Picture the scene. I’m at the local pool, in the fast lane even though I know that I have no right to be there after two weeks of culinary debauchery and enough alcohol in my body to pickle every organ, but I don’t feel too guilty because there’s some cheeky geriatric in there, too, and we’re eyeballing each other because even though she’s only slightly slower than me there’s an etiquette at the pool and that bitch knows it and should fucking keep to her side of the lane so that I can take over her if I can muster the required amount of speed.
Anyway, suddenly this Adonis enters the pool at the shallow end and the heart rate of every woman over-fifty increases dramatically. His appearance is like all our cougar prayers have been answered at once as his body glides into the water, he fixes his ‘I’m a bonafide swimmer’ cap in place and prepares to take off. Back to the body, which is the body of Thor, and I’m sure that many among us in the water, transfixed by this rare beauty in our pool and with tongues hanging out, are all wondering if he has the hammer to match in those tight little white budgie smugglers that are the only fabric to cover a body as ripped as Channing Tatum’s. And he must be supremely confident, because who the fuck has the sheer impudence to wear white budgie-smugglers? and then further exerts his machismo by waving his muscled arms behind his head in a gesture of warming up and athleticism not usually demonstrated at our pool.
And as the sun shines off the water to highlight his perfect, glistening torso, we wait in silent anticipation, mixed with a tinge of sexually-heightened fear, as the only athlete among us adjusts his goggles one final time to show us what a real swimmer does,and takes off into the water in what can only be described as the most uncoordinated doggy paddle I’ve ever seen, finishing at the other end of the pool a panting disappointment.
It was a harsh reminder never to judge a book by its cover.
Which is a behaviour we’re all guilty of sometimes, mainly because we’re human and because we get indoctrinated and brainwashed by the media and ignorance. And in the same way that I was oh-so guilty of several second looks, provoked by anxiety, at certain individuals on my plane the other day, after all the hype about terrorism and the terrible sadness that very same day after the latest plane crash, we need to close our minds to stereotyping and the panic it can create.
Just as my son has been unfairly judged when people see the slashes on his arms and the scars on his legs, and others are misjudged for their own marks of self-expression or pain, sometimes we need to stop and think and understand that life is rarely black and white and that there is more complexity than we realise. We need to recognise that perhaps the boy with the shaved head does so because he thinks it makes him look tougher, less vulnerable and less likely to be picked on by the bully who has probably dealt with other sorts of shit that have made him so insensitive to that boys needs. We need to understand that that same boy cannot leave the house at all sometimes due to the brutal constraints of anxiety.
Adonis may have been a disappointment to us middle-aged saddos in the pool, but luckily we recognised that his swimming technique is probably one tiny microscopic element of his persona that is forgivable.