Joining a neighborhood pool can be quite rewarding and offers a strong feeling of community if you understand the sub-culture of the club. When the weather is as beastly hot as it is today, it offers a welcomed respite of refreshing coolness to the overheated body. But, when you are uncomfortable to venture to a new place where it feels like everyone knows every other person but you, it can be overwhelmingly difficult to go. Our neighborhood pool is actually two large pools, one with a fancy water slide, the other a lap pool. There is a nice club house and snack bar and all you really need to do is just show up with sunscreen and towel and you are all set. We are quite fortunate to have a pool just down the road from us. When we joined mid-summer last year, it did feel very awkward walking in and not know a soul.
When considering a membership at any club or pool you should be aware of certain non-spoken procedures, unwritten rules and implied etiquette that hopefully will be taken into consideration when becoming a member. I had to learn the hard way as I didn’t pick up the cues so easily. Please pay attention, it might save you some humiliation in the long run.
1. First, never try to compete with the younger mom’s boobs. Theirs are much more perky and buoyant than your own (or your girlfriend/wife/significant other). Last summer when we joined this pool, I was amazed by the sheer number of young moms, those who didn’t wait until their 30s, like I did, to have a child. And, what is clearly obvious, is those younger moms have the better boobs – both the natural and more frequently the artificial breasts. Those are well-appointed and can serve as life preservers in the event of an emergency. I told my impressionable son, who has decided he is a ‘boob’ man, not to stare, but my own eyes were drawn to them, like a deer in a headlight.
2. Apply sunscreen liberally and often – again, don’t compete with the younger mothers, who have yet worry about premature aging. Their bronzed physique is perfectly tanned and has yet to face the dark spots across the face and chest from too many years of sun abuse. I used to be that kid who took the baby oil, slathered it all over and baked my skin until it was crispy. I had to have a large spot on the left side of my face lasered off and it has already reappearing along with a few more additions. I am playing beat the clock with my skin on a regular basis.
3. Try to be considerate of others and their feelings. Last summer, my son sparked up a conversation with a younger kid and the mom (again, MUCH younger) asked who her son was playing with. When I approached them to say hello, her son was shocked by my height (or lack thereof) and proceeded to ask a number of questions like “how tall are you?” and “how old are you?” and then stood next to me and put his hand on top of his head to measure himself next to me. While the younger mom thought that this was cute and endearing behavior of her clearly adorable child, she didn’t pick up on my verbal cues. My answers were “tall enough to get a driver’s license” and “old enough to vote, drink and have a baby” would not suffice. When I finally said, “I don’t discuss my age with children” the mom finally got the hint and shuttled her son off clearly miffed by my response.
4. When it’s hot, the pool will be very crowded so please try to keep your kids from throwing balls, and other apparatus that can be a projectile water bomb away from me and all other adults in the pool and everything will be fine. Just last week I witnessed a man sitting on the steps of the pool getting clocked in the head by a football. He was a good-natured guy who laughed it off, handling the situation with more grace and humor than I ever would have. The last 10 minutes of every hour are my favorite when kids are banned from the pool.
5. Be kind to your fellow member and just talk to them if they look lost. When we joined last summer, I had the pleasure of striking up a conversation with one woman, who after meeting me, insisted that I join her and her friends. Many were so helpful with valuable information about the neighborhood. One even turned out to be my neighbor! That was one of the best days I had at the pool so far.
6. Be actively involved. I have to force myself to do this as it is not coming naturally to me. It can be a clique-like on the best of days but once you jump in with both feet, it opens up a world of possibilities and hopefully you can be a member of that so-called clique – just remember high school. OK, do what you feel comfortable with and if that is being a slough on a lounge chair soaking up the sun, so be it.
7. Go down the water slide! It’s there for a reason – who cares if you look like you are trying to relive your youth, it is a lot of fun! But you must wait your turn, even if the person in front of you is having a temper tantrum. On the flip side, you will have so much fun going down, you will forget that you are almost guaranteed a wedgie AND the big splash at the end is part of the thrill. It’s still cool (not to your kids) and refreshing!
8. Last but not least, find an umbrella, sun hat, shade or anything that offers you a break from the direct sun. You won’t be as cranky if you stay more than 30 minutes (15 minutes for me).
Pool life can be very enjoyable once you pick up the little nuances of club. It took almost a year to figure this out and these are just a few of the cues that I learned along the way. I am sure there is more to learn as I am forever the student. With that, I hope everyone’s summer is filled with sun, fun and sunscreen.