Dethawing in Lake Michigan

I’m standing thigh deep in Lake Michigan. Pink goggles are tight on my head, stamping ovals into my furrowed brow. Two ladies in one-piece suits wade out past the buoys. “Whoa. You’ve gotta dive under,” says Adam, emerging beside me from under the glassy water. “So invigorating,” he says, shaking water out of his ears like he’s one of the guys at the Roxbury.

Lake water is nature’s espresso shot. I like caffeine. I’ll like this. I pull the goggles down over my eyes. I adjust my Lycra wedgie. One. Two. Threeeeee…Nope. The bay is Titanic cold. Why would I put my face in that? Adam grins. “I’ve never seen anyone so scared of getting wet.”

I’m not scared of getting wet. I’m scared of being uncomfortable. Another kid barrels into the water like a yellow lab, splashing me. A minnow swims by, mocking me, like it’s perfectly natural to be in glacial water.  

Through my fogging goggles, I pretend to admire the sailboats on the horizon while I analyze the costs/benefits of going under.

The cost: I’ll need to wash my hair again. I might lose a contact lens. And on the drive home, I’ll have to sit on the fabric seat with a wet bottom. Is that worth “the experience”?

People I’d like to hang out with would say, “Hell yes!” I’m not necessarily someone I’d like to hang out with.   

I wasn’t always a Paul Giamatti in a padded Victoria Secret bikini. I remember when taking a shower meant running through a sprinkler, when sand in the sheets meant it was a damn good day, when a root beer float was worth the I.B.S. flare up. Dear God, how did I grow up to be such an a-hole?

I look down at the frigid water. I’ve got to go under.  I have to drown the cranky old man inside me. One. Two. Three. Mid-dive I brace myself for the cold--like a cat being thrown into a pool--and belly flop into the bay. The water is even colder than I suspected. But time is suspended. The shot of adrenaline erases the nagging thoughts--a momentary lobotomy. I kick back up to the surface and do a few free style strokes like it's no big deal, like my hands aren’t going numb. I stand back up, wring out my ponytail, and grin back at my husband. The old man inside me is still there, but he’s momentarily stunned into silence. And that feels fan-fucking-tastic.