I took Nina to her swimming lesson Sunday morning. Emily signed Nina up for swim lessons and is the one who has always taken her. Truth be told, and I’m not so proud of this, I haven’t been interested in taking her. I thought the reason was because I so value my Sunday morning leisure liberty. It is the singular day of the week I don’t have to be up and out early. Though I walk Cleo on Sundays, I lounge around in my pajamas and drink my coffee, lazily petting her and lounging on the couch first. At any rate, I took Nina to swim this past Sunday because Emily had a work commitment. And now I’m wondering if my luxury and ease were the only reason I didn’t want to take her.
I sat through the lesson hunched on a bench near but not with other parents (most of whom were fanatically focused on their phones – between Facebook and candy crush – far more interesting than the swim lesson which was about as riveting as watching paint dry). After the lesson I stretched over the water to pull Nina from the pool and scooped her into a towel hug. She squirmed and giggled as I carried her from the pool area, letting her direct me with hiccups and squeals, to the locker room for her shower. Having helped her through the shower I was kneeling before her at a bench in the middle of the locker-room helping her get dressed. Women were coming and going, but I was focused on my wriggling, jiggling, giggler. Until a little girl and her mother entered.
The little girl, with a scandalized gasp said, “Mama, there’s a BOY in here!” To which the mother hastily replied, “I’m not sure that is a boy honey” as she hurriedly ushered her daughter into a changing area where loud whispering ensued.
In the hush of awkwardness that followed I could feel my cheeks flush. I’ve been called many things, but I think this is the first time I’ve been referred to as “that” (as an aside, I’m sure that wasn’t how the woman meant it… but it was exactly how I experienced it). I studiously avoided making eye contact with anyone, looking down at a spot on the floor near my knees until regular activity resumed around me. I got Nina dressed as quickly as possible and, head still down, left the locker room. I looked more like I’d just left a sauna than a locker-room. Awkward, red-faced and sweaty. I hate hate hate public restrooms and locker-rooms. They force me to choose one or the other and I am clearly neither! I don’t even know how to be either at this point.
Yes yes yes all you Monday morning quarterbacks, I could have (should have) looked for a “family changing room”. Thanks for the suggestion. The reality is that I didn’t. The reality is that looking for or even finding a family changing room would have been a departure from the normal routine of my child. And not that I’m so adverse to raising a flexible child, I suppose on some level I didn’t want to have to explain my shame to her, answering her myriad questions. The reality is that I rarely forget (as I apparently did last Sunday) that I need to be constantly vigilant and aware that I am…. different. It always catches me so off-guard when I’ve let my defenses slip and am reminded. I just wish in those times I could feel self-righteous indignation that the world is not more accommodating rather than shame about myself.