Fear Friday: Swim in Deep Water

September 9, 2016

Fear Friday: Swim in Deep Water / Unbrave Girl

Swimming is like puppies and popsicles.

It’s one of those things that EVERYONE seems to love because who the heck wouldn’t love swimming and puppies and popsicles?

Except for, well, me.

You see, popsicles are just too cold. They’re also, need I mention it, not ice cream, okay?

And puppies are not kittens.

And swimming. Oh gosh, swimming.

Swimming is being thrown into the murky, green pond in my backyard when I was eight years old by my well-meaning father who was of the Sink or Swim School of Aquatics. I, unfortunately, was a straight A student at the Academy for Dead Weights.

Fear Friday: Swim in Deep Water / Unbrave Girl

The murky green pond. IN WHICH I ALMOST DIED. (Not really. But whatevs.)

Swimming is being that weird girl at my friend’s neighborhood pool who refused to go in the water until my friend spent one week forcing me to learn how to swim and I spent one week crying.

Swimming is reading articles in YM Magazine when I was fourteen years old telling me what swimsuit I should wear to cover up my “problem areas.” And wondering if all my areas were “problem areas.”

Swimming is my slowly and splutteringly breast-stroking my way down the length of the high school pool much to the chagrin of my classmates who were forced to be on my swim relay team in gym class.

Swimming is a lobster-red sunburn at the beach during my first and only trip to Florida. For months afterward every time I took a hot shower, the outline of the sunburn would appear on my back like The Ghost of Bad Decisions and Not Enough SPF.

Swimming is years of regularly “forgetting” to pack a swimsuit because I’d much rather just sit in a beach chair and read some cheesy magazines than be forced to expose my thighs in public.

Fear Friday: Swim in Deep Water / Unbrave Girl

Just me and Oprah chilling on the beach.

Swimming is all of my fears (deep water! jelly fish! riptides! sunburn! lycra! sand in ALL THE PLACES!) and my insecurities (exposed thighs! spluttering!) tied up in a drippy, wet bikini. And not even one of those full-coverage tankinis with the detachable thigh-skirt thingie.

While I’ve gotten over some of my fear of public-leg-exposure, my fear of deep water still runs, well, deep. 

When I do go to the beach, I’ll wade into the water until I’m chest-high. While my friends gracefully float on their backs or dive under the water, I stand up straight. My feet on the ground. My toes digging into the sand.

They are mermaids. I am an anchor.

Then last week, I went with my friend, Jessie, to her family’s lake house. My friend loves swimming so much she does it regularly for fun and not just because it’s something that other people are doing.

I knew I could not get away with the whole “forgetting” my swimsuit trick with her. Knowing her, she’d find a swimsuit for me to wear and physically force me into it.

But I was hoping I could get away with going swimming once or twice and then spending the rest of the week hanging out on the pontoon boat drinking adult beverages and eating salty snacks while reading cheesy magazines and watching other people swim.

Fear Friday: Swim in Deep Water / Unbrave Girl

Don’t mind me. I’m just going to eat ALL THE SNACKS while you swim.

But then I was introduced to pool noodles and EVERYTHING changed.

I literally spent every single afternoon last week hanging out in the deep end of the lake working on my pool noodle game. And you have to admit, I was KILLING it.

Fear Friday: Swim in Deep Water / Unbrave Girl

Working some pool noodles LIKE A BOSS.

And, the weird thing is, I didn’t once feel scared or insecure like I usually do when I’m in deep water. Maybe it was the pool noodles. Or maybe it was because I was surrounded by people who I knew could save me if something went wrong. People who, I also knew, could care less about the size of my thighs.

There were moments when I would marvel at how my body felt floating in the water. This body which had always felt heavy, ponderous, and “problematic,” was suddenly so light. I’d push my legs down into the water, and they’d bounce back up to the surface as if made of air.

After years spent covering my thighs and keeping my feet firmly planted in the sand, there is liberation in letting go — letting your feet float up, your bare legs face the sky and your toes point at the sun.

Fear Friday: Swim in Deep Water / Unbrave Girl

I am still not a mermaid. But I am no longer an anchor.

Maybe I am a lily pad — light and floating on the water’s surface.


What’s your relationship with swimming? Love it? Hate it? Just want to sit on the beach and read cheesy magazines and eat salty snacks, already?


I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On September 9, 2016 at 8:57 am zoe said:

    This really resonated with me… Being good at swimming is basically compulsory in Australia, and I am not good at swimming. For the longest time, I associated it with being yelled at by swimming instructors during compulsory lessons at school (in retrospect, they were all 18 year olds who had never encountered a child who couldn’t swim before and didn’t know how to cope).

    Pool noodles aren’t much good in the surf, unfortunately, but it’s amazing how much more I enjoyed swimming once I stopped caring that I was hilariously bad at it.
    zoe recently posted..Postcard from Gran Bosco di Salbertrand: a human landscape in the Alps

  2. On September 9, 2016 at 11:10 am Jessie Voigts said:

    I love this, more than you will ever know.

  3. On September 9, 2016 at 12:55 pm Paula said:

    Loved this! 🙂 I’m not much of a swimmer either but I can float with the best of them!
    Paula recently posted..Five Commitments for September 2016

  4. On September 10, 2016 at 9:12 pm Michelle said:

    Dang girl, you were rockin’ those noodles!! I grew up basically always within walking distance to the Gulf of Mexico so my friends and I lived on the beaches! This was back in the day of skimpy crocheted bikinis and using baby oil((zero spf) for darker tans. I was a lifeguard so a good swimmer, BUT….I do have my limits! I will sit in a beach chair and read or sleep all day, I don’t swim in the Gulf. I was at prime forever traumatized age when Jaws came out so Jaws keeps me out of the water. I will do the snorkel thing which I love but with a group of ppl around, I somehow feel safe. I do NOT swim in ponds, lakes or rivers all of which surround my house within 5 miles. We have these creepy critters called snakes and alligators so if I can’t see my feet, I’m not going in! Also I detest sand sticking to my body in places sand never should be!! So I get my swim on in a swimming pool. Since I have my own floatation devices built in, I can float on my back for a long time. Hint: outdoor pool preferably owned by a friend so you can go for a swim at night. Use your noodles and float while watching the stars, clouds and moon. It is THE best zen ever!! Plus you don’t need sunscreen!

  5. On September 11, 2016 at 1:12 am Carolyn said:

    Congratulations! Floating is so … liberating.

  6. On September 11, 2016 at 11:04 am Aurora said:

    This: “Swimming is reading articles in YM Magazine when I was fourteen years old telling me what swimsuit I should wear to cover up my “problem areas.” And wondering if all my areas were “problem areas.”

    Why do we do this to girls?!

    Yes, yes and yes.
    Aurora recently posted..That’s when the magic happens…

    • On September 14, 2016 at 6:50 pm Sally said:

      And the worst is that it doesn’t really stop. Even after you become an adult, magazines are still bombarding you with all the ways your body is all wrong. Luckily, now I’m old enough to realize that I don’t have to believe everything some magazine tells me!

  7. On September 11, 2016 at 2:26 pm Sandra L. said:

    I learned to swim at lessons at the Y when I was a child, so I’ve never been afraid of water. I’m not thrilled with my body, but I pick out bathing suits with little skirts and pretty patterns that disguise the worst of it. And at age 52, I figure no one is looking at me on the beach anyway. LOL

    Congratulations on your achievement. I believe we were meant to be in water. Must have something to do with floating around in the uterus.

    • On September 14, 2016 at 6:48 pm Sally said:

      Yeah, when I hit 40, I really stopped caring so much what other people thought about my body. I figure my body has gotten me through a lot of tough stuff, I should be proud of it and stop caring so much about if/where it jiggles! And chances are nobody else really cares all that much about what my body looks like either — and if they do than I just feel bad for them. Life is a lot more than the size of your thighs!

  8. On September 15, 2016 at 9:45 am Choi kun fook said:

    I thought you were a good swimmer, miss Sally! I did not swim in Toiman Island because I forgot to bring along the swimming suit. Anyhow you seemed to enjoy very much in deep water!

  9. On September 16, 2016 at 10:05 pm Tim said:

    I share this with you only because I care darling girl….much akin to the skillet breads and the corn on the cob advice…..take my word for it as an aficionado for the fine arts of luxuriating…..while working the noodles you can enjoy the bounty of adult beverages and salty snacks(including hard cheese) simply by allowing a small cooler to float right there beside you in the comforting waters…..count on it dear lady – you will thank me. 🙂

    Hope you are well and know that you are thought of often.

    • On September 28, 2016 at 6:12 pm Sally said:

      I think it would be a bit hard to enjoy a beverage from the pool noodle (I’m always resituating the noodles), but we made sure to have plenty of beverages and snacks on the boat for pre- and post-noodle refreshment!

  10. On September 17, 2016 at 5:24 am Elmer Anderson said:

    This is beautiful. Not a swimmer either. But I love frolicking in the water every now and then.
    Elmer Anderson recently posted..EarnGO 1.0

    • On September 28, 2016 at 6:10 pm Sally said:

      I honestly never even enjoyed frolicking in the water until discovering pool noodles, simply because I was always so uncomfortable in the water. But now that I’ve discovered pool noodles, frolick I will go!

  11. On September 21, 2016 at 10:26 pm Annika said:

    I thought you really are a good swimmer, good thing pool noodle game is in rescue. I’m not a swimmer neither, you have a company.

  12. On December 11, 2016 at 9:47 pm Leslie in Oregon said:

    This is my favorite Unbrave Girl post ever, Sally …I am so happy for you! The photographs of you at the lake are beautiful in every way and remind me of the lovely times I’ve had in Upper Midwestern lakes.

    I’ve had the pleasure of introducing several adults who had had a frightful introduction to swimming to the joys of being in the water. Having been taught to swim with my brother (in a non-traumatic way by a professional) when we were both very young, I grew up swimming every chance we got. My best family memories are of times we all played together in and on the water. I feel more at home in the water than I do on land. By “water,” I mean fresh water in the lakes and rivers of the Pacific Northwest (or anywhere there are no alligators, crocodiles or poisonous snakes in the water) and any salt water over about 60°F temperature. (I made it a point never to see “Jaws.”) For me, chlorinated pools are a last resort.

    Welcome to the legions of water sprites!

    • On December 19, 2016 at 12:25 pm Sally said:

      Thank you, Leslie. Glad you enjoyed the post. And I’m looking forward to becoming more comfortable in the water next summer! (And, yes, I never watched “Jaws” and never intend to!)

  13. On March 20, 2017 at 2:48 am kevin Ngoc said:

    So cool. I’m not good at swimming.and i think you’re really good at swimming.

  14. On April 3, 2017 at 8:53 am Lorraine said:

    I’m not a great swimmer, but when I read this blog I’m encourage to do so. How inspiring!


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