Poolology and Social Permission

Poolology and Social Permission

It’s well-known that men and women differ: biology, psychology, sociology… On and on the divergences show – and flow.

Even in our sports club’s pool, where I observe all. Especially there, when-and-where my limbs are occupied.

There are three lap-length lanes in the free-for-all pool. There are no scheduled activities, there are few rules, no lifeguard or social permission referee.

Most days since we’ve joined, the 9:15 – 9:45 period has been quiet, the slot after the exercise-then-haste-to-work crowd abated. It’s an unfettered, placid place, unless the janitor is shop-vacuuming the adjacent men’s locker room.┬áThen the sound reverberates. But the clean-up necessitated, on some days, when it’s highly used by gotta-get-to-work slobs. (clean-up never seems needed on the women’s side)

But I digress. I’ve been fortunate because the low-use half-hour works in my schedule. A small group of regulars share the space. We nod like silent truckers on the open road.

Except for that one guy who occasionally appears, who splashes according to some inner metronome and inner, rather than other, awareness. My husband, who steps into the pool area to say “Hi” and grab a kiss-hug before he heads home, says he’s true to his ethnicity. I smile, glad that the swimmer always claims the outer lane as his, and I can be faraway.

But a recent morning was different, as days can be. Both of the other lanes already had swimmers: a couple swam together in the middle, a single woman on the outside. I caught her eye and gestured, “May I share?”

Now, a sixth person strode into the pool area and, after a quick survey, dove in – and glided to share Number One’s lane. Number Six didn’t seek permission. He knew he belonged.

Number Six swam swiftly, with the classic stroke, and soon he arrived at the end of the number one lane. Imagine the shock, the surprise, the recoil of disdain. Then Number One’s acceptance that there was no other place.

Surely Number One heard the tacit rule of lanes are to be shared, as I did, during the manager’s tour and opening spiel.

Surely Number Six understood a basic rule of life, permission should be gained.

That could signal the end of my post. There is significance, rules for fair play that extend into life, in my tale. I’m not all wet here and you understand.

But, there’s a twist five minutes into my swim session: my silent lane partner left, glaring over her shoulder at me (What? I’d asked!) and male Number Six slithered over to redeem her place.

I must say he reined in his splash, his kick, into the dotted line half of the lane he selected. But why did he leave his claimed space in lane number one? Is it complicit, as I surmise it is, that women are better space-sharers with more acceptance and allegiance to polite?

Must one be female to understand social permission?

“My husband says it’s because you’re pretty,” the wife of the middle-laned couple related as they stepped out of the pool simultaneous to me.

I’ll take that.

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