Monday, July 20, 1998

Pooling Around

I was at the pool this weekend with my family when I overheard this query: "That is a great swimsuit! Where did you get it?"

Guess which gender the questioner was? That's right! Female. And it was followed by a 20-minute conversation on the topic of swimwear.

In the history of humanity, no man has ever asked another man about his swimsuit. In fact, only five times has a guy even noticed another man's swimsuit, and two of those times involved Greg Louganis.

We simply don't pay attention to this sort of thing the way women do. Women not only notice each other's swimwear choice, they even know where they bought it! "Oh, I saw that on sale last week. I thought it was too green for me, but it really looks great on you."

At the pool, a man's interests are limited to: 1) sucking in our stomachs; 2) keeping an eye on the kids; 3) checking out the only Pool Mom who dares wear a bikini, 4) wondering if we'll be there long enough to have a pizza delivered poolside; 5) involuntarily sucking in our stomachs even more whenever the bikini-clad Pool Mom walks by; and 6) considering doing a search to find out who invented the Marco Polo game, then tracking him down and having him chained to the diving board of a pool filled with ten-year-olds playing the game nonstop, until his ears bleed chlorine.

Once a man reaches a certain age, the pool-going experience is different. You know you've reached this age when...

  • You wouldn't even consider squeezing a Speedo onto your body. Now, you're just looking for a swimsuit that won't fill up with that embarrassing floating air bubble in the water.
  • You want to get a little bit of exercise, but before doing a couple of laps, you do a quick mental check of the lifeguard in the chair, and end up doubting that he/she is big enough to drag your lifeless, waterlogged body out of the water.
  • You get hit on the head by a tennis ball that a couple of kids are throwing around, and your first reaction is to keep it to teach those damn punks a lesson.
  • You get out of the pool, towel off, and immediately put on a shirt.
Ladies, do you know something that we don't about how pool water affects the human head? Most men who get in the pool at some point end up completely wet from head to toe. Yet I have actually seen women get into the pool wearing earrings, a necklace, and sunglasses. They're even wearing makeup! They have no intention of moistening anything above the shoulders.

At the other end of the immersion scale are the teenage guys, who -- when they're not trying to impress the female lifeguard with their ability to drown each other -- still compete in the time- honored fashion to see who can make the biggest splash off the diving board.

What's interesting is that there has been no progress in the mechanics of creating widespread wetness. They're still doing the classic Can-Opener, even though no teenager has touched an actual can-opener since the flip-top became standard two decades ago. Of course, many teens are Civil War buffs, so The Cannonball is still viable as a simultaneous splash-inducer and historical tribute. But you'd think that by now someone would have come up with something new. Science marches on, but it's doubtful that anyone will ever invent anything that surpasses the perpetual beauty and majesty of an Atomic Belly Flop.

Every pool has a Melanoma Man. He's the guy who sits on a chaise lounge for hours at a time, until his skin has achieved the color of cinnamon toast and the texture of bulletin board cork. He uses lotion, but it has an SPF of minus three. Every once in awhile, he gets in the pool for a few minutes, mostly to cool down his body temperature from that of newly laid road tar. If you watch carefully as he walks down the steps into the water, you can sometimes see steam rise.

It's for him that I have news of an impending scientific miracle. The Russian space program is talking about deploying and testing a solar-reflecting satellite. It's 82 feet across, and when it catches the sun's rays and reflects them back to earth, it will be able to light up an area eight miles wide (note to Roger McGuinn: possibility for endorsement bucks with a minor change of old Byrds lyrics).

They say the light, which will be bright enough to read by, is being developed to help cities in the far north that are bathed in darkness throughout so much of the winter. Seems to me that the Russians aren't thinking this through the capitalist American way. Think of it: an outdoor tanning parlor open dusk to dawn! Melanoma Man could work all day and still tan his leathery hide all night!

The scientists who designed this illumination constellation report it will have a downside, however. Even at full radiance, the light from the satellite still won't be bright enough to make it possible for men to notice each other's swimsuits.