Learning to swim is a rite of passage for a lot of kids, and especially now that summer vacation is in full swing, kids all over the country are lining up with their nose clips and kickboards, getting ready to take the plunge. The instructors who teach our kids how to not drown when they’re in the water are on the whole pretty patient people.
But one swim instructor in Arlington, Virginia, isn’t being recognized for his patience in wrangling a group of just-freed schoolkids just waiting to go off the deep end. Nope, a mom with a child under his instruction wants everyone to know what’s really important about this guy: his flopping man boobs.
A mom going by “Lynn” dashed off a couple of quick notes last week, and they’re quickly going viral for the sheer lunacy of the sentiment they contain: The swim instructor has both body hair and fatty tissue in the vicinity of his chest — as many men do — and Lynn finds this unacceptable. She wrote to the Arlington Parks and Recreation department to demand action, complaining that, “To be in such close and intimate proximity to this man’s bare chest, breasts and public [chest] hair is unfathomable and I can not believe it is tolerated.”
It’s clear that Lynn believes this man’s chest is an intimate area, but we’re confused as to why. If he were hairless and sculpted, would she be equally bothered? Is anything else about him inappropriate? Not according to the city’s aquatic coordinator, who responded with the patience of a saint but the no-nonsense tone of someone who has zero time for this shit, assuring Lynn that the instructor is nothing but professional and informing her that they won’t be making him put on a shirt just because Lynn’s sense of aesthetics is offended. In response to that, Lynn doubled down and contacted the media to vent her frustrations in a letter that assured media outlets they would be “shocked” once they discovered the extent of the Parks and Rec department’s utter jerkitude.
In one sense, she was right — a lot of people found the exchange shocking. Just not in the way she probably wanted.
Teaching kids to have a healthy body image is no picnic, because it often feels like you’re waging a war against the rest of the world. You sit and tell your kid that bodies are great and that they come in all shapes and sizes and to be proud of their own, while the world turns out monster-breasted, wasp-waisted dolls for your girls and treats every heavier-than-average male character that’s their age on TV like a punchline.
So what do kids learn when they get that message from every kind of media they consume and from home as well? How will they feel about their own body hair and fat tissue when a parent is modeling this kind of lunacy for them? If Mom or Dad feels that “flopping” male breasts are such an affront to their eyeballs and sensibilities that they alert the media over a dude not putting on a shirt, how will that color the way their kids view and treat other people. More important, how will it color the way they view and treat themselves?
This ridiculous exchange resonates with people for a few reasons, we’d wager. The first is that a generous reading paints this mom as tone-deaf, while a more critical one makes her seem downright cruel. From here, the instructor looks entirely blameless. We can’t imagine what it must be like to have someone confront you in public and demand that you cover your body because they find it distasteful. To have them shove in all their chips and bring their issue with your appearance to the media must feel awful, no matter how vindicating it may be to have absolutely no one agree with the person doing it.
The second is the level of entitlement the entire exchange carries. Who truly believes themselves so wronged by a man’s chest hair that they release a statement to the local press? Speaking of things that we all should aim to model for our kids, demanding everyone to bow to your whims — even at the expense of their own bodily autonomy — ought to be right at the top of the list.