Myth Buster: Black Girls Don't Swim

February 03, 2010


My mom is deathly afraid of swimming. I guess this is how I developed my fear of the pool. I remember going to the local private pool with my best childhood friend, Katherine. I think it was the first time I ever went to "the pool". I remember that day like it was yesterday. It was the day I almost drowned. I guess every kid would remember a moment like that forever and it is probably one of the very reasons my fear of swimming has never completely left me.

I think everyone has heard the myth that black girls don't swim. Seeing as how I can't, I was a little more likely to believe that this is true. Is is because traditionally black communities don't have recreational centers easily accessible or they are not up to par? Is it because as young girls we're taught to never, ever, under any circumstance to get our hair wet? I'm not sure I have the answer. What I do know is that I hate not being able to swim.

In an effort to overcome my fear, my fiance vowed to teach me. It was a miserable failure. I'm convinced my cranium is too heavy to float. My swimming lesson ended up with me hanging on to Kris and the side of the pool for dear life. I eventually ended up in the hot tub. I must admit, I was cute in my adidas performance swimwear.

Frustrated and embarrassed, I decided that I would take private swim lessons. As I inquired at the YMCA, I blurted out "I'm so embarrassed. I'm 26 and can't swim." He just looked at me, laughed and said, "Please. There's old ladies that come in here and can't swim. You'll be fine." I'm not sure why I felt the need to throw myself under the bus, however knowing I wasn't alone made me feel 100 percent better. I think of a life with me knowing how to swim. I would actually look forward to going to the pool or the beach. It would be a great low impact exercise and a chance to break up my running. Last but not least, if I was on a sail boat or ship, I'd have a pretty good chance of surviving.

I'm hoping to begin swim lessons in the next two weeks. I'm sure it will be an adventure and there's a lot to be learned. But one thing I've already learned is that we should never not try anything new just because we're embarrassed, have never done it before, or God forbid it might be hard and test our limits. We should always push ourselves to do the unthinkable and the unimaginable.

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