You know that strange feeling you get when you’re anxious and you feel like everyone is staring at you? When I get that feeling, everyone IS staring at me.
I made an appearance today at the Bally’s pool for the first time. Not only were people staring at me, jaws dropped, whispers ensued and finally the lifeguard had to come over and talk to me. More details on that later.
The back story is that I am in-between gyms. I decided that my charitable donation to the Y needed to end. It’s 30 blocks up by bus and it’s been hard to get there during the winter and only less hard during the other months. So I’ve been trying out Bally’s, aka the Ghetto gym, and the Whitehall Club, aka the posh gym, and maybe even the Tennis Club of Riverdale, aka ridiculously priced über posh gym.
The Bally’s skirts Riverdale. And I’m one of the only white people there and I’m not white. I get lost in a sea of Dominicans, some of them inexcusably ghetto…at least to me, I still have nightmares about the ghetto Dominicans who made my life miserable in junior high. At Bally’s, no one guesses that I might be Dominican (albeit, less ghetto), too.
At Bally’s, not only am I the white girl, I’m the girl in the skirt and the “Jewish” girl when I clarify as men try to shake my hand or ogle my long-sleeved shirts.
Today I was also “wet suit girl.” It wasn’t my incredible sexiness that was attracting everyone’s eye, it was my Aqua Modesta swimsuit. It’s a frum three-piece swimsuit that looks like an Adidas track suit but comes with a skirt.
The lifeguard came over because he said people wanted to know more about my swimsuit. He was very apologetic as he stammered this. I sighed. At least he hadn’t asked me to get out of the pool.
Finally, I started my laps and stopped to take a breath.
“Can I ask you a dumb question?” The bald guy bobbing next to me asks sheepishly.
Sure, I’m starting to think answering dumb questions is my job.
After he compliments my “wet suit,” he offers that I should market it to other religious women.
I have a funny feeling that no matter how hard I try, no matter how much I’ve always wanted to feel like I “fit in” because my violent childhood made me feel so “left out,” I’m always going to be the anomaly in the room. No matter how much I fight it, my graceless tightrope walk between cultures is going to teach others something. And maybe I’ll learn something along the way.
I’m not sure why G-d thought I’d be a good teacher but I guess, it’s a job I can’t turn down. So fine, I’ll teach the masses to play nice in the intercultural game of life.
“Well,” I respond with a smile. “I’d never thought of that. That’s a good idea.”
In the Dominican Republic with my husband and my “wetsuit” in 2007.