimidate me. I had as much right as anyone else to be in that pool – so what if I looked ridiculous in my flashy purple and green goggles and glowing blue swim cap.

“Would you like some advice about your breast stroke?” she asked, nodding as if the only answer I was allowed was ‘yes.’

(Though quite frankly, I’d really rather some advice about my breasts, which are expanding and sagging as we speak, but that’s another story.)

Meekly, I nodded my head.

But, oh, the irony. She had just interrupted my fantasy that I was a world-champion swimmer, leaving my competitors well behind, swimming my little heart out in perfect form. I was feeling superior, in my element. After all, I spent my childhood in our very own backyard pool and I suffered through about a gazillion swimming lessons every summer.

I was swimming too fast, she said, like I was doing a “doggie paddle” – concentrating all of my efforts on reaching the other side, without paying any attention to form.

I needed to pull wider, slower, harder. I needed to remember to breathe. I had to kick while moving forward. And finally, I had to glide.

I sighed heavily, trying to soak it all in, put it together in my mind.

When, suddenly, a second lifeguard sauntered over. (My swimming style certainly must have stood out.)

“I try to lift my chest out of the water with each stroke,” he said, demonstrating, arms held high over his head like a grizzly bear threatening its prey.

Easy for him, I thought. His chest doesn’t feature a pair of breasts, each weighing about 53 pounds.

But I listened. And I tried. And I made progress, in fact. I wasn’t swimming as fast as before, but I was steadily moving forward, in good form. Maybe one day, I'd go faster.

And in my head, I kept repeating her wise words.

Just pull, breathe, kick, glide.

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