Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Shallow End Of The Pool

Around the time our son headed off to college I returned to something I was good at—overeating. I’d managed to keep the weight off most of my adult life, but now I returned to those bad eating habits that had made me such a porker as a kid. I was approaching fifty and my illustration career seemed to be winding down. I was extremely depressed. I could have turned to alcohol or drugs, but I’d lost the taste for booze and I didn’t know where to go for drugs. Mrs. Chatterbox had suffered from kidney stones in recent years and usually had a few Demerol tablets stashed away in case of an attack. I once took a few and hallucinated all night that I was on a roller-coaster with Oprah Winfrey. Following that night of horror I returned to what I knew best—drowning my sorrows in food.

Soon, the only pants at Wal-Mart that fit me were adult Depends. Mrs. Chatterbox came home one day and found me in my underwear watching The Crocodile Hunter. I’d taken to rooting for the crocs and hoped to see the Aussie’s arms being chomped off. (I now feel guilty about this considering what happened to poor Steve Irwin.) The house was a mess since I’d stopped helping with chores. In addition to my becoming a couch potato my wife was experiencing “empty nest syndrome,” and menopause. She rightfully blew her stack.

I finally dragged my lumpy ass to a mirror and was horrified by the sight of the bloated

stranger staring back at me. If I needed further motivation to clean up my act I received it

from my doctor at my next check-up. I was thirsty all the time. I’d drink a

glass of water and again be thirsty before I could put down the glass.

The doctor diagnosed diabetes and predicted a slew of medical horrors awaiting me if I didn’t make some drastic lifestyle changes. I could look forward to blindness, strokes, heart attacks, kidney stones, gout and amputations. The prospect of these ailments was the shoehorn I needed to pry me off the couch. I’d always hated sports but I decided to try swimming at a nearby public pool.

I needed a swimsuit, but it was the middle of November and the stores didn’t have much of a selection. The Fat and Stout Department at one retailer had a suit that fit. Marked for clearance, it was fluorescent yellow. When I tried it on I looked as big as a school bus. At least the bright color would serve as a beacon to prevent other swimmers from bumping into me. If I went down like the Titanic nobody would be close enough to get caught in my wake and pulled under.

Next, I needed goggles because of the high chlorine level in the water, necessary thanks to countless peeing kids. I was told by a lifeguard that the chlorine would burn my eyes, but I thought goggles were for wimps and tried to do without them. Unfortunately, my eyes turned redder than Cujo’s and I caught the cashier at our grocery store checking my arms for needle tracks. I had no choice but to break a lifetime boycott; I entered a sporting goods store.

The kid who waited on me was straight off an Abercrombie and Fitch catalog. Tall and butt-less, with wide shoulders and wearing baggy clothes, he looked like one of those bastards who can eat a cake and burn off the calories by farting. When I waddled up to him he said,

“Dude, how can I help?”

“I need swimming goggles.”

“Not a problem. Follow me.”

He moved like a cheetah and it was a big store. I was out of breath by the time he

stopped in front of a wall of goggles. There were hundreds to choose from. “What kind of swimming you planning on doing?”

“The wet kind.”

He laughed. “Dude, are you swimming in a pool, a lake or the ocean?”

I didn’t know such things mattered. “I’m going to swim at a local pool.”

He narrowed my choices down to about thirty. “Some of these light up and others

have sensors to prevent the Plexiglas from clouding up on you. I personally like these with racing stripes.”

Since I expected my swimsuit to pop off and float like a deflated raft when I jumped into

the pool, I chose the least conspicuous goggles available. As I left, my “salesdude” urged me to, “Have an awesome day,” and, “come back soon.”

Equipped with swimsuit and goggles, I drove to the swim center. I felt embarrassed as I left the locker room and headed for the pool that first time; most of the women I encountered had smaller breasts than mine. I slowly began swimming laps. It took awhile before I figured out how to breathe and swim at the same time, but I improved gradually.

A month later I noticed I was no longer the slowest swimmer. A newcomer dogpaddled slowly at the far end of the pool. A kick to my ego came when she climbed out of the water. She must have been at least nine months pregnant, maybe more.


  1. Ha! Great story I especially liked the part about the kid who was "one of those bastards who can eat a cake and burn off the calories by farting". Many years ago I had metabolism like that. Maaaaaany years ago. I miss it so. :(


  2. Yeah, in your face pregnant chick! I should go find a pool around here to swim in. That'd probably be more fun than walking and stationary biking. Though really I prefer "frolicking" to swimming. Handstands and somersaults are so much more fun than swimming laps.

    1. Handstands and somersaults are so hard to do when you roll :)

  3. LOL! Don't you just hate these eat what you like freaks. I like lowandslow was like that longer ago the I wish to remember :)

  4. I recently started up my exercise program again too. Best of luck to you.

  5. I hear ya! Almost a year ago, my doctor told me that diabetes with all its complications was a possibility if I didn't do something. I joined a gym and have been going about four times a week on average. I do see all kinds of people there - the heavily tattoed tough guys (and gals) who probably could lift my car with one hand, the perky aerobic instructors with pink outfits that resemble bikinis, the guys who walk in wearing business suits, the old gentlemen who break out in a sweat just stepping on the treadmill, and the overweight, middle-aged ladies like me who are determined to get just a little healthier.

    Good luck with your fitness goals!

  6. Congratulations for being able to find the humor in these situations. When i was "much larger," i didn't have a good sense of humor about it at all.

    Good luck with the diet and exercise.

  7. Hopefully, you can avoid the fate of my husband. When we lived in town, he loved to hand out candy to the trick-or-treaters. One year a tween-age girl brought her little sister. As they turned to go down the steps, the little one said to the big one, "Was that man pregnant?"

  8. I have just annoyed Laughing Boy by trying to read this out aloud to him because he didn't have his specs on so couldn't read it himself.

    It was alas a disaster, I couldn't read for laughing.

    Stephen, you're a tonic.

    SP x

  9. I can empathize in some ways. Although I've been fairly athletic most of my life, I tend to let myself go every off-season. I live in the Northeast, and my fave sport (almost the only exercise I truly enjoy) is fast-pitch softball. So, from October to April, my exercise mostly consists of me going from couch to refrigerator, and by the time the season rolls around, so do I.

    When I was younger, it was no big deal. Now that I'm in my 50's, I'm slower to get into shape than most of the other guys on my team. I have to endure a few good-natured ribs as I make my wobbly runs around the bases the first few weeks. And my uniforms have bulges now they didn't ten years ago. But the important thing is to just do what needs to be done and after a while the laughers are replaced with people who greet you with admiration for putting in the hard work.

    You'll be proud of yourself soon (if you truly aren't already) and you should be. You'll see it in the eyes of those around you, too. Trust me on that. And you'll have earned it.

  10. My hubby and I just joined a gym for the first time a couple of weeks ago. We went today, and I sat down at a resistance machine that had just been vacated by an old man who was bent over and could hardly walk. I grabbed the handles and pulled and couldn't budge it. I looked down and saw that it was set on a 60-pound weight. I had to move it to about 25 pounds.

  11. We all have to start somewhere, dude! Good on ya for starting!