The bathing cap from childhood was the bane of my swimming life. Smelling of rubber and hard to handle, it was the last thing to grapple with before demurely emerging from the locker room, a pinhead perched above a polka-dotted one-piece.
Donning a bathing cap required technique. It consisted of choosing a spot mid-forehead to anchor the front of the cap while stretching the contraption to the back of the head, tucking in stray hairs along the way. Pony tails could be roped in at the end of the operation, creating their own special Bump at the Back.
Capping oneself was an act of tension, even suspense, but once firmly capped, a person was contained and confined, her hearing muted as if apprehending the world from a faraway place…the bottom of a well or the inside of a tunnel.
Removal of the thing was an exercise in release, exposing wet hair plastered to the skull and a deeply-lined imprint dug into the forehead, usually dissipating within an hour or so.
Cap liberation did eventually come about when boys’ crew cuts were supplanted by longer locks. The argument for girls to wear caps was no longer tenable. So, instead of “caps all around,” standards were relaxed. Drains were clogged and pool water polluted, but my hair could at last swish and swirl, my inner mermaid performing in Disneyesque style.
That was long ago and times have changed once again. Cap technology has improved. Materials are stretchy and light-weight. If I don’t put my head in the water, my back suffers. Chlorine-soaked hair goes green. Hairdresser budgets hit a high.
“You should try mine!” my sister exclaimed, having discovered this “new” kind of cap. “You can actually swim without a wall of hair coating your face every three strokes.”
Thus, with updated awareness, I’ve become cap-conscious. I have my eye out. Just the other day, I saw a woman sporting a flowered cap. Violet, yellow and orange flowers enveloped her head in three-dimensional glory, the plastic flowers wafting in the wind like a field of poppies and Scotch broom. As she floated ever-closer, her paddle board skimming over the turquoise surface, I bobbed on over.
“That’s a cute cap,” I said. She smiled pleasantly enough, but failed to further the conversation. I forgive her though. She probably just needs to upgrade her skills in the fine art of lip-reading.
Meredith Escudier enjoys writing about the little moments in life. She has written three books drawn from her many years of living in France: Scene in France, Frenchisms for Francophiles and most recently, The Taste of Forever, a food memoir, all available on Amazon.