Sorry—no illustration will be provided with this post. If you were hoping for something racy, save yourself some time and stop reading now.
I was visiting a friend in Ann Arbor shortly after we graduated from college, and somehow I’d gotten wind that my cousin from California would be in town at the same time, also visiting friends. We hadn’t seen each other in 10 years or so and had only corresponded occasionally, so we arranged to spend a few hours together one day while our friends were working/studying.
We tooled around in her friend’s pickup truck and talked about college and life after college and our parents and brothers and grandparents and France. It was a hot day, and at some point we found a park out in the country with a small swimming lake. There weren’t many people there, just a few mothers on blankets watching their children splashing around. We didn’t have swimsuits, but my cousin suggested we go swimming anyway.
Left to my own devices, I would probably just have waded, but I agreed, and we took off our shorts. My cousin took off her shirt, too, but I kept mine on because I’d never even worn a bikini and wasn’t about to reveal what was most likely a very seedy-looking bra.
As we strolled down to the water, my cousin turned to a woman sitting nearby and gaily said something like, “It’s so hot, but we didn’t bring our swimsuits, so we are going swimming in our underwear!”
My mom sometimes talks to strangers like that, all confidential and light-hearted. When I was younger, it was embarrassing. To unnecessarily call attention to ourselves seemed to be inviting disapproval.
So it never would have occurred to me to say something like what my cousin said (how did she get that gene?, I wondered), but it was exactly the right thing to do. The statement preempted any judgment on the part of at least one observer. It acknowledged that we were doing something unconventional and indicated that we didn’t care. It was like saying, “We are doing something that could be embarrassing, but we are not embarrassed, so don’t bother making fun of us.”*
It seemed very adult. I’d never thought about the power of such a carefree attitude. Of course, announcing you’re going to do something in advance doesn’t make doing just anything OK, but we are too often held back by worrying about what people will think of us. A little bravado can come in handy.
It will never come naturally to me, but I consciously try to employ it sometimes, and sometimes it helps. Every time I write a blog post, I feel like I’m ripping off my clothes on a public beach, so I hereby proclaim:
I am telling the Internet what is going on in my brain!
Hmmm. Does that make me feel better? Not much, but I’m going ahead anyway.
*Modesty issues aside, I don’t remember how we dealt with the practical issues of swimming in our underwear. I doubt we had a towel. Was getting my t-shirt wet really a good idea? What happened when we put our dry shorts back on? What about the friend’s truck’s seats? What did my hair look like, and where did we go next?