The pool is a meeting place for many people in our neighborhood, especially for those individuals over sixty-five. They've seen me at the height of my pregnancy, wobbling around the locker room, towel in hand, trying to lower my fat ass gracefully into the pool. They've cheered for me in the pool when I would unintentionally race the macho men who think they can outswim me. For the record, I am a fish.
On the rare day I find time to go, I always choose to go in the afternoon, when the morning and evening crowds can't get in the way of my serene unwinding. The other day, however, I felt as though someone intentionally threw a couple of crazies my way.
Instead of the calm, light crowd I had grown used to, there were suddenly four people in each lane, all vying for time to swim. I had come at the worst possible time, but it was too late to go back. Jumping into the pool, I join three men who are also in the FAST lane. They look at me suspiciously as if a small asian woman couldn't possibly dare to join their rank. I lower my goggles and pass all but one of them. Never underestimate a woman by her size.
After thirty minutes, I leave the pool and the competitive men, and head over to the shower. This is a community center so I forego the luxury of a private shower stall in order to go to this gym for fifteen dollars a month.
I wish people knew that talking in the shower may not be the most comfortable situation for most people. Some women, however, talk as if they're fully clothed, sunbathing on a lawn. While shampooing my hair, I hear a strong Irish accent. (FYI: Woodside is filled with Irish and Korean immigrants. They don't have much in common except for their love of drinking. Enough said).
'Oh, I recognize you from before. Looks like your chest is full.'
'Uh, yeah. I am.
'How old's the baby?'
'That's it. I haven't seen you in ages.'
'Yeah, I've been busy. Breastfeeding's a full time job. I'm either feeding or pumping.'
'Oh, I believe it. I remember those days.' She continues scrubbing every part of her body and, five minutes later, resumes the conversation.
'You don't mind me asking you a question, do you?'
'No...' Where is she heading with this? I thought.
'You said you have a lot of milk, right?'
'Yeah.' Seriously, what is this woman talking about?
'Mind if I ask you for some?.... For my son?'
'Uh...how old is your son?'
'Oh, he's six.'
'Same age as Adelle.'
'No girlie, he's six-years-old.'
What the $%^&!!
'When I know a lactating woman, I always ask for some milk. Very good for kids, ya know.'
'Do you feed it in a bottle?'
'Ah...no, don't be silly.' She's calling ME silly??
'I put it in a cup. Sometimes hot cocoa or I sneak it in his mac and cheese.'
Her kid is going to be soooooo scarred.
'Well, if you get a chance, I'd appreciate any for him. He's always a little sickly in the winter.'
I nod, not knowing what to say. She doesn't seem flustered at all.
Vigorously scrubbing her face, she says, 'Just leave it at the front desk if you don't see me.'
Now she's taken it too far. She wants me to bring my pina-colada colored frozen breastmilk to the gym and leave it with the guys at the front desk. I can just imagine their reaction, 'Uh...okay. I'll just put it here next to the donuts.'
The woman wrings her hair, tosses me a smile, and leaves the room. I close my eyes, relieved not to be talking about donating my breastmilk to a first-grader. A few seconds later, I hear a weird crunching noise. The woman next to me, (my sister nicknamed her 'shark' because of the way she swims; hands cutting the water like fins) is eating, of all things, a tomato! Water streaming down her entire body, she is chomping into a large, unripe tomato.
She catches my eye and asks me if I've eaten lunch. I nod. She says that she's starving and holds up her tomato. I'm surprised she didn't ask me if I wanted a bite. Maybe she had some mozzarella in her soap case.
Eating should be prohibited in the communal shower. Imploring people for breastmilk should also be a no-no. But I guess for fifteen bucks a month, you can't really expect much.