Let’s talk about the community pool. You know the one. It’s probably in your rec center or local high school. Maybe you use the one at your gym. Where ever community pools are found, we also find a certain smell…a pungent aroma of chlorine that fills the space of stale air and coats every swimmer’s skin with the odor of chemical. For some of us, that smell triggers a memory; maybe mornings of swim practice before classes started, or a birthday party in grade school at an age when body size didn’t matter. Or it did (and the memory is a little less perfect).
I think the community pool is the perfect analogy for dating. After all, aren’t those in search of a potential mate like a bunch of eager swimmers? They come to the pool in anticipation of something refreshing; something that will exercise their hearts. Some enter the water slowly, choosing first to get their feet wet. They take each step of the ladder slowly, letting inch by inch of their exposed body adjust to the water before moving into something deeper. And then, once they are finally submerged, there are those who refuse to let go of their flotation device; that little crutch they grasp to keep head above water. It is the rare adult who dives in blindly with the enthusiasm more often seen in children.
If you’re anything like me, the community pool is less than ideal. I’m not even a big fan of crowded fancy resort pools (although if you’re offering to send me on a trip, I’d never say no!). I just prefer a more private setting where I can relax and avoid the splashes of more exuberant swimmers. And, if I’m being completely honest, I think about the number of people who’ve peed in the community pool. Gross, I know. I apologize that you’ll probably also now think about it. But when you jump into a pool of water with a bunch of strangers, someone is likely to bring something undesirable to the mix. I now completely understand my mother’s caution to “keep your mouth closed.” And again, I am reminded of dating.
During a recent conversation with a single friend, he told me about the women he’s met online (ironically on a web site that has an implied reference to water). What surprised me was how easily these women offer their personal information, how soon they share intimate photos, and the rate at which they are willing to have just a casual hook-up. Maybe I’m a little old-fashioned. Maybe I’m still hearing my mother’s voice in my head. Trust me when I say I’m no prude (just ask my friends). But to me, the casualness that some bring to dating is horrifying. There is a community pool of people out there who are all swimming with strangers and never think about what’s floating in the water.
Despite my reservations about the community pool, I do have some very fond memories of splashing around with cousins, learning to dive off the board, and even topping my own record for seconds I could hold my breath. There is a zen-like feeling that comes with learning to float weightlessly on the surface of the water and in trusting that you won’t sink, even when the rambunctious kid from down the block cannonballs into the pool.
And so maybe the community pool (and learning how to swim or float), holds some lessons for dating as well. Here’s my short list:
- RELAX. Let go of the things that weigh you down. You can’t float if your body is full of tension. And no one wants to jump in to save you if you’re a sinking ship.
- TRUST IN YOURSELF. Your body knows what to do. It sends you signals and messages all the time. Listen to it.
- BE CONFIDENT. No one can teach you to swim if you don’t believe you can do it. Stop talking yourself out of it and have a little faith in yourself.
- CHLORINATE. A little protection goes a long way. And for goodness’ sakes, if you’re not sure about the water, don’t swallow it.
- HAVE FUN. Stop thinking about how the bathing suit looks, if you’ve messed up your hair, or if someone is judging. Be yourself and see what happens.