You want to know what’s really going on among the interns, bosses, underlings, moms, kids, lieutenants, coaches, teachers and hotties in your community?
Go to the pool.
And why not? The heat index is supposed to be about 395 on Friday.
Don’t step in — jump! Ahh, better, right? Now come to the edge of the pool and read about the sociological importance of the chlorinated wonder you’re soaking in.
We can get all lofty about this and talk about our nation’s first municipal pools, which were created as health initiatives in the 19th century, drawing the unwashed masses to commingle in the waters, stripped of their clothes, their status, their airs.
We are a nation with not one but two pool historians, who have chronicled segregation, desegregation, sexism, classicism, the decay of the big, urban pool, and the rise of the suburban private one. It’s all fascinating stuff.
The contemporary pool is the place we go to play, gossip and bond. For just a few months each year, it creates an intimacy and community that is virtually unduplicated during other seasons.
It’s where we learn who is splitting up, who is hooking up, which principal is getting transferred, who got a promotion. And really, is there any better place for informed speculation on who had some work done?
“There are no secrets at the pool,” one mom declared at the Cheverly Swim and Racquet Club after we witnessed a rather unfortunate bathing suit malfunction.
I’ve been to a bunch of human watering holes in recent weeks, each with its own personality.
In the District, East Potomac Park is the undisputed hot spot, where hard-chargers cycle to the Olympic-size pool, then dive in to stack up the laps. The childless crowd loves it; Type A’s can earnestly discuss policy without getting whacked by a pool noodle.
In Virginia, at the Fort Myer Officers’ Club, the pool facilities are in tiptop shape. There are military wives with kids and retired colonels who introduce themselves by recounting where they were stationed. They all jump out of the water and stand at attention, dripping wet, when retreat is played across the post to signal the end of the day.
Music signals the start of festivities for the crowd at Skyline Pool in Southwest Washington, which is renowned for weekend pool parties that attract hordes of scantily clad 20-somethings.
During the week, though, families like mine go after work nearly every night to scare away the bikini crowd and mingle with hotel guests. On a recent evening, I witnessed Thai, Danish, French, Spanish, Dude (my husband) and American Sign Language being used in that pool.
It doesn’t hurt that Mommy can have a little cocktail from the hotel bar in between endless rounds of Marco Polo.
Alcohol is totally allowed at the PG Pool in Mount Rainier, where a recent kid’s birthday party featured pizza, a pinata and a huge thermos of margaritas. It’s basically a wonk commune, with tempeh, organic zucchini and burgers sizzling on communal grills and kids playing everywhere. I bumped into at least three people from socially conscious nonprofits running around in their L.L. Bean swimsuits.
There’s less Bean and more Chanel at the swanky Mears Marina pool in Annapolis, where castaway families cool off when their watercraft aren’t underway. It’s mostly boat widows, who schlep the kids and bags embroidered with the boat’s name to the pool while The Captain fiddles endlessly with the bilge pumps or the nav system or whatever else is malfunctioning on the floating money pit.
Few pools I visited were as beautiful as the Lake Arbor pool in Mitchellville. It has a huge pavilion with picnic tables and overlooks a sweeping, rolling golf course.
But there is no lolling in the sun for Lake Arbor’s high-powered Kingfish swim team. Practice begins at 5:45 a.m., and the team’s organizer extraordinare, Calvin Holmes, insists on full-tilt participation.
“He kicks off the season in April,” swim mom Michele Fennelly confided. “April!”
At lots of suburban pools, including Hiddenbrook Swim & Tennis Club in Herndon, the swim team is the engine behind pool culture. It’s a sport that lets 6-year-olds and 18-year-olds compete on the same team.
“Everybody is always at the pool. This is where you go if you want to see anyone,” said Lisa Fagan, a former tax lawyer who is now an education advocate for children with disabilities.
Her kids aren’t on the team anymore, but she’s still there, organizing the pool’s annual Lollipop races Thursday, talking and listening.
Somehow, people get a little more honest when all they’re wearing is a little Lycra. And Fagan, who is running for a seat on the Fairfax County School Board, is taking full of advantage.
At Hiddenbrook, you’ll see her bumper sticker on the minivans in the parking lot.
Will she talk politics at the pool?
Why not? Everyone’s there.