I’m mostly sane these days, but there are still certain things that make me much more anxious than they should. Exercise is one of those things. I make swimming a priority, but the emotional cost is high (and coordinating care for Louisette at the same time is remarkably complex too).
So the other day I went for a swim – just half a kilometre (usually I swim a whole k) because of the spine thing. It was a weekend, which is good because CJ minds Louisette no problem, but bad because weekend = more people = more anxiety. But I was being brave.
My normal pool was closed so I went to another one, and it was super crowded. Only three lanes were available for lap swimming, and they had signs indicating slow, medium and fast lanes. Each lane had about four people in it, but the fast lane had three so I made the rational choice (hesitating, because of my neurotic fear that someone will approach me and say, “What are you doing in this lane?!? You’re TOO SLOW” but acknowledging silently that everyone was better off if I chose based on crowd levels – and I wasn’t even the slowest person in the lane).
I lurched awkwardly into the pool, gritted my teeth against the awkwardness that is sharing a swim lane, and began my swim. It wasn’t fun, but I was determined.
Then someone stopped, facing me. I paused politely.
“You’re REALLY slow,” she said. “You should go in the slow lane.”
It’s not often one’s paranoid scenario comes true, but there it was.
“Thank you,” I said – which apparently is what I say when nightmares come true – but I did manage to sound sarcastic (which almost counts as a win). There was a microsecond pause as I grabbed at my foggy notion that human rights apply to me as well as everyone else. “But I won’t.”
I swam on, shaking with the trauma of it all but pleased with myself for responding quickly enough and rationally enough to satisfy my non-paranoid (and non-pathetic) side. It wasn’t going to be easy to finish the last three hundred metres, but I swam a bit faster and worked hard on keeping myself together.
The I was stopped at the end of the pool – by a staff member. A real live authority figure. She informed me that I was swimming in the fast lane and should move over for other swimmers. Clearly she’d been primed by my little friend – but now I was really freaking out. But I’d been primed too. I’d made the decision to go in that lane, had questioned it myself AND after being challenged, and was still sure I was right.
“I can’t move over!” I blubbered (which doesn’t SOUND impressive – but I could have silently shifted elsewhere). “I have contact lenses and I can’t go under the rope – and I can’t pull myself out because I recently had a baby!” (All true – I haul myself over the ropes when I have to, and it’s not pretty.)
“I’ll go get another staff member and we’ll move the rope for you.”
So I waited for my humiliating experience, determined to at least not capitulate without a fight. After a while, I waved to the staff member and said, “I’ll just swim another lap while I wait?” and swam off – with two laps to go.
During this lap the original woman caught up to me again. She stopped to share some more life advice with me – loudly: “Passive-aggressive behaviour is the downfall of feminism!”
“Wow!” was my oh so articulate response (I write novels, you know). But of course she’d crossed the line from Concerned Citizen to Nutbag and, by a process of elimination, that meant I really WAS being the rational one. I felt a lot better after that. The opinions of nutbags don’t bother me nearly as much as the rest of the population.
And so I finished another lap. . . and there was a new staff member waiting for me. I took a breath and steeled myself for further telling-off and the inevitable move to a different (equally crowded) lane.
“We are so sorry,” she began. “I don’t know what that woman has said to you just now, but she will be banned from this pool today. You are hardly slower than her, and the other lanes are just as crowded as this one, so it’s better that you stay where you are. You go ahead and swim in this lane as long as you like. That woman is about to leave and never come back.”
Of course I cried a bit (crying with strangers in public is normal, right?), but I finished my swim and went home shaken but proud. I realised the lane had gotten suspiciously empty in the second half of my swim – this woman had been haranguing everyone around her one by one in order to clear the lane for herself. Only I, Louise Curtis The Barely Holding It Together Lady, had the courage to stand up to her bullying and make it stop.
Downfall of feminism? Me? Not today.