I was musing upon this yesterday as I lounged at ocean’s edge, a Gin and Tonic in my hand. We are on vacation, you see, in a seaside resort in North Carolina. The thought occurred to me as I watched a young man come up from the beach carrying a surf board. He had already opened his wet suit and had pulled it half way down to his waist. He had a deep tan, sculpted muscles and six-pack abs. It was hard to look away. He used the shore-side hose to rinse the sand off his legs and then got a towel from the hotel cabana. I bent slightly to reach for my G&T on the nearby table. When I glanced up again, the towel was wrapped around his middle and the wet suit lay in a rubbery puddle on the ground. “OK,” I thought to myself, “This is interesting.”
What happened next was pure ballet. Lissome as a dancer, he glided his bathing trunks up under the towel with nothing more than a graceful pas de bourree. The towel remained neatly cinched about his waist until he whisked it away as though it was the last flourish in his dance. It took my breath away! Such confidence. Such ease. Such elegance.
If I had attempted that maneuver, it would be more of a comedic clog-dance routine than a ballet solo. I’d be holding the towel under my chin, wriggling like an eel, wrestling with cotton over wet limbs, losing grip on the towel, catching it in my teeth and ultimately toppling over to fall flat onto my keister.
As I had done just moments before. Wading along the shore, I had decided to take the plunge and challenge the crashing waves. This would be an uncharacteristic move for me, but some kids were frolicking in the breakers, laughing, shrieking with each swell of cold ocean that washed them toward the beach. It looked like such fun. I took a step into the water. My right foot touched soft sand that yielded as the wave rushed out and suddenly my leg sunk up to my knee. A second wave side-swiped me and toppled me into the surf, my left leg shooting upward and my rear end plunging downward; tuchus over teakettle. If I had landed in a rip current, I could have been shark bait for sure.
The struggle to upright myself was even more awesome than the wipe-out. I returned to wading on the hard-packed sand with sea foam lapping my toes. There might have been a chance that the hundreds of people on the beach would not have noticed the acrobatics.
During the subsequent onshore restorative G&T sipping, I pondered how some people just seem to be born with gazelle-like grace. I believe they are innately adept at physical tasks. Some of us others are natural klutzes.
A childhood friend could scramble up our crabapple tree to reach the high fruit. I picked up the bruised apples that lay on the ground. She could leap over picket fences by placing both hands on the top rail and vaulting aloft with her two legs in a half-tuck. I usually tore my pants attempting the less-athletic step and hoist maneuver.
My dad taught me how to ride a bike. He demonstrated the classic dismount, swinging one leg in a long stretch behind him and then arcing around to touch down and run a couple of steps to come to a stop. To this day, I have to brake fully and get both feet on the ground before stepping over the crossbar.
High school gym class was a misery of being yelled at for my reluctance to perform a backward somersault. I’d get stuck with my legs halfway over my head and, as I lacked the momentum to roll any further, I seriously worried I was about to break my neck.
Skiing was an impossibility because I’d get T-boned by the T-bar every time.
My golf swing would scare gophers.
My swimming stroke isn’t so much Australian crawl as it is, “Call the lifeguard! That woman is drowning!”
“Don’t rock the boat!” is the cry heard whenever I try to board one.
No, some of us are meant to arise out of the ocean like a mythic King Neptune with a surfboard tucked under his arm and deftly change into clothing under a towel. And some of us are meant to sit shore-side with a smart cocktail, admiring such grace and abs. Did I say “abs?” I meant, agility. Yeah, that’s it. Agility.