Do you remember this poster from your schooldays? I remember looking at it and being absolutely intrigued…
“Running” – I could understand why that might prove hazardous in my anti-verruca protection latex swim socks
“Pushing” – I could see why catching someone unawares might lead to them gashing their chin open on the tiles
“Ducking” – I was aware my species couldn’t breathe underwater
“Shouting” – clearly a rule made by humbug adults who didn’t like having fun
“Smoking” – yeah, made sense…
BUT WHAT IN THE WORLD WAS “PETTING?”
Being pre-pubescent at the time I had no idea. But now I was curious. And so I began my journey of discovery. My awakening…
First, I discounted a few options. In some formulations of the swimming pool DOs AND DON’Ts, the table of taboos, it was “heavy petting” which was being outlawed. But I soon discovered that lobbing overweight cats into the deep-end was not what the authorities had a problem with. On the poster, it was a man and a woman who had found their way into the ‘freeze-frame’ of unacceptable aquatic activity.
Next, I reasoned with myself: if heavy petting was anything like dive-bombing, it must be pretty awesome.
It was a classic Adam and Eve case. Like the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, “petting” was of no interest to me until I was told not to do it.
And then you grow up and find that the whole thing is contextual anyway. Exactly the same thing which would see me ignominiously ejected from the swimming pool was, the gurus were now telling me, a mainstay of marriage, a sine quae non, the absence of which would see me ignominiously ejected from the boudoir.
Which reminds me: do you know what the Australian definition of foreplay is? ‘Brace yourself, Sheila!’