The Zombies Ate My Brains

Rescuing what might remain of the grey matter.

Swimming Lessons

1958 - Bathing Beauty

1958 – Bathing Beauty

I was a capable student in school. I participated in class, did my homework – I actually LOVED doing homework, underlining the titles of my compositions in at least two different colours, and sometimes just for the heck of it, rewriting entire notebooks. Learning came easy to me. I was a good student, as in “an obedient” one.  I suppose, in the dictionary under the term “brown nose” you will find my picture. I loved reading, and writing, math, the works.

No, that’s not quite accurate. If “the works” includes Phys. Ed., then I lied. Through my entire career at school, for one reason or another, I have never enjoyed P.E.  My worst experience was in 1967 when we took swimming lessons.

Since the school did not have a pool, we took a bus to the YMCA downtown and were taught by the instructors there.

I did not know how to swim and my only experience of pools were the shallow cement wading pool at Victoria Park and the two-ring inflatable job we had at home. I had no fear of water, but I had a healthy respect for depths over my head.

There was one little problem, however, about my swimming lessons. I did not have a bathing suit. As you may recall, this is 1967, the year that money was tight at home. There was barely enough in the budget to pay for bus fare. There was nothing for swimwear, especially something that I would likely never wear again since I’d outgrow it before the summer.

Mom, in her single-minded fashion, gave me her bathing suit to wear. She was a moderately endowed women, with ample assets below. I was a scrawny, flat-chested 11 year-old. I modelled the suit in the kitchen and she stitched up some of the excess here or there. It seemed to fit just fine, for wearing in a kitchen, that is.

In the water, however…

First day of lessons, the two male instructors start the class off with a couple of exercises at the wall of the pool. We are to practice floating on our backs, but anchored with our feet hooked over the wall of the pool. So far, so good. This is actually kind of fun. It’s really nifty, this buoyancy thing.

“OK”, shouts the instructor. “Now, one at a time, I want you to place both feet on the wall of the pool and kick yourself backward and just let yourself float. Wait until I come to watch you to make sure you do it correctly.”

I’m a good student. I do what I’m told. When the instructor steps up to my station, I place both feet on the wall and propel myself backward with all my might. A gigantic and satisfying splash of water crashes around me. I float.

As does the top of my bathing suit. Around my waist. The instructor looks at me with… what, dismay? embarrassment? I was mortified. And in water over my head. I started to panic and flap and flail in the water. The teacher reaches out the long rescue pole and hauls me up out of the pool.

Later, after the long, cold bus ride home, my hair dripping and my dignity in tatters I tossed the bathing suit into the kitchen sink.

“I’m not wearing this thing any more!”I declared.

That was the end of my swimming lessons.

Inspired by Melissa and her Post “For some Reason we were Talking About Boobs”

“Never wear a bikini (because they don’t make the tops in the “over the shoulder boulder holder” size)?

Check. I can’t even count the number of times

I lost my suit top before I abandoned the bikini altogether.”


Categories: Mom and Dad

Tags: ,

24 replies

  1. Gym once a week and sport every afternoon at boarding school – hell on wheels. But never once was I forced to go swimming, thank god. Exhibit my fat body to my peer group? Never! (I could swim, though. Learned before I was 5. One of those Aussie essentials.)


  2. Screeched with laughter, well before the dénouement. As you wanted, I am sure. 😀


  3. Very well written, & hilarious.

    BUT!!! It breaks my heart when I hear people do not have a lifelong love of swimming.
    I grew up in Arizona and have always had a backyard swimming pool. I swam competitively from age 5-18 …. Some of my favorite childhood memories took place in the pool.
    I can’t fathom someone not enjoying the experiences of swimming

    I hope you now enjoy it more.


  4. What a beautiful picture you present, but the sadness of it is touching too. Embarrassment is so magnified at that age! It’s so good to be older!!


  5. Oh, Maggie, this is brilliant. It made me laugh and wince and want to weep and cringe for you. I could imagine it all so clearly: great writing – and what a delightful photo. xxx


  6. Oh! How mortifying!! Right at the age when every little embarrassment looms larger than life. I don’t have quite the same kind of story, just one that involves a white jumper in middle school that I thought looked terrific. I didn’t know that everything (and I mean everything) could be seen through it. Thank goodness I didn’t really have anything to look at back then!

    Thanks for sharing your prepubescent humiliation. It was very well written!



  7. Oh NO! Excellent writing… funny but I could definitely feel your pain. Reminded me of an incident. 😉 I’m thankful we didn’t have swimming lessons in school.


  8. Now you’ve gone and reminded me, too, of many more stories… time will tell which ones will make it to the screen.

    Great story. Just hilarious, and well told. I would think looking back that you’d prefer it be the “old, scruffy, and beer-bellied” bloke that witnessed your humiliation and NOT the otherwise preoccupied (no doubt by a cute girl) cute one. I would have shriveled and died on the spot had it been the cutie pie who had seen my unclothed pasty white skin (not that yours was, just saying you know if it were me that’s what he would have seen).

    For the record, I too, hated PE all through elementary and junior high school, although by high school I had managed to find some joy in volleyball and street basketball. I’m pretty sure that I contracted mono “on purpose” to get out of any physical activity for an entire year.



  9. My worst clothing memory was coats my grandma bought me at the Goodwill Store; sequential nightmares in houndstooth with plenty of room to grow. Identical except one was brown and it’s ugly uglier sister was first green ensuring four long years of coat misery.



  1. Cee’s Share Your World: Week 21 | The Zombies Ate My Brains

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