Lifeguarding: Tank Suit + Whistle = TLF

abd7a6797c983dad55bf9ec19c0f0529This summer represents a milestone for me. No, it’s not that I’m finally throwing caution, decorum and my cellulite to the wind and going to the Schlitterbahn water park without wearing a swim skirt, but thanks for that keeping the dream alive for me. My big ta-da is that for the first time in my parenting career both my kids are working this summer.

My college son has a job in an office where I had to take advantage of the 2 for 1 suit sale at Joseph A Banks and was devastated that he didn’t believe me when I told him that seersucker looks darling on him. Seriously, what’s up with hating on seersucker? It’s a lovely cotton fabric that evokes memories of sipping ice tea on the veranda. Why my son said it “resembled something an Easter Bunny at a mall would wear” is beyond me and truth be told I feel like he’s betraying his Southern roots.

This child wore adorable little embroidered, smocked, seersucker rompers for the first three years of his life. Perhaps, he’s experiencing some sort of repressed seersucker memory because a couple of times okay a lot of times, when he wearing those rompers he was mistaken for a girl. I thought it was because he has such long eyelashes, but maybe, just maybe, it was those rompers.

But enough about seersucker my real excitement is that my daughter is following in my footsteps towards summer greatness. She has her first job and like mother, like daughter, she’s a lifeguard. I loved life guarding! So many wonderful things happened because of it. Primarily my deep respect for the one-piece swimsuit and the glory of the whistle. Talk about two great things that go great together. Let’s break it down and start with the one piece.

It was 1983 and Cheryl Tiegs was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated wearing a microscopic bikini. This of course meant every girl was now trying to emulate Tiegs. I dodged a bullet (correction more like a cannon ball) that year because God Bless America and it’s longstanding lifeguard tradition of full coverage swimwear which gave me not only the perfect excuse to not go tiny bikini, but I could also get up on a high horse (and I’m telling you I went way, way, up like I might as well been sitting on an unicorn riding a cumulus cloud) about how saving lives trumps fashion. Please, even I’m now rolling my eyes at teenage me.

But let’s not allow my grandiose sanctimony to take away from the wonder that was the lifeguard one piece of the early 80’s. It was a thing of beauty. First, it was baggy. Yes, a baggy swimsuit or in 2016 parlance it was a relaxed fit. The one piece was a double lined nylon, almost turtle neck, thick straps, modest thigh cut, navy blue, shelf bra, ode to modesty that even the most discerning nun would be a-okay with. Although it sounds horrible, trust me, it was like wearing p.j.’s to the pool.

There was no spanx-esque Lycra attempting to tame your tummy bulge or any need to constantly suck your fat rolls in and/or re-adjust your top or bottoms. You could just luxuriate in the wonder of what was basically a swimsuit sack. I’m going to admit that when you got in the pool there was the little problem of air getting trapped in the lining of the swimsuit and creating the visual that you could be 40 weeks pregnant with octuplets. But, it was a small price pay for that level of comfort. Almost as awesome as relaxed fit swimwear is the best lifeguard accessory ever – the whistle.

There are so many wonderful things the whistle can do besides alerting people to stop running or scaring 10-year-old boys from going off the high dive with a dozen swim noodles. The whistle is your lifeguard swagger. The way you work your whistle let’s everyone know your status in the pool hierarchy. If you chose to keep your whistle around your neck it says that you’re either timid or bored. Two things no lifeguard should ever be. If you, sort of, swing your whistle, it shows a little more dedication to your job, but if you want to really let everyone know you mean business than you do the swing, walk and roll.

This is when you stroll the pool area swinging the whistle on your very own personalized lanyard. (It doesn’t matter if the other lifeguards made fun of me. To this day I still know I was super cool with my monogrammed whistle.) Large circular swings denote I’m surveying everyone. Small, tight swings, that involving rolling the whistle cord on your index finger mean someone’s in trouble and it could be you. A good lifeguard by the end of the summer doesn’t even need to blow their whistle. All the pool participants should be able to read the swings to figure out what’s going on.

I, as you can imagine, was beyond excited to share my mother lode of lifeguard knowledge with my daughter before she started her job. I assumed she would be grateful and perhaps on the edge of her seat as I regaled with her tips and stories of my life guarding prowess. She was none of the above. Apparently, life guarding has changed since I was rubbing in Hawaiian Tropic SPF 0 sun tan oil on myself. What I thought would be a very one-sided conversation that was me talking and my daughter respectfully listening turned into her correcting everything I said.

I started out the conversation with my best lifeguard story – my first save. There I was perched in the lifeguard chair when I noticed a dad that had gone off the high dive wasn’t coming back up. I dove in, pushed the lining of my swimsuit down as it rose up and acted as a personal flotation device, and swam to the bottom of the pool. My lungs were bursting as I grabbed the man in a lifeguard hold and fiercely flutter kicked my way to the surface of the water. I couldn’t exactly remember if people were applauding when I got the dad out of the pool, so I just went ahead and assumed they were and added that to my story, which was so moving, even I got a little teary eyed.

My daughter was unimpressed. One would have thought she was a forensic water safety expert as she shared, “First, you don’t dive into a pool on a rescue. You jump in feet first. Second, you always have your rescue buoy or tube. Third, your main job is preventing rescues from even happening. You need to ask yourself this question mom – what could you have done to stop that man from hitting the bottom of the pool?”

She went on and on, but I’ll spare you the lifeguard lessons. I’ll just take my memories of relaxed fit swimsuits, monogrammed lanyards and whistle twirling and see if my husband wants to relive the glory years when seersucker suits were all the rage and lifeguards were all about the dramatic rescue.


10 thoughts on “Lifeguarding: Tank Suit + Whistle = TLF

  1. Cindy says:

    You must have moved somewhere north of the Mason Dixon line if someone thought your very appropriately dressed toddler son was a girl. A girl would be in a dress, most likely a smocked bishop or monogrammed a-line and she would be wearing socks with ruffles.

  2. Wendy says:

    I lifeguarded at a country club for two summers and it was the best job ever because we got free food and all the cute boys were gold caddies.

  3. Angela says:

    People talk about all the usual milestones with their children. But, nothing compares to “They all have a job” for sheer bliss.

  4. Erin says:

    The lifeguards at our city pool wear bikinis (not tiny ones, but two piece nonetheless) – it kind of annoys me…

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