It signalled the end of the school year, the promise of warmer weather, and well, swimming lessons. It also meant the return of what a 9-year-old palette craves – piping hot salt-and-vinegar french fries, fresh from the canteen and inhaled after hours of play in frigid water. The pool was a 15 minute walk from my house, and sat in the shadow of the brick school that I attended from kindergarten through graduation.
Waiting for the Whistle
So it began. Every year, on the first day of Pool Season, kids in bathing suits would push to the front of the queue to claim bragging rights to being the first to plunge into the deep end of the ice cold water, pumped in courtesy of the volunteer fire department. It would be days, even weeks before the capricious summer sun would start to warm it.
The doors would open and we’d file in, speed walking along the rough concrete deck to get into position.
There I stood, punier, paler and younger than the rest, staring into the highly chlorinated shimmering water in nervous anticipation; silently wondering if I’d forgotten how to swim in the last 10 months. We waited, shivering pre-teens, lined up along the edge, legs cocked for push off; impatient for the the lifeguard to blow the first whistle of the season.
Before the whistle had finished we’d throw ourselves from the ledge, head first into the water, and emerge screaming from the cold water and the excitement.
Summer had begun.
How Not to Lie About Your Age
By the time I was 38 I was already obsessing about turning 40. Like many others, my notion of middle-age, especially for women, pointed to a loss of relevance, impending social invisibility and fading sexiness. I knew women in their 40s, 50s 60s and beyond who were relevant, brilliant and sexy. But, I was convinced they were outliers. It was that number, and a lifetime of unconscious judgments that I projected onto it that left me crippled with fear. If I couldn’t figure it out before forty, surely, I was doomed.
Blinded with determination, I devised a solid plan. I would throw a huge party for my 39th birthday. This would divert attention, so no one would notice when I turned 40 the following year (because, everyone was paying close attention to my age, obviously). The party fell on a warm October Friday night; a band played under a tent, there was dancing, a cocktail (the “Frantini”) was launched in my honour. I was surrounded by friends and, aglow on the love of friends and a few Frantinis.
Of course, I’d failed to see the hole in my master plan. Everyone assumed it we were celebrating my fortieth and that I was joking about still being 39. To this day friends who went to that party think I’m a year older than I am.
What followed in the next inspired soul searching, research, interviews and now, this blog.