On a recent beautiful morning, I chatted with a fisherman on the beach. He was wearing shorts and a T-shirt. I was wearing my underwear.
It’s nice underwear. It’s black and as demure as Annette Funicello in a beach blanket movie: a sports bra and a pair of black panties - and I can’t even believe I’m using that word on public radio. The fisherman probably didn’t imagine it was underwear, only that I was a bit ancient for a two-piece bathing suit, but I knew it’s underwear and the thought made my brain ricochet between amusement and wanting to curl up in a ball like an armadillo.
I had been caught in a Cape Cod tradition: the impromptu swim. No doubt you’ve been there – and I’m not talking about skinny dipping; we’ll discuss that another day. I’m talking about when you’re on a walk or bike ride and go past an inviting stretch of water and it’s just too much not to jump in. You can stand there bemoaning the fact that you don’t have a bathing suit, or you can just go for it.
I walk near a pond or the bay early in the morning, so I if I feel like it, I can strip to my underwear and swim for 15 or so minutes. Then, I pull my shorts and shirt back on and walk home. One morning, however, a neighbor walking her dog came up to the pond’s edge to say hello. As I rose out of the water, clearly wearing my scanties, she blushed like the proverbial schoolgirl and turned her head. I figured I better change my ways or be the talk of the neighborhood.
So I tried a one-piece bathing suit under my walking shorts, just in case the water looked inviting. But all that wet fabric on my midriff made for a cold walk home. Bikini tops were too revealing, so I bought a sports bra and a bathing suit bottom. But the bottoms also were too slow to dry, again making for an uncomfortable return trip.
So, I reverted to the black undies, which dry in a flash. They offer a lot more coverage than half the suits at Craigville Beach on an August day and, as a woman of a certain age, I figure I’m pretty much invisible, anyway.
On the day in question, I had walked to the bay. It was a glorious morning – blue sky and calm, clear water; the tide coming in, and the water warming up over the flats. It was the perfect moment for the first saltwater swim of the year, and I was the only one around when I stripped down and dove into the water. But after a few minutes, I saw the fisherman walking onto the beach from his car.
He stepped into the shallows and started casting, and if I didn’t want to spend the day offshore, there was nothing to do except to step out of the water as if I were Ursula Andress rising out of the Caribbean in that James Bond movie. I stood in my underwear and put on my most nonchalant air and we chit-chatted a bit about the weather and the sharks. To his credit, he never flinched. Then, he moved farther offshore, and I put on my clothes and headed home, both of us having enjoyed a very Cape Cod moment.