I’ve been doing my summer due diligence – spending vast amounts of time at the city pool. It amazes and amuses me what information one can pick up simply by donning sunglasses and stretching out on a lawn-chair. It’s like one becomes invisible and people feel like they have no need to edit their conversations. Hello, I’m almost sitting in your lap, so I can hear everything you’re saying to your lawn chair friend on the other side. Of course having the eavesdropping skills of a Russian operative also helps.
So far, three weeks into summer, I’ve heard about a suburban swingers club, a pregnant mom who is pretty sure the baby she’s carrying is not her husbands and a single mom who has hooked up with her daughter’s boyfriend while she’s off being a camp counselor. Incredible – right? I’ve also been busy teaching some young mothers how to tame an “Aggressive Aqua Mom.”
The first day of diving lessons and a group of elementary school kids are ready to heave-ho themselves off the board. Their teacher/coach is a beautiful, sun-kissed blonde college student who first wows the kids with some amazing dives. The moms are all sitting at tables and chairs close to the boards so we can watch our kids master something besides the cannonball. Everything seems to be going well but twenty minutes into the hour lesson trouble shows up wearing a Speedo and tennis shoes.
Uh, oh. The Speedo tank suit on any middle-aged women, except for Dara Torres (at 41 she rocked the Speedo at the 2008 Olympics) is a big fashion no. Primarily because it doesn’t have breast support or tummy control. It’s nylon with very inadequate lining letting your boobs do the slightly smashed and sway dance. Add, tennis shoes to the mix and it’s not good. A five-year old girl, maybe, can pull off the look of walking abound the pool in a Speedo tank and tennies but not a 40 something. Oh, and I forgot to mention Mrs. Speedo’s tank was well used and a little thread bare. It had the whole saggy, baggy butt thing going on.
Mrs. Speedo has two kids with her and she marches up to the diving coach and begins to hijack the lesson. It begins with her introducing her children to the coach (not a problem) but then segues into a dissertation about her kids strength and weaknesses and the areas of improvement she’d like to see the teacher focus on. (Did I mention this was a beginners dive class?) As this continues on for seven minutes (yes, I was timing) the other wet kids stand by the diving boards and shiver.
At some point you hope the dive teacher/coach will take control of the conversation and get back to instructing the kids. In her defense she is young and I’m sure was taught to respect her elders. So, Mrs. Speedo continues to drone on, now were at ten minutes of blah, blah. You can feel the anger seething out of the other moms. None of whom I know. At last, a boy gets sick of waiting and dives off the board which starts the domino effect of other kids diving off the boards and the teacher has to quit giving her full attention to Mrs. Speedo to take control of the class back.
Problem solved I think. The kids are diving. The teacher is no longer being monopolized by Mrs. Speedo – it’s all good. Wrong. Mrs. Speedo, standing at the side of the pool, begins shouting instructions to her children as they dive. Then she hoists herself up on the medium high diving board (eschewing the ladder because it’s blocked with kids) to further yell at them. (Excuse me, I meant she’s offering motherly suggestions given in the spirit of love.) As she’s hoisting her body, which requires a kind of straddle and heave-ho motion to get up to the board, she does a full flash of her lady business to the moms seated pool-side. (Another reason no one should continue wearing a swimsuit with chlorine distressed nylon fibers.) Now, that she’s claimed the diving board as her throne she uses her body as a barricade effectively blocking any other kids beside her own from using the board and keeps the diving teacher preoccupied with her two spawns as they attempt to refine their belly flops.
By now, all the moms are enraged. They’re talking and planning what to do. I pretend I’m engrossed in making a shopping list. Of course, I can solve the problem of Mrs. Speedo in a matter of minutes. I have, at least, ten years on most of these moms and the adult bully battle scars to prove it. But, these younger mothers have to learn by doing. I feel I must give them their wings and let them fly. The decision among the moms is to confront Mrs. Speedo. (Bad idea.)They decide to wait until after the lesson and go in a group of three. The whole safety in numbers thing.
Right after the kids take their last dive the three moms, two with babies on their hips (I’m thinking human shields), go up to Mrs. Speedo and try to “sweetly” tell her that they “don’t appreciate her interfering in the diving lessons” and that she’s was a “deterrent to the other students learning.” Like putting a match to dyer lint Mrs. Speedo bursts into flames. She gets right in the three moms’ faces and bellows, “Don’t you dare tell me how I can interact with my own children” etc. etc. The tirade continues for about two minutes (yes, once again, timing) the younger moms continue to back away from Mrs. Speedo, one of the two babies begins to cry and then one of the cute moms also starts going all boo hoo.
I, sigh, shake my head, stand up and enter into the fray. I’m nothing, if not a sucker for tears. I use my age, girth and height to assume an alpha dog status. I separate Mrs. Speedo from the shell-shocked moms and begin to show the early thirty something moms how it’s done. Watch and learn my young ones, watch and learn.
Their first mistake was going on the offensive. Any chick strutting around in a Speedo, who flashes her follicle rich privates without even a “begging your pardon” and never takes off her tennis shoes is not someone you can confront. Her fashion sense and bossy behavior at the dive lesson all points to the fact that she likes, and I would guess, even looks forward to confrontation. So, you don’t go that route. You’ll lose. This kind of woman responds to flattery. I lay it on thick.
Step one: I introduce myself as a great admirer of her instruction technique. “Did she use to be on a dive team or a coach? Really, never. You sure wouldn’t think after watching. Gosh, you were really great.”
Step two: Compliment her children. “Your kids were awesome. Do they have some kind of gymnastic training? They seem athletically gifted. I bet they play select sports.”
Step three: Go in for the kill. “Don’t you think your kids are too advanced for this class? Wow, if my daughter was that good I would take her to the Dive Academy. That’s where all the real athletes are. You don’t know about it? Just in case you didn’t I wrote it down for you. I got the number off my phone. Here, take this. I’d give them a call now and see about starting tomorrow. Your kids are good to waste any more time here. I mean really, just look around, it’s a pretty talent free environment.”
Mrs. Speedo is now preening and actually scratches her crotch while I’m talking. She agrees with everything I say, (shocking – not) and hurries to get her phone to make that call. Problem solved. Mrs. Speedo has been delicately hustled off to another dive class where she can be some other group of mothers problem. Yes, I’m that good. I turn to see the young moms watching me. One of them says, “We couldn’t really hear you. What did you tell her to get her to leave?”
Another mom fearfully ask, “She’s not coming back is she? What was in the piece of paper you gave her?” I tell this group of young hero worshippers that I would be glad to tell all. My price – an icy Diet Coke from the snack bar. When I receive the drink, the moms huddled around me. A reverent hush takes over the covered snack bar area and I begin to share my tips for taking down the dreaded, but multiplying in frightening numbers, mom bully. Ah, it feels so good to be needed.
Check back for Part II of Overheard at the Pool later this week. Coming up lifeguards who aren’t allowed to correct bad pool behavior. The reason – it could hurt the young swimmers self-esteem. You have to read it to believe it.