Wednesday, June 12, 2019

This Is Water


Yesterday at the Rec Center water complex.

I sat by Ever as she read a book smiling.

I also read a book, This Is Water by David Foster Wallace.

My friend Rich gave it to me.

It's about choosing how you see the world--what you worship, what you notice.

So I made a choice to notice.

I noticed:

The bubbly toddler in the ballerina swimsuit running in a circuit--to her mom in the red swimming suit wading in the pool, to her dad in the blue swimming suit reading on a deck chair underneath the tree. Totally caught up in a narrative she was clearly composing for herself, she talked out loud as she ran. Sometimes she would pause and laugh.

I worried she was going to trip and skin herself on the concrete. Old habits, I told myself.

I observed mom bodies, like mine, with stories written into their skin. I noticed boobs (I never notice boobs) how different they all are, and some, like mine, bounce and sway.

Moms bring a ton of crap to the pool. Like, a ton. My kids bring flip flops and a towel. But I used to be a mom who brought a ton of crap to the pool. It was my friend Sarah who taught me to lighten up, "They don't even need a towel, really," she told me. She was right.

I noticed skin color. Provo is pretty white, but when you go to the Rec Center you see a lot more diversity. Years ago when Provo City was asking taxpayers to bond for a new Rec Center that could be accessible to more of our population, many white rich people protested and said they shouldn't have to pay for people to have a place to get exercise. These are people who could afford nice gym  memberships, or had gyms in their spacious basements. Some people even owned their own gym franchise! They didn't have to think about where all those people who made it possible for them to be wealthy were going to swim! That's the privilege of being rich!

But the bond passed and now we have a great swimming complex where nearly everyone in the community can go and I love to see how different Provo looks when all feel welcomed to show up.

I noticed I tend to politicize easily.

Four Latinx teenagers took up four chairs behind me in the shade. They were dressed long black tshirts, baggy low-riding jeans, fat sneakers, wide brim hats. They talked loudly in Spanish and animated, like they were having a good time. I wondered if everyone in the pool thought they were gangsters. Admittedly, I wondered too.

One of them called out to his mom in the splash pad. A rippled woman emerged, tattooed and dressed in a black tshirt and cut-off jeans, fully dripping. She talked to her son for a bit and then her son turned to the others and yelled, "Bombay House it is!"

They all cheer.

Bombay House is known for being a top Indian restaurant in Utah. It's good. Chefs in our valley consistently rank it as the best place to eat. I didn't see that coming. Ignorance runs deep.

I'm working on it.

Ever finished her book. She gets up to stretch and I see how tall she is getting and how she is changing. I never notice it, until I do. I feel a certain joy about my children's growing bodies. Sometimes it's like my girls' LOL dolls--you know the ones that come in the packaging meant for unboxing? That's how it feels for me--a surprise package.

I didn't anticipate my body changing, it just did. Took me by total surprise. One day I was a child and the next day boys were trying to flip my bra. There was no suspense. No waiting period. It was more like a wave that rushed over me and left my body strange. So, we talk a lot about body changes with our kids. I want them to know the next move.

But I try to play it cool. Of course.

The young mom (they're all young moms in Provo) to my right is breast-feeding with a blanket over her plump baby. I remember the sweaty head, matted curly hair of my babies when I fed them like that--you know, to stay modest. I don't fault that mother, she's a victim of the sexualization of women's bodies. But I will never not rage when I see women having to worry about others' sensitivities when they are feeding their babies. Especially on these hot, dry days of summer, cover-ups are nothing but tiny saunas.

I want to yank that blanket and let that baby (and mother) breathe.

Screw the patriarchy. I notice their work everywhere. I cannot dissociate from it. Even if I could, what good would that do? Isn't that the point of being a moral person? To help right wrongs and show up for the marginalized? And yet, I feel a blush of shame every time someone suggests I get "easily offended" or "obsessed about women's rights". I try to tell myself I shouldn't be the one who feels ashamed, they should be ashamed. I'm getting better at it, I don't blush so easily now.

But, still I want to shout:

Boobs are not sex. Boobs are not sex. Boobs are not sex.

(If I want my boobs to be about sex, you'll know.)

Erin comes back, shivering, looking for a towel.

In the distance, mid-way between her father and her mother, the toddler's toes get caught underneath her own foot and she nose dives down into the concrete. Her mother jumps out of the pool and rushes over.

Boobs swaying, like mine do.

This is water. This is water. This is water.