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The Summer I Was an Old Lady

I was recently reminded of the summer I was an old lady. It was 2006, I was 20 years old, I just had knee surgery and had to stay off of my left leg for about eight weeks. The only exercise I was permitted to do was swimming, so I joined the YMCA to use their indoor pool (reason: outdoor pools are generally filled with splashy kids who are more likely to urinate in the pool).

About five days a week, I would get up from my cross-stitching project (the ‘no weight bearing’ thing made it impossible to get a job) and drive out to the pool. For convenience purposes, I usually changed into my bathing suit beforehand and put a pair of shorts and a t-shirt over it. I would gimp in, give them my ID and go to the pool area. Here, I’d sit down on a bench, strip down to my bathing suit, take off my glasses and set my crutches aside. Because the bench was a few feet from the pool itself and the deck area was too wet for crutches, I’d scoot over on my butt ’til I could make it into the water. I was quite possibly the most graceful thing the Y has ever seen.

My pool companions were typically as follows:
1. One to two business-like looking men who did speedy laps on their lunch breaks or before heading to the office in the morning.
2. An overweight older gentlemen, who was either doing some physical therapy or just liked walking up and down the incline that occurs when the pool changes depths.
3. Old men who were doing medium speed laps, who looked like they had possibly been in the Navy back in their day.
4. Old women who did laps so slow they looked like their arms were part of a synchronized swimming team.
5. An old woman, in her swim cap, her make-up done perfectly, who bobbed on a noodle at all times, with her face always out of the water.

After I was done, I’d hobble out, dry off and go to the locker room. There I was in a sea of naked old ladies. Old ladies have apparently reached the conclusion that they aren’t getting any younger, it’s annoying to hold a towel up or put on some pants while you dry your hair and even if they don’t have it anymore, by God, they are going to flaunt it anyhow. They’ll walk up and down the locker room naked. They’ll comb their hair right next to your locker for five minutes naked. They’ll have conversations with each other about how she and her husband Elmer are going to have KFC for dinner tonight. They are old ladies, dammit, and they will not wear pants.

I may have been an old lady that summer, but I was an old lady that put on her clothes as soon as possible. And that, my friends, made the difference.

by Laura Blesse Hampton

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