Boy craziness taught me to swim
The accidental way I learned how to conquer the deep end
Black children are six times more likely to drown in a swimming pool compared to white children. In fact, the USA Swimming Foundation reports that nearly 64% of African-American children have little to no swimming ability. That’s one of many reasons black folks are often found on the sides of a swimming pool party. Of course the frustration of redoing hair afterward, chlorine complicating the texture of permed hair and that ashy look are also common reasons black people opt out of the pool.
None of those excuses were going to stop my mother from making me learn to swim, primarily because she never learned to swim nor did my maternal grandmother. She was determined that me and my brother would be fish in the water, and I was still protesting the whole idea of going to day camp in the first place. I could’ve used my sweet time reading “Babysitter’s Club” and “Ramona” books, not drinking questionable pee water.
Still, she sent me off to swimming lessons and I grudgingly stomped all the way to the pool. But what she did not tell me is other age groups would be there, not just dumb boys my own age. And there was a 13-year-old boy who made my 7-year-old heart flutter. If my mother would’ve led with that, I’d have long ago agreed to swimming lessons.
By the time we arrived to the swimming location, my whole opinion on learning to swim changed — solely so I could find an excuse to talk to him. Half-listening to my adult swimming instructor who was trying to teach me to float, my eyes were glued to a 13-year-old’s bony chest and taller-than-me stature strutting around the opposite end. To my utter delight, he turned, looked down and dove right into the water. I was impressed. My swimming instructor was also talking too much for my taste and kept trying to get me to look in her direction. I had better things to look at than her motormouth.
Although my mother didn’t know this, my older brother already knew I had a crush on this kid, who happened to be a friend of his. (My brother was a couple of years older than him though.) But my brother wasn’t trying to be my Wingman, so I decided this responsibility was mine to conquer. However, I had a second problem. These stupid floaty ropes were trying to keep me and my new love interest apart. And I knew what those ropes meant: segregation.