I like swimming. Despite being incapable of putting my head under water without a panic-attack, I find the repetitive nature of swimming deeply relaxing and excellent for thinking. It is also the only time I am ever separated from my iPhone, which is in itself a positive thing.
The only downside to swimming in a busy municipal pool, is the frequency with which one bumps into acquaintances. For some reason it is far more comfortable to don a bathing suit before complete strangers, than it is to wear one in front of people you see socially. Pool-side showering feels uncomfortably intimate when sandwiched between Councillor Williams and the man who sweeps my chimney (that’s not a euphemism, he really is my chimney sweep).
I recently took the children to a swimming party which, although very jolly, caused a ripple of anxiety across some of the guests, who wondered if wearing a maternity costume was still acceptable two years after the last baby had arrived (it isn’t). Dismissing my habitual floral monstrosity as too mumsy, and my black Speedo as too functional, I threw my credit-card at the problem and bought a fifties-style suit with support in all the right places.
My local leisure centre raises the floor of the pool for toddlers, which means the only way to ensure one’s wobbly bits are safely hidden beneath the water is to lie on the bottom like a halibut. I lay like this for some time, returning to a vertical position only to catch up with all those parents I hadn’t seen since the last party. And therein lay my etiquette conundrum. I have blogged previously about my predilection for cheek-kissing; it is something I instinctively do when meeting a friend or acquaintance. Thus I abandoned my flat-fish impression to say hello to a friend’s husband, automatically leaning forward to kiss him. It was only then that I realised how wildly inappropriate such contact feels when you’re both sopping wet and wearing bathing costumes. I wondered briefly if I may be contravening the ‘no petting’ rule. Too late to change tactics I made the kiss as swift as possible, sticking out my bottom like a duck in case our damp groins should inadvertently touch.
I have consigned social kissing to dry land with immediate effect, so if you catch me in the pool and I greet you with nothing more than a cheery wave and a swift back-stroke in the opposite direction, please don’t be offended. I’ll pucker up once you’ve got your clothes on.