The hardest assumptions to question are the ones you make about yourself.
I have avoided swimming pools for most of my life, and it's not because I'm self-conscious about how I look in a swimsuit. I'm much more self-conscious about not being a very good swimmer. It's not so bad that I have trouble staying afloat, but let's just say if you see someone who looks like me doing laps, that's a good indication it's not me.
I took those Red Cross swimming lessons when I was a kid--three classes, in fact. Actually, it was the same beginner class three times because I flunked it the first two times. My third instructor really put in a lot of extra work with me so I could pass the third time. I wish I could remember her name so I could thank her properly. I had (and still have) issues with putting my face in the water. I've never been able to coordinate that with the whole breathing thing.
For any experienced swimmers out there, that probably sounds really dumb, but one of the stories of my life is that hard things are easy for me, and easy things are hard. Calculus and programming? Relatively easy for me, while just about anything touted by others as really easy sends shivers down my spine. For instance, when I was in the Marine Corps, I was always hearing about how easy marksmanship is. Guess who can't hit the broad side of a barn with a rifle?
Enter my friend Jenny, who was on her high school's water polo team. We've been going to the gym and doing the usual cardio and weights thing. She suggested trying out the pool and is now determined to make a water creature out of me. I can get around by doing a sort of elementary backstroke. I'm pretty sure some of the other swimmers thought I looked like a doofus, but I don't really care. My goal isn't to be the next Dara Torres; it's simply to have a good time in the pool and burn some calories while doing it. So by that standard, last night was a success!
Jenny seems to think she'll have me front crawling eventually. I like the idea, but I don't know how long that's going to take. I think I'll work my way up to a standard backstroke first. Small steps. If I could get to a point where I'm actually comfortable front crawling, that would be huge for me. That's why I try not to be too critical of people who dress badly or otherwise look silly when they exercise. At least they're out doing something instead of staying on the couch. I wonder how many people are scared into inaction by fear of how they'll look.