While I could make a few quick observations about the goings on at the 2007 UBC Masters Swim Meet I’m instead going to comment at length on only two subjects: the first about one particular competitor at the meet, and the second ... well actually the second also ends up being about another swimmer I saw at the meet.
In my 50 meter back sprint I was seeded Lane Two with the heat’s only woman seeded next to me in Lane One. I had actually raced beside her in the 100 back at last year’s Provincials where she had had a disappointing swim. Well this time was different because when the water settled she had wupped me by a full second. As I toweled off afterwards I heard her telling a friend standing close by she’d just done a ‘best’ and resolved to watch her remaining backstroke events to see if her good 50 carried over. In the 100 she finished in a time I’d be pleased to take home myself as it would have given me my longed for AAA qualification. There were whispers about it being a record and when I checked our provincial masters website yesterday for this write up I discovered her time was in fact a new Canadian masters record. No wonder she looked pleased. I also discovered she already held an earlier provincial backstroke record in the 30-34 age group which no doubt explains why, while we’ve roughly comparable times in the fifty and one hundred (well not so much now in the 100) she’s at a different level in the 200 where I struggle with my endurance. I watched her 200 back from behind the blocks waiting to swim my 100 fly and once again she went several seconds under her listed psyche time, setting what turned out to be a provincial masters record. It was a great afternoon for Cindy. As an added plus I learned something about the near legendary Karlyn Pipes-Neilsen after she came up during my fact checking holding all the 35-39 women's backstroke records plus literally dozens of other world masters records spread over fifteen years of competition. If you think she’s fast now Pipes-Neilsen was seriously fast back then. Her world masters 200 backstroke record, an amazing 2:14.10 for 35-39 year olds, was achieved almost ten years ago and is less than eight seconds off Krisztina Egerszegi’s current world record. As I said, Pipes-Neilsen is seriously fast!
My second observation of the day comes from a game pretty well all men play when they’re out at a large public function – the “Spot the Prettiest Girl Here” contest. Saying all men maybe an exaggeration, but if not all men play it or its equivalent then at least it’s a very, very popular game among us guys. My first exposure to the game was as a young boy car pooling to a swim practice one morning when two older boys started a discussion about the prettiest girl in my school. I remember thinking both their choices were good when my father, who was driving, interjected to remind us as we matured and became more experienced we would discover a woman’s true beauty lies within. His comment was received with rolling eyes by all three of us because, while I pretty well ignored girls entirely at the age of eight or so, I certainly knew a good looking girl when I saw one. Of course time proved my father right; and now older, wiser, and infinitely more experienced I find it necessary to utilize multiple categories to fit in my ever expanding definition of even physical beauty when playing the game. The first both in age for the girl and in game experience for the boy (think novice level) is ‘Most Sexy’. For boys just gaining their first introduction to a world having sexes the category is all encompassing. If you’re a female and walk up right on two legs then you’re in the running, regardless if you’re thirteen or in your late forties, and sexy has the further advantage of being loosely defined by adolescent boys (which in my case at least was pretty well determined by availability). Yet Most Sexy is limited with its strong ties to youth and the biological imperative. Invariably as the male matures a second category is added which boils down to the category of ‘Most Beautiful’. The candidates are generally found somewhere between their middle twenties to late thirties, a time when Nature turns a woman’s attractiveness up in intensity to incandescent. You’ll find most of our entertainment industry’s stars here. Then comes my long time favorite – the ‘Mature Beauty’ – a carryover without doubt from ‘Most Beautiful’ but with more experience they also project a good deal of their character via their face and mannerisms: the laugh lines around the mouth and those wrinkles at the corners of the eyes reflecting an understanding of the world gained with some sacrifice: but more than compensated for overall by possessing a sureness of their place in the world exceeding that held by their younger selves. To me they are like a favorite sweater, comfortable and cozy, as opposed to the dressier business suit of more youthful beauty, something I wear to make a good impression and never quite at ease in. As I entered my thirties I added still more categories. One of the rarest is ‘Elegant Beauty’ – a face having certain features perhaps a touch too strong or too aquiline for universal acceptance as beautiful – but with a character that dazzles and dominates all around her. A woman who confirms the high status of her man by the very fact she has chosen him; as an equal rather than a possession to be flaunted she's the Bentley or Aston Martin of the feminine world. Definitely a world apart from the typical trophy wife, a girl who with dull regularity is recruited from the youngest, flashiest category and a choice comparable to aspiring to a Chevrolet Corvette: a neophyte’s idea of success. Rarer still, and the objective of this long winded lead in, is spotting an ‘Older Beauty’, a woman who is still considered beautiful even though she qualifies for senior citizen discounts. Good examples today would be Sophia Loren or Rachel Welch, exceptionally rare flowers indeed. Excluding these two famous examples and their kin I’ve only actually known or seen two other such women after forty years of watching. But this Sunday I spotted my third. Even more unusual it was not her face which first called my attention to her, it was her body. Her face while pleasant and attractive wasn’t noteworthy enough to be singled out from a crowd, but her body was phenomenal, a figure which would have been striking even if she was in her early twenties. Don’t get me wrong, in all my categories a good, trim body is an absolute must but hers was superb. Now when I meet up with a woman whom I find striking; be it for a beautiful smile, a wonderful outfit, or simply being particularly radiant on that day, I try to compliment her if I can do so without being obtrusive, and this was definitely one such occasion. But you can see my dilemma here. I certainly couldn’t go up to a strange woman and compliment her on a great body, especially with her in a bathing suit at the time. I decided instead to try to find out her identity and then locate her coach and give to him (or her) the compliment of looking wonderful to pass along in a less threatening way. Alas I didn’t discover her identity so her compliment has gone undelivered. Perhaps in some future meet I’ll see her again and be successful in passing along my approval of whatever she’s done over the past twenty or thirty years. I rather doubt she attends many meets though as I’d surely have noticed her before now. On the bright side, however, it’s nice to know as I get older there are still prizes out there worth shooting for.