The Marginalized Person’s Guide to Pool Parties

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Hello my long lost friends. It’s been years, nay millenia since I last spoke with you. I’m so sorry for dropping off the face of the planet. My non-internet life has been kicking into high gear lately, and I’ve got a ton of other projects in process (not the least of which is hand-lettering all of my Hacking Your Executive Function series). My brain needed a break.

But I’m baaaack and I’m so excited to introduce my latest series.

A few months back, Hulu debuted the show Shrill, based on the book Lindy West. Everyone at my aerial studio got WAY into it. If you haven’t seen the show, go watch it: it’s powerful and intense, and resonated really deeply with a lot of us. We’re going to venture into a tiny little spoiler here, but it’s nothing major: in one episode, the main character decides to go to a pool party specifically for fat people. It’s a revelation for her: she’s surrounded by people like her who are unapologetic, joyful, supportive, and so happy to be together. I mean literally it’s what a party should be: a bunch of people enjoying each other’s company and their own experiences together.

After seeing that episode, we started to refer to our aerial studio as “our pool party”. We could show up with whatever baggage we had on any given day, discuss it (or not) as we needed to, be allowed to participate (or not) at whatever level felt good to us in that moment, and have a bunch of strong, beautiful, amazing people yelling at us that our butts look good.

A few weeks later, I was in therapy and doing some EMDR (trauma processing) around a memory of my first boyfriend making out with me when I very much did not want him to: how I felt trapped and confused, how desperate I felt to escape, the fear. When my therapist asked what I’d do now in a situation like that I responded “I’d call my aerial friends and they’d destroy any man who dared touch me without my consent.” It took all of five minutes for me to get from that realization to the realization that what I want out of my life is to make pool parties for other people. That shit is what makes life worth living.

I’ve been letting those thoughts percolate somewhat in the last few weeks. There are some areas in my day to day life that I’m working to build spaces like this, but I also wanted to do some work to identify what it is about certain places that give them this difficult-to-replicate feeling. So that’s what this series it: an exploration of what traits make a space a pool party. It’ll also probably have some practical suggestions on finding pool parties, recommendations for leaders who want to make their spaces more pool party like, and other bits and bobs along the way.

But hold up: why does the title of this post say “marginalized person”? Nothing in that definition of pool party implies that it has to be a marginalized person. Well as per usual everything I do has to come with a lens of accessibility, feminism, racial injustice, and all the other things that make me a social justice warrior (or bard or whatever). And there’s something particular about a pool party: it’s a place of relief for those who don’t feel comfortable in the world as it is. That feeling of relief and joy that comes from letting it all hang out when you don’t get to do that on a day to day basis is unique to marginalized people.

Sure, white, cis, straight, able-bodied dudes don’t feel comfortable in every place, but there are so many places historically available to them to feel unjudged and comfortable. So the thing that makes pool parties amazing is that they provide that same opportunity to people who haven’t had it. And unsurprisingly, those are the people who need it most: the ones who go through their lives second-guessing, masking, closeted, self-conscious, insulted, attacked. Those are the people who most benefit from pool parties.

So not only will I be talking about the logistics, I’ll also be chatting about the philosophical importance of them and the the role that they play in the lives of marginalized people, particularly when it comes to healing trauma. So just in case you thought I was going to write something fun and light-hearted, don’t worry, I’ll always manage to make it intense.

So onwards! To a pool party!

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