Saturday, March 20, 2010

Worst-Case-Scenario: My Scuba Experience Woes

Email: Get PADI Open Open Water Scuba Certified Today!

That's where it all began, with that email. I purchased the required gear: all-pink fins, snorkel, and mask. Still a senior in college, I was excited to try something new and meet new people.

During the first scuba class, after the video and quiz, a scuba student is required to swim 200 yards and tread water. Yes, I was the only female in the gender-mixed college-aged class that was bigger then a size 8. A certified lifeguard and a Red Cross Water Safety instructor for 6 years, I had long ago come to terms with being in public in a bathing suit. In preparation for the class, I had been working out on a regular basis everyday, and I was in shape. I easily kept up with everyone during the preliminary tests. Nonetheless I was still very aware that I was different.

Once it came to actually scuba diving, the class was supposed to pair up. With an uneven number of students, I was unfortunately paired with the main male instructor. I got help from the instructor putting my vest on, as all the other pairs were doing. The vest fit fine, however the strap that would normally tie across a person's chest did not close over my breasts. My 65 year old male instructor with a big beer belly said, "Ha ha ha Yeah don't worry about closing the top part! It definitely won't fit over those! Ha ha ha"

I got quiet. I didn't say anything.

I struggled a lot that first class, having to even resurface once. I was unable to reach equal buoyancy because they put too much weight inside of my vest, so instead of helping equalize my weight, it completely impaired me. I didn't know why I was stuck to the bottom of the pool and couldn't float like everyone else. The session ended and I was told it was because they had put too much extra weight in my vest. If they realized I was struggling, and could easily fix it, then why wouldn't they take out the extra weight so I could scuba with everyone else?

Defeated, I was traumatized that I had just spent a total of $500 on something that I HATED. Trying to unpack my experience, I called my friend. After telling her what happened and how uncomfortable the instructor made me feel, she was very supportive, however one thing she said really bothered me. In response to the inappropriate comment the instructor made about my breasts my friend said, "You know you have breasts, what's the big deal?" Another male friend even said, "What's the big deal? Maybe he liked you?"

You know what the big deal was? I was expecting the instructor to be, you-know, a professional. I wanted to be taken seriously, not have some old guy leering and making cracks about my breasts. I am mad at myself now for allowing a new thing to intimidate me to the point that I was to vulnerable to stand up for myself. I wish I could have said, "Wow, and I thought I was being trained by a professional." I also wish I had taken the time to ask the instructors why they did not try to fix my buoyancy problem, an hour and a half is a long time to leave someone struggling.

After a good cry and some motivation from house-mates, I decided to (gasp) continue my training.

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