Okay, so here’s what happened. I didn’t have any plans on Friday night, so I decided to head over to the gym to swim. Two of the three lanes in the pool were already taken up, so I hopped in the far lane, turned up the music, and started doing my laps. About 20 minutes later, I noticed a man standing at the end of the lanes, leaning up against the wall and watching the three of us. (The woman next to me – about my size – was doing laps; the woman in the far right lane – quite a lot fatter than me – was water walking and using weights.)
I asked him if he wanted to share the lane, and he said, “I don’t think that would work very well.” He’s not the first person I’ve met who doesn’t want to share a lane; for example, there’s a guy who always does the butterfly, which really requires its own lane. So I said okay and started to put my headphones back in, but then he asked me how much longer I was going to be. I said 20 more minutes at least, and he muttered something I didn’t catch. Then he said, “Some people aren’t really expending any energy. If you know what I mean.” He looked pointedly at the woman water walking, and then the swimmer. I was so taken aback, I said, “Yeah,” and resumed my laps. I could have kicked myself for not calling him out on his rude comment, but it took me by such surprise, I couldn’t react in time.
A few minutes later, a younger man was standing at the end of my lane, so I asked him if he wanted to share. He said that he was actually wondering if I wouldn’t mind moving over and sharing the lane with the lady in the middle, because he and the rude man swim faster than me. I admit I rolled my eyes. I swim with faster people all the time (Hi, Bob!), and it always works out just fine. But they insisted that they, as the fast swimmers, needed to share a lane together. I said sure, and moved to the middle lane.
A few minutes after that, the water walker finished her workout and voila! I had my own lane again. The rude man swam for about 20 minutes. The whole time, I was running through scenarios in my head about what I would say to him if given the chance. He got out while I was still swimming, and started to go to the hot tub. This was my chance! I was going to hop out and join him for a little convo. But apparently he didn’t like that there were people already in the hot tub, because he made a face and stalked off to the locker room.
When I was done with my laps, I spoke to the lifeguard about the man’s bad attitude. The lifeguard told me that the man always complains about “overweight” people in the pool, and he refuses to swim with them. I laughed. Really! I mean, how absurd. Does he think we won’t fit? Because those lanes are wide, people. Does he think he’ll catch fat by being near it? Last I checked, that’s not a thing – and even if it was, I’m pretty sure the amount of chemicals in the pool can kill anything.
I posted a brief summary of this experience on Facebook on Friday night, and people were very supportive and sympathetic (thank you, friends!). I think, however, that I gave the impression that what the lifeguard told me hurt me, made me feel bad about myself. Not at all. If anything, I think I like myself even more after finding out that there is someone in the world for whom the mere existence of bodies that don’t meet a specific aesthetic standard consumes them to such a degree that it drowns them (swimming metaphor for the win!) in anger and hatred – and, I’d bet, fear.
I don’t feel bad about myself, I don’t feel sad, and I don’t even feel angry. Mostly I feel bad for him. I mean, what a sad existence! Imagine the horror he experiences when someone who looks like me walks into the gym, ruining his view. Imagine the disgust he feels when he is forced to look at a non-thin body like mine, that does not meet his standards of beauty or (presumed) fitness.
Imagine how it really infuriates him to see a fat person like me who loves themselves and is happy, which is something he will never be.