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Pool Dazed

She is the epitome of teen beauty: her dark, ash hair twisted into a chignon; full round breasts – unlike my little muffins at that age – spilling out of her yellow swim suit top that’s festooned with brown hand-stitched flowers. It’s the retro look that harkens to my high school daze.

Her paramour is white skinned compared to her biscuit colored tan, although he is handsome and well muscled. She is teasing him, tossing little pebbles at him as he exposes his naked chest to the sun. Her low-browed laser-blue eyes are studying his every move as she rubs her pluperfect skin against his, inviting him to reach back.

I am overwhelmed by the smell of Coppertone and rocketed back into my unmarred teenage body. The body untouched by scars, broken bones, operations and age spots. The body that seduced numerous boys. The perfectly made-up face and straight hair that swished just below my firm buttocks, and won me best looking in high school.

How did I get to be this old? How?

It seems that time moved in an orderly direction, until I hit 40 and somehow derailed onto the Orient Express heading pell mell to my gradual demise.

I watch the nubile couple as he returns from a chips and cola run. She rises to meet him; then poses, model-like, so that he will see her silken stomach, short shorts and the two dimples above her butt as she turns around and heads back to their lawn chair love nest.

Now I remember the pressure, self and peer imposed, to look perfect, to sound cool, to act cool. There were so many rules. My god, I’ll pass on that part. Not free to slurp up a burger and let the juice run down my lips. Not free to finish all my fries, lest I fatten my switchblade hips.

In fact, it was usually at least five dates before I would eat in front of a new infatuation. And the idea of farting or belching – I’d sooner have died.

Yes, there are a few good things about growing old. Not to care about the superficial things that once denoted life or death.
A lean swimmer in a retro flowered cap sluices through the water, her arms stroking back as symmetrically as mine did mere years ago. I do yearn for the swimming: 365 days a year, 45 minutes a day, rain or thunderstorm. My Speedo accentuating my needle-thin body. Even in my 40s, I still looked decent in a full suit.

But now the chlorine is intolerable; and after 20 years of laps, I have injured both of my rotator cuffs. Not to mention, my sagging butt and high hips form a square rather than an oval.

God, it takes courage to grow old. Everyone you love dies. What’s with that? How do you handle that? Think you’ve grieved enough for one lost love? Life says, “Here, take this. Take her, him, it and deal with it.” And you do, again and again, and wonder that your heart doesn’t burst.

Teens think we’re weak because we all look alike. OK, we do. Our hair, skin and lips lose color; our ears grow big, along with our noses. We get big hairs in unthinkable places, and we don’t trim them because we don’t see them.

Youth has no idea how much courage it takes to cope with our infirmities, losses, and most of all, the fact that one year goes by 50 times faster than it did when we were age one.

It’s relativity. When you’re five, one year is one-fifth of your total life experience, so it seems very long . . . You get the picture.

Now I notice two spindly young girls - all legs and lank, chests flat as griddles -.and remember the agony of that age The excruciation of still having no say-so in my life; watching the “big girls” with their dates . . . Begging my parents for a bra when, in fact, I was still wearing undershirts and sweating huge stains in my blouses, due to extreme self-consciousness.

So, it’s yin-yang, and I pack up and head home, where I relish the new book all my Baby Boomer friends are passing around. One about feeling bad (should be badly, but who pays attention to grammar and syntax anymore?) about her sagging neck. And I am inspired to write the sequel: “I Feel Worse about my Wrinkles” . . .


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