Thursday, May 31, 2018

Show Some Respect!!!!

The pink ball plops into the middle of my lane. I stop, exasperated, but undaunted as the boy springs into my lane, fetches the ball and dives back into the mayhem family lane. Yes it’s summer at the Downtown Oakland Y and while I have my own lane, I have the misfortune of it being next to the family lane. Hence the ball interruption.

But whatever. It’s no big deal, right?

I keep swimming. Swimming. Swimming. Maybe 10 laps.
Then again, the pink ball plops into my lane.
Shit. The same process is repeated. The boy hops into my lane, retrieves the ball, and hurls it back at his playmates. He’s loud. Brash. Confident. Doesn’t give me a second glance. I stop. Stare at him in amazement. Then stare at the lifeguard who’s standing on the edge of the deck observing the lap swimming interruption .

Why the hell doesn’t the lifeguard do anything?

Oh, yeah, I’m at the Downtown Oakland Y. The lifeguards are completely ineffectual. And part of me thinks, okay, it’s not their job to parent the kids’ raucousness (no parents in sight by the way. This kid is probably what? 10? 11? His companions about the same age, maybe a little younger. I’m terrible with ages, esp. kids. )But in any case, even if the lifeguards aren’t responsible for the kids, they are responsible for the smooth operation of the pool and one thing that keeps the pool running smoothly is NOT interrupting lap swimmers!

I remember observing this same phenomenon weeks ago. The pink ball splashing into this lap lane. But that lap swimmer had just kept on swimming. Didn’t even stop. No matter how many times the ball spun into his lane, he just kept swimming, a steady unrelenting freestyle.

Not me. I’m pissed. But I do keep swimming, thinking to myself—Patriarchy! It starts early! The ball throwers and interrupters are all giddy-uncaring-run-over-old-lady boys. Both bump-on-the-log lifeguards are men. And me? I’m just an old Crone trying to do my laps! The Patriarchy just mows me over!

I’ve had it!

DL had sent me an email weeks ago about how she and her niece were playing this game: every time something went wrong, they’d blame the Patriarchy. They were at a restaurant, had ordered a pizza, when the waiter delivered it, it was burnt: Patriarchy! Her niece’s mom was sick, a bad cold had her in bed for weeks: Patriarchy!
And so tonight, when I am just trying to swim my swim, and these boy children are rowdy and uncaring, I think to myself—Patriarchy! It starts early!!!

But I press on, trying to get in my laps. Too soon, it’s 9:28. I have two minutes left before the whistle blows (Patriarchy) and yup, the pink ball plops into my lane AGAIN!!!! This time, the kid swims under my lane to retrieve it, and then just floats underwater in front of me completely oblivious? Or belligerently taunting me?

I’m on my kick board. I want to wait till he emerges and then brain him with it! But instead, when he does finally surface, this time, I’m standing there, steam coming out of my ears, and I just start yelling:

“You know, I’m trying to swim laps here! This is not part of the family swim play area!”
The kid stares at me, taking his mask off, his dark eyes wondering what the hell?

And then I let him have it: “Show some RESPECT!” I holler.
His mouth opens slowly, then ekes out a sincerely contrite, “I’m sorry,” before diving back under the lane line to the safety of his friends and family swim sanctuary.

Wow! I think he really heard me! Why didn’t I yell at him sooner? Now my swim is over, but at least I got an apology!

Will I change the Patriarchy? I think not, but maybe at least this kid will think twice before tossing the pink ball into the lap swimmer’s lane.

Pink ball? Any significance to this? Maybe the Matriarchy working her subtle magic?

Later, in the hot tub, I tell DL the story and her eyes widen in wonderment when I repeat the “Show some Respect!” command.
“That’s the worst thing you can say to a kid!”
“Yeah, guess that’s why it worked. Even on the Patriarchy!” She giggles,nodding.

We go into Utopia, no Sandy tonight. I lament her absence, wanting to tell her the story.
DL says, “Oh, yeah, she’d have something choice to say about it! Too bad you can’t share the blog with her. Maybe in another Universe….”
“Yeah, cuz we know in this Universe, I never could! Share the blog!!!”

DL starts to giggle. I join in. We can’t stop. The laughter rings out into the hot air. We can’t stop. Truly. It’s like we are in 7th grade and passing a note back and forth and giggling so hard and trying not to, knowing we’ll get caught, but the giggles are contagious and have a life of their own.
Now, the giggles subside, a few women enter quietly into Utopia, settle in, a quiet reigns.

I close my eyes, breathe deeply, relaxing, finally ……Then open my eyes and stare up and into the dark ceiling. I watch, mesmerized, as a pretty pink ball appears before me, hovers for a moment above me, and then slowly, magically, begins to float up and up, resting for a moment on the ceiling before disappearing into my imagination.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018


“Were you swimming in the pool tonight?” ,her voice a wistful resignation.

“Yes,” I say, thinking where else would I be swimming, but refrained from being a smartass. Something about her, lying with the bag of ice on her belly, was vulnerable, tender. I don’t think I’d ever seen her before in Utopia, though Sandy knew her. But Sandy knows everyone.
Sandy’d been haranguing earlier about the idiocy of women who do whatever they want-- to hell with everyone else. This started with my relief that the hot tub was working again. “Last week, it was closed. Something about broken glass?” I reported, leaning back into the corner, letting the dry heat soothe.

Sandy had harrumphed, “Some people! They bring a bottle of Perrier, and leave it on the side of the Jacuzzi and oh gee, lookee! It fell into the hot tub and broke into tiny little pieces. Oh well. Or there was this woman last week, she brought her glass jar, glass mind you, into the sauna here, full of some unsavory soup concoction, and left it there, under the bench while she went to work out!”

Sandy had shaken her head in disgust while I had grinned, murmuring some sort of agreement about the nerve of some people. But Wistful Resignation Woman had seemed confused by Sandy’s outrage. “I guess that would be problem,” she ventured. And Sandy had slapped her thigh, “You bet your sweet bippy it’s a problem!” And then slowly climbed down from her perch, exiting Utopia.

This is when WRW had mentioned the pool to me. I get it. A fairly safe topic, right? I mean she probably figured I wasn’t bringing any soup in the pool with me.
“I was thinking of going to the pool tonight,” she continued, softly, wobbly even. “But I was just too emotional. I just had to come into here, and then take the steam and then here again….. I don’t know…... I couldn’t swim….”
“Yeah, I understand,” I sympathized. “Sometimes, you just have to take care of yourself and take it easy. Self-care and all.”

She laughed, softly, a warmth floating up into the air, “Oh yes, you got that. We are our own biggest babies!”
We both giggled. And I wondered, what was she so emotional about? Why did she mention this to me? I’d never met her before. And frankly, I was afraid to ask. I mean, what if it was something really bad? Like someone died? Or she had cancer? See where my mind goes? And so I didn’t ask and she didn’t seem to mind, but just continued musing aloud. “I don’t know why I’m so emotional today….maybe my period is starting soon…..”

Her voice trailed off as I agreed, forgetting for a moment that a lot of women still dealt with the fallout from their periods. Mine was such ancient history, thank gawd! But that’s off the topic. The thing that struck me was her willingness to just talk to me. Like we were old friends. That we’d known each other for years and years. Or in another life?

I don’t dismiss this. I mean, it could be. What do I know? Maybe she remembers me from a past life, but my memory is so bad that I don’t?

This would make sense.

But honestly, I just think she wanted to voice her emotions, her vulnerability. And sometimes, saying it out loud to someone you don’t know is the most soothing. It’s somehow healing…..A stranger might judge you, but here in Utopia, now that Sandy’s gone, she’s probably pretty safe. At least with me. At this moment. In this life.

And after a swim!

I gathered my swim stuff up as quietly as possible, climbed down off the top shelf, glancing over at her.

Her musings floated up and into the dark air. She sighed, softly, adjusting the ice bag on her belly. Closed her eyes.
And I drifted out.....

Wednesday, May 09, 2018



Seriously? I glare at the beaming dorkguard at Hilltopia Pool. I’ve just finished my swim and I’m tired and cold. It’d been an okay swim till the end when some spaz got in the lane with me and I had to dodge his wave slapping stroke.

Dorkgaurd Smile Commander approaches the women’s locker room door, repeating his smile command and then even goes so far as to make a smile upward shape on his own mug with his index fingers. Grinning widely in pantomime.

"SMILE!!!" he commands again.
“Why?” I growl as he holds the door open for me.
“Because life is good?” he exclaims. “Because it’s a beautiful day?”

I sigh, shake my head. All my life I’ve had men, and it’s always men, telling me to smile. It really pisses me off and normally I’d just let this go but today, well…he got me on a short fuse day.
“You know,” I say, “that’s a really Sexist Thing to say.”
His own smile takes a downturn.
“Do you ever tell men to smile?” I ask.
He pauses for a moment. I can see that he’s thinking about this. “No…” he admits, slowly. “I’ve never told a man to smile.”

Triumphant, I push past him into the locker room, “Well, there you go,” I quip, not looking back as the door slams behind me.

Was I a bit too harsh with him? I mean, he was just joking around right?

Well, from his point of view, he was. But the underlying subtext is that women should always be walking around with a big hearty grin on their faces no matter how they’re feeling. That if they’re not smiling and cheerful, then something is wrong with them. They’re not feminine. They’re not submissive. They’re not some man’s baby doll!
Maybe my anger bubbled up today cuz I’d just seen this French Film about how the gender roles had been reversed. It was called, Je ne suis pas un homme facile (I Am Not an Easy Man) and the protagonist, a sexist pig who made stupid comments to women all the time about their height and their lips and their voices, bonks his head on a light post while gawking at some women in high heels, loses consciousness, and when he comes to, all the world's gender roles are upside down. Women have all the power. Women have all the management jobs. The men have all the service jobs. The women wear the power suits and belch and crack sexist jokes about men’s legs and asses and dicks.

So, when SmileGaurd told me to 'Smile!', this movie was fresh in my mind. Plus! I just had had enough.

A week later, walking in the parking lot to the pool, Smile Guard spies me and stops to wait for me. Oh, damn, I think to myself. Why is he in my Sphere?

“I owe you an apology,” he says, stepping beside me as we make our way toward the Y.
“Yeah, well, it’s an Education,” I say, smiling. “Apology accepted.”
“I’ve been looking for you all week, wanting to say I’m sorry.”

I grin. This is fantastic! I hope he’s lost some sleep over it too!

But I don’t say this, I am in a gracious mood today. Besides, he got it. He’s apologizing. Maybe he’ll think about it next time he tells a woman to “Smile”

Or even better, maybe he’ll never make this sexist command to a woman again. I wish he could go into that French film, shave his legs, wear high heels, be someone’s assistant.
That’s not likely to happen, I think to myself, as he holds the door open for me. I smile. Thank him.

Okay, okay.... I admit, there are a few things I like about sexist behavior. At least he didn’t tell me to smile as I scan my card at the desk and head down the stairs for the pool.

Mad as Hell!

“I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore!” Remember that line? Remember that movie? Network , right? What was everyone so ma...