Mary J. Blige was right. Sure, she’s right about most things. We SHOULD get it crunk upon, have fun upon, up in this dancery. However, I’m talking about one specific thing that MJB knew about herself, which is also true about LJM. That thing?
I just wanted to make a formal announcement at this time. Sometimes people accuse me of not keeping in touch as well as I could or should. Well, here you go. Now you know what I’m up to, because this is the absolute latest update.
Before I go down, I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you for your support. You have known me during the many other times that I have not been going down. Now that I am going down, I want all of you to know. For your information, for posterity, and for the motherfucking record, which in this particular case, better be a Mary J. Blige track.
I’m a wiffleball on a Little League tee. I’m in the elevator hitting ‘lobby’. I’m the barometer reading the higher we climb up this mountain. I’m in the dunk tank. Hit the buzzer, baby. Let’s get wet.
When I was five, I learned how to swim in my grandpa’s pool. Before I learned how to swim, I would have to wear a life preserver that my mother called “an Esther Williams” after the famous competitive swimmer and star of 1950’s Hollywood aquamusicals. Unlike the Esther Williams, my “Esther Williams” was hideous and unwieldy. Essentially, it was a brown bathing suit with an inner tube sewn into it. You might know from experience, or common sense alone may tell you, sewing an inner tube into any article of clothing does not enhance the aesthetic appeal or comfort of the garment.
Regardless, it is a good thing I had it on. I am not a natural swimmer. You can take the child out of Manhattan, but you can’t take the spastic floundering, lack of evoluntionary instinct with regard to water, or the Olympic-level incoordination out of the child. My mother’s commitment to an idea is evident in the fact that I ever learned to swim at all. A second testament to her commitment to an idea is the fact that, until recently, I believed the actual product name for a child’s inner tube swimsuit was “an Esther Williams.”
When I finally did learn to swim I was rewarded with the deep end. I was rewarded with the diving board. I was rewarded with cannonballs, pikes, and can openers, which sound like horrible consolation gifts from a terrible Food Network game show. In actuality, they are the names of different dives that a five year-old must yell as she jumps into the pool because, without hearing their name, there is no other way for onlookers to distinguish them.
The greatest reward of all was the satisfaction that I could finally perform the Nestea Plunge. The plunge was made famous during the summer I learned to swim by a popular commercial for Nestea. The commercial features a smiling cowboy falling backward with his arms extended into a pool for the instant refreshment that is only available from that activity and ready-to-drink beverages produced by the Coca-Cola corporation. That summer, I executed approximately 10,000 Nestea Plunges.
I’m not the kind of person who swims often anymore. I’m now the kind of person who announces when she’s going down. Falling backwards into something, smiling, with my arms extended, isn’t something I’ve done since the 1980s. It requires a level of surrender to the unknown that is usually relegated to children and cowboys.
The freefall, as my nemesis Tom Petty might call it, isn’t right for everyone and sometimes it isn’t right for anyone. However, this is one of those times when I’m pretty sure that accepting the fact that I am going down is a good thing to do. I have to let go. As everybody knows, going down isn’t entirely bad. There are some beautiful things below the surface.