My partner Sara says I have pool issues.
In fact, she blames my inability to tolerate intense heat as an adult on my easy access to swimming pools as a kid, pretty much insisting that a personal history of pool privilege has caused me to develop a myriad of sun-and-swim-related eccentricities.
Mind you, I use the word “swim” loosely, as recently my pool access has been reduced to this:
So, for your enlightenment and an opportunity to see if you, too, suffer from some form of this same sickness, I identify below the symptoms that most express my personal version of ec-SUN-tricity.
1. A Maladaptive Obsession with Pool Placement
According to Sara, I’m overly obsessed with the relative position of my pool in our rather small backyard. Though I may be more concerned than your average suburban lap swimmer that my pool be on a flat surface for an activity like dog bathing, this matters more than most might imagine.
Sara says any sane person would ask why, when bathing my dog, I get in the pool but leave Ralph standing on the stoop. Yes, it may be odd to pursue canine cleanliness from a kiddy pool to begin with, but I want my pool sitting on a flat surface since sitting it on a slanted one, inevitably, causes water to pour over the edge of the pool’s down-hill side.
However, my primary concern about pool placement is the impact it has on sun exposure, since sun both warms water and, obviously, maximizes tanning opportunities.
Heck, it’s even important to place ones feet on the edge of the pool, so they, too, can tan.
God forbid, my feet fry unevenly.
2. An Unusual, even Odd, Preoccupation with Time
If you’d like to perplex your partner as much as I do Sara, while simultaneously optimizing tanning opportunities, it’s important to remember that certain times of day enjoy more direct sunlight than others. Schedule your sunbathing accordingly.
When we lived in Haiti, Sara said she found it strange how I would insist our Saturday grocery shopping not overlap with optimal sunbathing hours, especially since these outings were so important in Port-au-Prince, where, for my own safety, I was housebound much of the week.
However, Sara now says she finds it even weirder that after all my effort to perfect the details of tanning’s time and place, I rarely spend more than 30 minutes in the sun. This, she insists, is the most bizarre of my already decidedly strange temporal preoccupations with the sun.
3. A Hoarding of Sun Accessories
But the reason I spend so little time outside is because sunbathing is inevitably boring. So to minimize this boredom and maximize the amount of time I can tolerate the inactivity associated with sunbathing, I gather a number of diversionary items and set them beside the pool. These recreational alternatives to nail-biting and nose-picking, that I hope will keep, at least, my mind occupied, while my body sits still, include, but are not limited to magazines, gum, smart phone, books, beach towel, tank top,, Kindle, Coke.
Sara mocks me mercilessly about these items, as she says it takes more time to gather and arrange them than I end up spending outside to begin with.
Worthy of mockery or not, I developed these ec-SUN-tricities, at least according to my partner, because I had the privilege of perpetual pool access during childhood and, therefore, didn’t develop alternative means of coping with summer heat. I, not surprisingly, however, look at these matters a bit differently.
I would argue that my behavior is based on a struggle with bipolar disorder, that. since light normalizes mood, I have developed these eccentricities as a way to enjoy the emotional benefits of sunshine while simultaneously avoiding the health related threats of heat stroke—a decidedly sane option.
However, to contextualize these issues historically and economically, in addition to psychologically, it’s important to remember that up until 40 years ago wealth and middle class privilege limited access to swimming pools in the US. In fact, though public pools in this country no longer discriminate against people of color, we still see vestiges of segregation here in Kentucky, where swimmers at most suburban public pools are white and middle class, while children from poorer neighborhoods are forced to cool off in downtown fountains, where free fun is guaranteed.
So, though I may behave obsessive compulsively when it comes to summer sunshine, I suppose, I should be grateful to, at least, have a pool, of sorts, and, to not be swimming in a public fountain, one that local kids have probably peed to the temperature of bath water.
What ec-SUN-tricities do you use to handle summer heat? Does classism still impact access to swimming pools where you live?