Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Lessons From A Mermaid And Dory The Fish

I went to the pool today and swam a half mile as fast as I could. I noticed a new swimmer in the next lane that was moving through the water quickly as though she must have been a mermaid. A college student, I figured. But unusual, the college students don't show up at the YMCA and they don't swim in the middle of the day like us old ladies do. But she looked as young as a college student and like she must have been a competitive swimmer as well.

But she was inspiring, and I took a few glances to see what her secret to speed was. I decided that she was just in shape. Maybe I will be like her one day. Maybe.

I ran into her in the women's sauna and I asked her how her swim was. It was brave of me, she didn't seem to want to talk to anyone. But I was wrong about that. She started talking as fast as she swam. I told her she did great in the pool, and she was really humble in receiving my compliment. That was her first swim in a year since she had back surgery, and she used to go running but she hadn't healed from the surgery yet. She used to compete 20 years ago. I told her she didn't look old enough to compete 20 years ago. Yep, she said, in college. Now she has twins and taking care of them is her work out. Her parents who are in their 80's still swim at least twice a week, and love to swim.

We talked non stop for at least a half hour as we got dressed about how much we loved to swim, and she thought that I did really well today, too. I told her that I just started to pick up speed lately and I'm trying to swim every day. She told me that I will start seeing even more speed if I keep it up. Before she left, she asked for my name and gave me hers and we hoped to see each other at the pool often. From what she told me about herself, I figured she was five years younger than me. But honestly, she really looks like a twenty one year old.

Because I have a poor body image, I almost didn't start a conversation with her. I am glad that I did anyway, she is an amazing person. It is easy to talk to older women because I am not self conscious with them, but with women who look great, it is tougher.

Which brings me to another really sensitive body image topic: cellulite. I started getting it as a young teen, even though I wasn't fat. A biology teacher (male) brought up in class one day how cellulite is just ordinary fat, and to not believe any miracle cures for it. The only cure is to lose weight. I had no idea why a male biology teacher would give us information about cellulite, but I remembered it better than anything that I knew that would be on an exam. I was incredulous. How was I going to lose weight when I wasn't fat to begin with? And as I got older, no matter what weight I was at, it was there. And getting worse.

I remember a housemate in Seattle who bought an expensive system to get rid of cellulite. I thought that she was one of the thinnest and most beautiful women I ever met, but I also knew that she didn't have a lot of extra money to be spending on "snake oil". I expressed my doubts in the effectiveness of her product. I guess I was convincing because she packed it up right then and there to send it back and get her refund. I'm not sure what persuaded her, but I did say that cellulite is natural and part of being a woman. We all have it and we'll never get rid of it.

But I must say this, that I am wrong. I've never seen a female swimmer in the Olympics with cellulite. Well, any female athlete for that matter. And until I started swimming, I think I know why. Exercise builds muscle and somehow as the muscle gets bigger, cellulite is less noticeable. For awhile, I realized that something was missing and at a casual glance, the ubiquitous dimpling was almost gone. It's there, lurking, I know. But I'm not missing it a bit.

But now I have stretch marks. What is an ordinary woman to do? Well, as Dory the fish would say...keep on swimming.

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