Certain people in our swim team call me Duski. The name originated in 2009 at a Coast Trip. Oppressive Mombasa heat somehow mixed with a solvent called fun, and viola! All the boys on the bus baptized each other Duski. (The ladies heard the name and made faces at us for “acting childishly”, to quote their self-appointed spokesperson, and thereafter continued gossiping among themselves as they had done since we left Nairobi and as they would continue to do until we returned.) Somehow, the name stuck with me in certain people's heads. When it later emerged that I could run faster than a mob-justice avoider, they modified my name to become Duski-Bolt.
Fond memories of my time in the swimming team will always be balanced by a tinge of that “I should have known better” feeling. As these bittersweet recollections go, a girl is usually involved who should never have come into it in the first place. However, what is already done cannot be erased.
The swimming team has a dual character, which, crudely put, is determined by the ladies' team and the guys' team. Obviously there are differences between men and women which will affect teams which include both men and women. (At swimming competitions, guys are rowdy hecklers and cheerers of their compatriots, bent on offending the sensibilities and eardrums of the conservative swimming-watching audience, shouting renditions which must sound to the cultured gathering of parents and guardians as “native songs”. The girls of our team turn their eyes away, ashamed to be associated with untamed monkeys.)
But beyond the irrefutable fact that men and women are fundamentally different, even if both are in college, lies the ugly truth of the girl clique. Now any man with at least half a hemisphere of brain and a few minutes of experience in social interaction knows that any clique of girls confers upon itself the sacred duty of protecting its members from boys. A series of machinations gets this done. Girl cliques rely on gang psychology tactics including name-calling, rude interruptions, nose-curling, staring daggers and making various cold and discouraging faces, not to mention the social ostracism imposed by the gang upon any lady who falls for the wiles of a Romeo.
You, the reader, therefore have a vague impression of how anyone in the men's team must overcome great odds to put a word in edgewise to a swimming team female. This is not to suggest that we men of swimming are chickenhearted in any way or form. Quite the contrary. Between doing uncountable laps in chlorinated pools at torpedo speeds and successfully approaching one of our female counterparts, either as is easy as the other.
Still, when a lady somehow enters the team without also entering the girl clique, it seems like a breath of fresh air, a gift from the gods, a shoo-in compared to the alternatives. In actual sense, questions should pop up all over a man's head, and cause him to wonder: why is she unmoved by the natural female instinct to flock and hold the fort collectively? Why? But no, the man in his excitement only sees a woman without a rude, living, protective barbed wire fence around her, and judgment is clouded.
I leave it at that.