Tuesday, March 13, 2012

From the archives - Smooth Sailing

Here's an essay on scuba diving that was published just after my husband and I celebrated our 25th anniversary.

My husband and I just celebrated 25 years of marriage, and like all relationships, it’s had its ups and downs, mostly ups I’m happy to say. Now that we’re entering this new stage of our lives, we’re redefining who we are and what we want, shifting from backstage to centre stage, where the spotlight shines on just the two of us. Sure, I get weepy about my offspring moving on with their lives, but in the dark recesses of my brain, I hear the faint rallying cry of Braveheart’s “Freedom!”

Thanks to our efforts, these new citizens of the world are educated in matters intellectual and domestic, and it’s time to pry them out of the nest. I stayed home full-time to raise them, and my husband has been equally devoted to his career, but now it’s time for us to reconnect as a couple or the next twenty-five years are going to feel like we’re sitting in God’s waiting room reading magazines from 1986. I suggested we find a mutual hobby, maybe wine tasting, theatre, book clubs, Italian cooking classes, preferably at the source in Tuscany.

He heard golf.

It’ll be fun, he said. After a few private lessons, we can join a club, reduce stress by hitting buckets of balls, and share quality time every weekend. I reminded him that I took golf lessons in school, worked on a golf course, dated a golf pro, and unless this pro’s name was Curtis Stone and he offered wine-tastings while demonstrating how to make spaghetti Alla Carbonara in between cookbook signings, I had absolutely zero interest. I did not want to wake up a dark o’clock on a Saturday, drag clubs around on dew-drenched grass slapping at mosquitoes or look for lost balls in the woods. I didn’t want to wear plaid shorts, sun visors, or thin leather gloves with detachable ball markers. The only thing remotely appealing was the 19th hole because that meant one less meal to cook.

We compromised. By compromised, I mean we booked a week in an all-inclusive, couples only resort in the Bahamas. This was a huge step for us because we rarely traveled and it was always with the kids.

I envisioned lazy days on a lounger with a stack of books and a steady supply of tropical drinks like the Bahama Mama or Papa (I am an equal opportunity imbiber.) However, upon arrival my beloved went straight to the dive shack for a chat with Wendell the Dive Master, and immediately signed us up for scuba lessons. Hey, it’s not golf, he said. That's like saying hey, it’s not open heart surgery! Hey, it’s not bull fighting!

Oh, and never you mind about that pesky fear of drowning thing. I’ll be there for you, he promised.

First they take you snorkeling, which is really scuba foreplay. I paddled around a coral reef and cavorted with tropical fish including some large barracudas. Luckily we missed each other, as I wasn’t wearing my contact lenses or shiny jewelry, and they weren’t feeling peckish that day. But snorkeling compared to scuba is like going to a party then having to watch it through a window, so we began basic scuba training, about 2 hours worth, in a pool.

I worried about the fitness required but my instructor said all movements are “slow and lazy.”

Ah, the hook.

“You’re not really swimming, you don’t use your arms, you just gently flutter through the water.”

Tell me more.

“You need to tread water or float for 10 minutes.”

Float? Honey, toss me in the water and I will bob like a dumpling in chicken soup.

“And there’s a 300 meter continuous swim.”

Oh, oh.



“And you can do it on your back.”


Halfway through his continuous swim, a tall drink of water we nicknamed “Texas” took a break at the poolside bar, and he ended up passing the test. Any sport where the motto is “slow and steady wins the race” and you get to pause for a cocktail, well, that is the sport for me. The most strenuous part was squeezing into a soggy wetsuit. So we passed this first lesson and sailed to a wreck in the ocean to test our new skills.

Like the classic song, at first I was a afraid, I was petrified. As in full-on panicked. But I leaped into the unknown, and my husband stayed right by my side, just as he did when our children were born, and just as he has every day, for better for worse, for twenty-five years. We dropped to the bottom of the ocean together, and held hands as we moved through this new, brilliant, sunlit world before us. It was magical, I felt reborn, and I had to force myself to stop grinning because it let water in my mask. We reboarded the boat, and the waves got rougher. A nurse hurled her breakfast over the stern. Texas hurt his ankle climbing back into the boat, by my husband and I looked deep into each other’s eyes and murmured, “Isn’t this romantic?”

And it was. Silver may be the traditional gift, but black neoprene and a tank of oxygen is our pick to celebrate 25 years of marriage.


Debby said...

Okay. I get it. Scuba diving becomes a metaphor for the adventure that life is. Except we'll have to find a different metaphor, because Tim doesn't know how to swim either. Maybe we could have a seafood dinner instead?

A Novel Woman said...

Forget metaphors. Scuba diving is just bloody good fun. Maybe bloody is the wrong word to use.

Debby said...

Mmmmmm....yes...yes it is....

Julie said...

I've only tried scuba diving in pools or lakes. I thought it was a blast. Aren't you glad you faced down your fear?!