By Bethanne Patrick
I was a physically weak (short, overpronating, allergy-prone, nearsighted…you get the picture), bookish, and introverted adolescent – not a felicitous match for my large, urban, riot-prone high school. My naturally athletic mother (she taught tennis clinics every
summer at various parks and had at one time instructed college students in fencing) feared for my safety each time I got on the school bus, let alone walked into one of the menacing bathrooms at my school – shivs and nickel bags were more common in them than rolls of TP or containers of soap. Both mom and I were pretty sure that without some kind of intervention I’d wind up getting beaten up regularly in the locker room during mandatory phys ed classes.
Fortunately, during a late-1960s time when school district finances were flush, our strange school with its amalgam of country-club, suburban, inner-city, and straight-up ghetto students had had an Olympic-size pool installed. During my first semester of high school, pool orientation informed me that any student who took life-saving classes and committed to swimming at least a quarter mile each morning could opt out of PE class completely.
I was saved, brothers and sisters; I was saved. My mother and I went shopping for new Speedo suits and every day I entered the chlorine-saturated world of “the life guards.” We all swam our laps, then had to take turns on a rota to watch other classes take their swim tests and water-aerobics classes. Before long, I qualified as WSI. All due to the American Red Cross! This writer owes her teenaged health (even if there wasn’t much happiness) to the Red Cross – as well as her kick-ass sidestroke.
Bethanne Patrick, AKA @TheBookMaven on Twitter (where she has 50K+ followers), is a freelance critic and the author of two books from National Geographic (co-author of November 2009’s AN UNCOMMON HISTORY OF COMMON THINGS and sole author of the upcoming SAY PLEASE AND THANK YOU: CUSTOMS, MANNERS, QUIRKS FROM AROUND THE WORLD), and offers new- and social-media book promotion through Megaphone PR.
This guest post was contributed by the author to Writers for the Red Cross. Writers for the Red Cross is a month-long celebration that brings writers, readers, editors, literary agents and independent bookstores together to raise funds and awareness for the Red Cross during Red Cross Month.
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