Other People Don’t Know How to Dive, too. Right?

The Memorial Bend Barracudas was our name and Freestyle was my game. When I started swim team, I thought I was the queen of Backstroke, but I discovered my stride when, one day, coach had me do Freestyle in a relay. Freestyle is always the last of any relay because not only is it the simplest of the strokes, but it brought out the fastest swimmers. And I was fast. Real fast. Sometimes my relay team would be in last place, bodies behind the other swimmers in the other lanes. Then, BAM, I’d get into that pool and just fly. My group would go from 5th place to 2nd, sometimes first. My coach started putting me in anything that required Freestyle. To me, this kind of winning brought about dreams of the Olympics. Visions of me, at 8 years old, becoming the youngest Olympic gold medalist in Freestyle. It wasn’t sounding too far off to me.

My coach was even seeing potential in my swimming abilities. After a few years of dominating the Freestyle game, coach had suggested I should look into all year round swim team as well as the summer league I’ve been a part of. But there was one, big problem: I couldn’t dive into a pool.

Well, I couldn’t dive properly. I thought I was doing just fine, excellent even. According to my mother and pretty much everyone else, either I belly flopped or I channeled my inner cat and landed feet first into the water. This technically would result in me getting disqualified, but from the time I started swim team at around 7 years old till about 10 years old, you were still considered a child learning to swim. Disqualification was if you weren’t even doing the stroke you were assigned to do and just doggy paddling. Lessons were being highly encouraged by my coach, and even my mom wanted me to be a better swimmer, so a teacher was hired.

A few years back I had had my first high school aged swim teacher. Being as nice and polite as she could, she would try to watch me swim down a lane to see my technique, then give me critiques. Being the excellent swimmer I already was, I just wanted to make conversation and talk about other things. It was when she had her back turned I would actually do the strokes perfectly. My mom had been at each lesson sitting by the pool in those classic iron chairs and tables all public pools had, under an umbrella, keeping watch over me, and my stubborn ways. After three lessons, my sweet instructor approached my mom and announced she couldn’t continue my lessons, which kindly translated to: “I quit”. When I had to have new instructors, my mother hoped I wouldn’t be like I was when I first started swimming.

“No thanks”, 8 year old me waved to my second instructor a few summers later. “I already know how to swim. You can go home now.”

When it came to my fifth and final instructors, I was given two 17 year-old high school senior boys. Since I already established I was an excellent swimmer, their main focus became teaching me how to dive. Each lesson, we met at the deep end of the pool and they would keep reassuring me that it was safe to dive. I wasn’t going to break my neck like the graphic tile by the shallow ends predicted. I kept asking them if we could play swim games. They tried to bribe me with candy if I did what they asked. They ended up just giving me the candy because they felt bad for me. I even remember trying to charm my way into them joining me in the pool, my flirting game skills beginning.

One lesson, they told me to sit at the edge of the deep end and wait. The two boys approached my mom under her usual umbrella by the pool.

“Mrs. Ghorashy, we have something to show you.”

The boys led my mom to the other side of the deep end and told her to watch. The boys came up to me, grabbed me and held me by my ankles, me upside down above the deep end, hair dangling above the deep end. The boys told me to put my arms above my head, my hands crossed over each other. I was screaming, demanding why we had to do this again.

“1, 2, 3…” They let go.

When I was released, it should’ve been a clean, straight dive into the pool. What I managed to do was flip in mid air and land feet first into the water. My mom watched in silence and just nodded. The silent agreement was settled that this was the last lesson the boys had to be put through.

I continued with swim team, still either belly flopping or landing feet first in the water, only once getting close to a disqualification. I do believe there may have been some under the table deals with the refs, but I think it was a miracle for both my mom and my coach when I declared a few years later at 11 years old I wasn’t going to continue swim team. It wasn’t because I couldn’t dive, no, the choice was because I found out as you get older you have to swim more laps and I just got tired thinking about doing that.

S**t Men Have Said to Me: PART 1

Upon moving to New York, I was recently heartbroken, not looking to date or meet anyone new. My idea of going out was more to see city life and enjoy my friend’s company than to end up inside some stranger’s apartment. My friends, on the other hand, had a different perspective. They wanted one night where they both had to be so drunk they were dancing on top of tables or a bar while simultaneously making out with a complete stranger. If none of this happened on a night out, then it was time wasted.

To accomplish this goal, there was only one place to go: Union Pool. At the time, I had no idea what Union Pool was and why they got so excited to go to this bar, but I assumed there’d be pool tables there. Many New Yorkers and Brooklynites know of the infamous Union Pool because it is dubbed hook up central. Having already traveled an hour on subway to Brooklyn and have gotten lost about 5 times, I begrudgingly followed, half hoping there’d be food there and the other half hoping they did accomplish their fantasy so we didn’t have to go man hunting next weekend.

Entering Union Pool was like stepping into a Millennial’s dream land: multi-room bar filled wall to wall with hipsters and trust fund babies alike, no one over the age of 35. A swarm of girls in crop tops and high-waisted thrift store jeans intermixed with men bearing buns atop of their heads of every knot and color. A rainbow of denim, flannel, overalls and chokers swirled around us. An occasional Hawaiian shirt popped out. There was the indoor dance room with a projection screen showing an old black and white film, and an outdoor patio with a taco truck. The vibe of the place was different than any place I’d ever been before. I found myself actually getting a little excited to be someplace new. My friends and I elbowed our way to the bar, finally getting our drinks after losing a few vocal chords shouting, “Whiskey Ginger” multiple times to the poor bartender who only kept mouthing for us to speak louder over the blaring live band playing that night. We found a spot to sit on a concrete fountain that was shut off for the night in the outdoor patio. My friends began scanning for their hook-up prey. I only had eyes for the taco truck.

“Did you see him? He’s gorgeous!”

“Where? That one?”

“No, guy next to him with the beard.”

“They all have beards.”

“The one in red.”

“Ooooh! Yeah, he’s cute! Go after him!”

“Abort! Abort mission! A group of girls just came over. He’s taken.”

The hunting continued. One of us would point out someone, analyze their level of attractiveness, then encourage that friend to go talk to them, to only find an excuse why to not confront them. This continued for a good portion of the night until we became silent and were texting on our phones. One of my friends even downloaded a dating app.

“So, uh, how’s that dancing on tables going?”

Death glares.

Once a second round of drinks were considered, one of my friends finally followed one of their newest quarry to only come back with our new drinks and no boy.

I noticed the line for the taco truck died, so now was my chance to grab my target of the night. Getting up quickly with a little too much pep in my step, I felt a tap on my shoulder. Turning, I find the source of the tap is a relatively good looking guy, a little taller than me, light brown curly hair and matching scruff, wearing matching denim jacket and pants with a purple t-shirt that had both Shaq and Air Bud doing slam dunks into the same basket.

“Please don’t tell me you are leaving”, he pleaded. “I’ve been watching you from across the room all night and been trying to find a way to talk to you.”

The jaws on my friend’s faces fell below the concrete floor we were all standing on. Of all 3 of us, I was the one who reeled one in and I did absolutely nothing to make it happen. Personally, I was shocked, but also a bit annoyed – he was delaying my taco time.

“I wasn’t leaving, I was going to get a taco… do you want to join?”

Shoving our way to the taco truck, I thought, Hey, maybe he’ll pay for my tacos. $9 short later for only 2 tacos, our conversation began. Found out, he was born and raised in Brooklyn, an accountant not too far from where we were now, but really he was a comedy writer.

“Yeah, I’m working on a piece now about superheroes on psychedelic drugs because there really isn’t a lot on that topic.”

The discussion of theatre and the fact I’m an actor came up, we both found we attended Waiting for Godot starring Sir Ian McKellan and Sir Patrick Stewart when it was on Broadway a few years ago. He told me how there should be a modern version of Godot where two guys are waiting for the G train. We continued talking about the play and other plays, conversation flowing when he interjected, “I have to show you this one interview on YouTube. We can watch it tomorrow morning.”

“Excuse me?”

“Oh, I meant I’ll send you the link to watch tomorrow.”

At this point I was trying to find ways to end the conversation, but he kept going. He just had to ask about where I lived. I replied that I originally lived in Harlem but recently moved to the Bronx. His eyebrows jumped up, asking if I felt safe. I brought up that I feel safer in the Bronx than I ever did in Houston.

“And, I mean”, I added, “living in both of those places kinda puts hair on your chest.”

His look changed. “Well, I hope you don’t have hair on your chest…and by chest I mean your boobs.”

To which his eyes moved immediately down to the V in my V neck shirt.

That’s it. I was done.

He tried to get my number right after that move, to which I explained I wasn’t wanting anything at the moment, I’d just gone through a rough break-up, but thanks for the conversation. With a shrug, he led me back to my friends and I never saw him again.

What my friends saw behind me as he walked away, was him rolling his eyes towards his friends, looking annoyed and pissed off. We left Union Pool right after and haven’t returned.

My Relationship with Nail Polish

I don’t own a single pair of plain white socks. Plain white walls freak me out. I couldn’t walk into White House Black Market because everything was just solid blacks and whites. Eventually, unpainted nails drove me insane.

Middle school wasn’t easy for anyone, particularly me. While others were obsessing over their bodies changing, zits popping up, hormones engulfing them, sudden changes in voices, I had other concerns as I had already gone through most of puberty by the time I got to 6th grade. I was drowning in schoolwork. At 11 years old, I was doing hours and hours worth of homework a night. I was incredibly stressed over everything, so stressed, I developed shingles over my left eyebrow by October of 6th grade. Shingles, while common in the elderly, can actually be triggered by high amounts of stress and lower immune systems. I didn’t know how to calm down, how not to freak out, how to manage this new change in my lifestyle. I wanted something that could just slow everything down for a bit.

The same year, a new fad was coming about that was all over As Seen on TV commercials: nail art pens. These pens had nail polish inside them that you squeezed out to create any design you wanted on your nail. No need to go to a manicurist, you can do the fancy manicure at home now! Eventually stamps, stickers, fine brushes were all coming out and not just on TV but in malls and boutiques. The French manicure was now considered boring, having polka dots, stripes, even flowers on your nails were on trend. I became very intrigued. YouTube was filled with different tutorials, ranging from how to do the simplest designs, to some I found impossible unless you have three hands. I couldn’t stop watching the videos. It was hypnotic watching just a few strokes with a different color changing the whole nail. Some videos asked to use toothpicks and swirl the colors on the nail, some involved powders only found in Japan, one video had the instructor putting multiple polish colors in water and having you dip your fingers in the water and VOILA, your nails were done!

I stole polishes from my sister and mom, both owning the popular metallics and classic red of the early 2000s, to try to recreate some looks, but there was only so much one could design with “Icy Blue”, “Ruby Red”, and the many different polishes you could get at ICING, Walgreens, and Claire’s. From watching YouTube tutorials over and over again, I learned the most common polishes the ladies used were called O.P.I and Essie, so I saved up and went polish shopping.

My mom also became entranced by the nail art design videos, so we both ventured to Sally Beauty Salon to build my personal start up kit. Our jaws dropped seeing the variety of brushes, dotters, polishes, cotton balls, removers, and files the nail aisle had. I could’ve opened my own nail salon! We only settled on the products I knew from the tutorials, but little did I know this collection would grow over time.

I started off small, just doing stripes and polka dots. Gradually, I progressed to following the YouTube tutorial, varieties of nail polish colors surrounding the family desktop, me, hunched over my hands, continuously pausing and restarting the same motion the instructor was doing, till I hit perfection. Eventually, I graduated to doing plaid, checkers, even pictures. It turned from doing a design once a month, to a new design every week. I noticed that once a few nails started chipping, I got bored with that design, immediately had to remove it and create something new. No solid color would satisfy me and unpolished nails made me feel naked. A routine began: on Sundays I’d find a new design and paint all night in my living room while me and the family watched TV, to have Mondays be the big reveal of the new pattern. As the year went on, I felt myself calming down, not feeling as stressed as I did the beginning of the year. My nails preoccupied the spot in my brain where I kept the stress and pressure of school. I found total zen and full concentration on intricately making tiny strokes on the canvas of my nail, forgetting what was happening in the outside world or my own. When painting my nails, I found total relaxation. I also found I gained a lot of attention.

While in class, I’d catch classmates squinting, looking at my fingernails, trying to figure out the designs as I was taking notes and paying attention to the lesson, while they clearly weren’t. Eventually, it turned into Show and Tell every week before class started, presenting what spankin’ new design was debuting on my nail that day. It then turned routine. Get to class, sit down, flash the nails, class started.

Midway through high school and during parts of college, I couldn’t paint my nails as much and as intricately anymore with my schedule becoming more rigorous. Getting cast in plays prevented me from having painted nails, too.

“No one had mint green nails in the 1800s, last time I checked, Megan.”

My freshman year of college, though, a friend was beginning to sell Mary Kay products and wanted to see if we could pair up with me painting clients nails with the Mary Kay polish line. Before she could hire me, she had to see what I could do. One afternoon, my friend came over, held her hands out, asking for one of each design on her nails as a sample, while she took a nap. Waking from her forty-five minute nap, she found I had only done one hand and it wasn’t to the quality of my nails. I realized- I hadn’t ever painted anyone else’s hands before. It took me so long to get used to mine and having my hands face away from me that I didn’t know how to do the same designs with hands facing towards me!

“You know, Megan, how about you stick to just doing your hands, ok?”

Once I graduated and moved to the city, I found I had more free time and stores with endless nail polish collections. Let the obsession re-emerge! My nails became conversation starters with dates, tables I served, strangers on the subway. Friends still send me new designs and patterns, some I’ve tried and some I’ve laughed nervously at because I have no idea how witchcraft wasn’t involved. I get all ideas from Pinterest now, very rarely do I make original designs. I’ve only had two manicures professionally done in my whole life. At first, I didn’t want to waste the money on something I did at home all the time, but it was when they started massaging each finger that I found that maybe spending a few bucks here and there to have someone paint my nails wasn’t a horrible investment. I’m pretty sure I own every color in the rainbow and color spectrum, though I do keep my eyes open for new colors. Painting my nails is still something I do often, but now it’s more for entertainment than a calming mechanism, which is nice. It’s funny how a trend became a stress reliever to eventually, becoming a part of me.