I was a competitive swimmer when I was younger. You know those competitive swimmers who have sleek tighter-than-skin-tight swimsuits, shave every follicle on their body and train mercilessly twice a day for two hours a time? I wasn’t one of those. I wore a bright pink, one-size-too-big-swimsuit my mum found on a discount rack. I wasn’t allowed to shave my legs (another book entirely) and I often rolled over when my alarm went off and decided ‘not today’.
So, I wasn’t very good.
But it was difficult to let go. Swimming was something I’d been doing since I could – forever. I had a group of people I thought of as my (faster-than-me-) swimming-friends. And I went to swimming camps and learnt camp-songs and that taking aspirin with a drink of coke was meant to give you a high. And I mooned over the older, gorgeous, muscled boys.
So, when I decided to stop it was a big deal. And for days I pondered how to tell my coach. I kind of knew he’d be relieved, because I was bringing the team average down, but it was still a difficult conversation to rehearse in my head.
One day after school I walked the maybe 3kms to the pool, stopping on the way to buy a magnum ice block.
I was still eating my ice block when I arrived at the pool, and awkwardly I hung on to the wrapper while I was telling my fat, middle-aged, male coach that I was going to stop. And you know what he said? What I remember him vividly saying?
“Well, you better stop eating them then.” Indicating my ice block wrapper.
I felt the ice block turn to a solid mass in my stomach, my face burn, and the chocolate crumbs in the packet melt to a piggy, disgusting mess in my hand. And I don’t remember anything else. I don’t remember catching the bus home, or telling my parents about it. I just remember the shame. And I’ve carried that with me for 23 years. All because some fuckwit decided that he had the right to “give advice” to a young woman of fourteen about what would make her body more desirable.
I have no more words right now.