“A girl in a bikini is like having a loaded gun on your coffee table- There’s nothing wrong with them, but it’s hard to stop thinking about.” ― Garrison Keillor
On other issues, however, they could be conservative to the point of leaving my brother and I extremely naive. Of course, baby brother had the advantage of coming after me and usually knowing where I kept my stash of adult magazines. Still, there were many areas, especially in regard to sexuality, that were never considered ripe for any level of conversation beyond, “If you think about it, don’t do it; better yet, just don’t think about it.”
Not everything they did was intentional. Mother was almost deathly afraid of water and didn’t learn to swim until she was in her 40s. So, there were no afternoon trips to the pool when we were little. When I took swimming lessons, the instructors were, of course, dressed in conservative one-piece suits and when one is six one isn’t necessarily concerned about the physical qualities of the person promising to catch you if you jump into the pool. On rare occasion, Poppa might take us to a public pool, but when he did he dominated our attention. He was our life raft, our pool toy, our swim instructor, and favorite playmate all rolled into one. We barely noticed anyone else at the pool.
Then, there was the summer I was 14. Being 14 may be the most painfully awkward age for a boy to be, especially in the summer. There was always someone in the group who was more mature looking and talking about “making it” with girls. The rest of us tried to match his banter, but a quick look in the swim trunks revealed we weren’t remotely ready for anything much more intimate than, “hi.” Even if a girl had kissed us, none of us would have had a clue what to do next. I’m pretty sure a couple of the guys might have fainted. Fortunately, no girl ever put us in the position of finding out.
Everything changed the day some kid dared us to jump off the high dive. Two of the guys in our group immediately chickened out because they didn’t know how to swim that well. Randy and I could, though, and Randy wasn’t about to chicken out on a dare … and he made sure I didn’t chicken out either. My heart was pounding as we climbed that twelve-foot ladder that felt every bit like it reached half-way to God. Randy went first and made it look so easy. I stood at the end of the board, thought, “If the fall doesn’t kill me, Mother will,” and jumped.
I hit the water, hands folded just as I’d been taught, and was pleased to feel no pain. I came to the surface, checked to make sure nothing was bleeding and swam for the side. I grabbed hold of the ladder on the side of the pool, looked up, and there she was. Her tan legs were long with water beading deliciously on her skin. Her teenage bottom was covered by her swimsuit and then my brain screamed inside my head, “OH MY GOD I CAN SEE HER BELLY BUTTON!” I looked up a little further and my head screamed again, “OH MY GOD, ARE THOSE REALLY BOOBS?” I was afraid to keep looking. Had she looked back my head just might have exploded.
Feeling something stirring in my swim trunks, I opted to just swim back down to the shallow end. I had, for the first time in my life, just witnessed a girl in a bikini, and it was glorious. Since then, I’ve probably seen tens of thousands of girls in bikinis (or less) and nearly all of them have been absolutely wonderful young women. None, however, was able to induce that same feeling of euphoria mixed with astonishment and sheer fear the way that first girl did more than 40 summers ago. One thing is certain, though: since discovering girls in bikinis, my summers have never been the same.