It’s no doubt that competitive swimmers tend to be their own “breed”. How many people can say that they actually enjoy jumping into a cold pool and staring at a black line for hours on end? Because of this, we swimmers understand that non-swimmers are going to be full of questions about the sport. Let’s be honest, though, there are some questions that you just shouldn’t ask. Think of that moment in Mean Girls when Karen asks Cady why she’s white if she’s from Africa. While we’re happy to answer some questions, there are just some that make us cringe. If you find yourself saying any of these things to your swimmer friends kindly see yourself out before they hit you with their kick-board.
1. “Your hair is so dead.”
Thank you for pointing this out. Unfortunately, it seems like no amount of conditioner can fully restore my lovely locks after being in a highly chlorinated pool for 2+ hours a day (minimum). Don’t forget that there’s a latex/silicon bubble protecting my head and ripping out all fly-away hairs on the back of my neck with every movement. If the girls could shave their heads as an alternative, I’m sure most would to escape that latex/silicon deathtrap.
2. “You still smell like chlorine!”
Really? I hadn’t noticed. I just stood in the shower scrubbing myself with the latest Bath n’ Body Works scent for 15 minutes, trying to mask the smell. Nothing works. We could use every perfume in a department store, and the hint of chlorine will still be noticeable. We’ve gotten used to it. You should, too.
3. “Are you really going to eat all of that?”
Oh wait, are you referring to these four cups of chocolate milk, three slices of pizza, bowl of pasta, salad, cheeseburger, French fries, and cookie? Yes. I am going to eat every single portion of this meal, and I’ll probably go up for seconds. Do you want to know why? Because I just burned at least 4,000 calories in a matter of two hours while you sat on your bed watching The Big Bang Theory. Pro tip: the best way to a swimmer’s heart is with lots of food.
4. “Wow, you actually look nice today.”
Thank you, I think? No, there’s no special occasion. I just felt like wearing jeans and doing my hair instead of throwing on sweats and a messy bun. It’s not that I don’t want to try to look decent; it’s that I can’t always move my arms and legs to actually put in an effort.
5. “Can’t you just skip practice?”
HAHAHA. Yeah, okay. You try explaining my absence to my coach tomorrow: “Hey Coach, so-and-so wasn’t at practice last night because she was in the middle of painting my nails for me. You understand, right?” Oh, he’ll understand alright. He’ll understand that he now has to make my practice two hours of absolute hell. He’ll also understand that I’d rather paint nails than work towards my goals.
6. “Did you win your game?”
What? First of all, we don’t have “games”, they’re called “meets”. Second of all, a single individual cannot win an entire meet – swimming is a team sport with individual results compiled. Did I win my race? Yes, but I did not single handedly overthrow the opposing team.
7. “Can I come swim with you?”
You can, but you aren’t going to like it. Here’s the thing about most competitive swimmers – we don’t always do well with recreational swimming. “Splashing around” is not appealing to us. Now, we aren’t opposed to lying on a raft and napping in the sun, but the second you splash us or try to dunk us, you’d better watch your back.
8. “But isn’t Phelps a druggie? That makes swimming look so bad.”
Oh my. I can’t even properly explain how difficult this question is to answer. If the only interest you have in swimming is following Michael Phelps’ DUIs/drug charges, then the swimming community is not for you. He made mistakes, but he has also managed to bring swimming into the media in ways that others have not. Additionally, he is not the only swimmer bursting into the media! Check the rosters for the Olympic team, for instance. Katie Ledecky is still in high school and has shattered World Records. When I was in high school, I was worried about what the cafeteria food actually was. So no, not all swimmers smoke pot in order to win medals.
9. “Want to go for a run after your practice?”
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. No. Never. Have you ever seen a water animal try to function on land? No? Swimmers tend to be the same way. We’ll swim for miles, but put us on land and you’re in for a good laugh.
10. “Is that a hickey?”
You mean this red bruise/cut on my shoulder by my neck? No, that’s just a mark left from my suit. Don’t believe me? You try squeezing into a polyester suit and moving your arms nonstop. You are bound to chafe and have deep cuts on your shoulders. I can see how you could confuse it with a hickey, but no, this is much more painful and unpleasant to get.
11. “Your legs are so hairy.” (to a female)
Here’s the thing – leg hair creates drag (resistance) during practice, which makes us work harder in the pool. It makes it that much more enjoyable when we finally get to shave for a big meet – we literally just glide through the water, like we’ve just lost five pounds. We even have shaving parties, complete with at least three razors each. Looking in the bathtub after, you’d think a mammoth were in there.
12. “You nap so much.”
Yes, and if I do not nap, I will not be able to function properly. Between morning practice, classes, afternoon practice, homework, eating, and working out, napping becomes a rarity that is treasured and honored when possible. If you should ever stumble across a sleeping swimmer, LEAVE THEM ALONE; if awoken, they may just bite your hand off like a lion.