Saved by the Belle

Saved by the Belle

It seems sexism is running rampant in the news these days, and I regret to say that I too, am guilty of some sexist attitudes at times. In this story, I hope to offer my apologies for my past behavior and pledge to try to mend my ways in the future.

Just for the fun of it, before we departed for the beach one summer, I taught my grandson Nick, some not-so-discrete hand signals. The signals rated how the girls presented themselves as they passed by along the shoreline in their bathing suits.

Important start
Rule one for Nick was to always sport sunglasses. This way, the passersby did not realize the true direction or target onto which the observer was locking his radar. This practice was also meant to keep the ladies in our family in the dark as to what we were attempting to do. This is just another example of a widely used, pathetic practice when it comes to a man’s position regarding the opposite sex. **Warning, all males! The ladies never were or never will be fooled by this juvenile exercise involving sunglasses.

We had all the scoring possibilities covered. First, we used a combination of thumbs-up or thumbs-down. Then, followed by individual fingers, (indicating a scale from zero to ten), we could alert other interested guys in the family as to who was passing by in our line of vision. Very mature, was it not?

The system was quickly adopted by my son, sons-in-law, and nephew Matt. My brother-in-law Mac was the most genuinely mature guy (and probably the most intelligent) in the party and he wanted nothing to do with the practice.

Gals vs guys
The ladies in the family, which included my wife, daughters, daughter-in-law, granddaughters, sister-in-law, niece, and Matt’s girl friend, Megan, didn't appreciate the fact that Pappy was explaining his not-so-subtle techniques to an eight year old boy. But I felt it was all in fun, and that it wasn’t hurting anyone. Boy, was I wrong!

The signaling continued for about three or four days, and one by one the guys lost interest. That may have been due to the fact that my signals rivaled a life guard's display during a potential crisis in the water. Totally embarrassed by my theatrical techniques, most of the guys eventually wanted no part in it and just shook off my flashy demonstrations.

In troubled waters
Now remember, this old grandfather has two artificial heart valves and wears both a pacemaker and a defibrillator. Also, I can barely walk on dry land with my two non-functional knees, let alone battle crashing waves and an undertow in the surf.

But would I let that stop me from entering that water? No way!

Becoming just a tad too confident one morning, I ventured into the waves a little further than I usually did, and soon found myself being pulled out into the deep. I was literally over-my-head in water and losing my breath quickly. I waved frantically to my family standing in the sand on the shoreline, trying to get their attention.

I swear I was not using any of the signals from my repertoire concerning gals on the beach, yet my son-in-law, grandson and nephew looked up and down the beach in bewilderment. They apparently were looking for an awe-inspiring pedestrian within their sight.

I continued to wave frantically, but my-son-in law just shrugged his shoulders with a what are you talking about gesture. He then waved back at me in disgust. And my grandson just stood there, wearing his sunglasses, with a huge grin on his face.

I tried signaling again, making a huge circle with my arms, indicating I needed the inflatable inner tube they had in their possession. This was not easy to do while treading water and tired me even more.

Again, I received no indication that they understood my situation. As my endurance dwindled, I could only image how the boy who cried wolf felt. All these signals I was using for three days, and the men (in the village) and on the shore just ignored me when I needed them most.

Meanwhile, I was getting further and further away from the shore line, in deeper and deeper water, and in more dire straits. I thought I was done. And I could just hear the women retorting upon learning of my passing, “Good for him.”

In the nick of time
Just then, Megan (my nephew's girlfriend) grabbed the inflated tube and came running, then swimming, out toward me. After she tossed the tube to me, (being a very athletic girl in her own right), she was able to tread water and return safely to the beach on her own. Odd was the fact that the undertow didn’t affect her much at all.

I eventually recovered enough energy to where I could gradually paddle into more shallow water. My wife had not yet arrived on the beach, so I begged Megan not to tell her what happened, but with the guys now finally realizing what just transpired, it was only a matter of minutes until she became aware of my mishap.

How ironic that it was that a member of the fairer sex saved this old sexist pappy. Thank the Good Lord too, that Megan paid no attention to those hand signal classes taught earlier in the week. Otherwise, she may very well have shrugged off the distress signs and left me to succumb to the surf.

I was literally and figuratively “saved by the belle.” And I pledge to never again use the fair gender as a spectacle for my amusement - well, at least not at the beach, but maybe while I’m watching Dancing With the Stars.

My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927

My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927
From Left: Son, Steve - Dad, Frank - Mom, Anastasia (Makar) - Sons; John, Mike, Frank, Chuck (Author's Dad) - Twins, Pete & Mary - Daughter, Catherine. Photo taken in Wilmore, PA