How Baywatch Ruined My Life

Why I never put my occupation in my dating app bios

Jayde Atchison (She/Her) // Opinions Editor

“Oh that’s sooo hot, do you ever get to wear the uniform at home??” — one of my thoughtful and endearing gentleman suitors on Bumble recently asked, followed by the water droplet and drooling face emojis. I was sitting off deck when I read his message and replied with a “haha uh yeah” as I looked down at my baggy purple leggings tucked into my neon green Shrek socks. If only he knew. 

Throughout the countless times I have built up a Hinge profile, I used to fill out “Lifeguard at Pool” as my job title — only to be blasted with messages about mouth-to-mouth, requests for pictures in my red bathing suit or the ever-annoying hypothetical, “if I pretended to drown at your pool, would you jump in and save me?” 

First, mouth-to-mouth stopped being used over 15 years ago, because, hello, have you not heard of diseases — or vomit? Second, I’m positive you’ll have more fun googling “Baywatch characters in red bathing suits” than having to deal with me telling you I don’t own a red bathing suit and promptly smashing the unmatch button. Lastly, my job is to prevent drowning, so no — I’d probably end up emasculating you in front of your buds when I yell at you to stay in the shallow end with a floaty because you can’t swim. Best to just stay home, Chad. 

To weed out the wholly unoriginal characters obsessed with the Baywatch fetish — I stick to putting my profession as “Writer/editor at Freelance”. If my matches make it through the preliminary stage of talking, I will then explain why I have a 5am shift (because let’s face it, writers don’t wake up early unless they’re scrambling for a deadline). This strategy typically helps avoid the bros that are only looking for one thing (and it’s not free swimming lessons).

Men sexualizing lifeguarding doesn’t stop on the apps, unfortunately. I have been a lifeguard for 12 years, and I’m still waiting for the day when men will get the hint and realize I’m not there for anything other than saving lives and getting paid. My witty banter and big smile is all for the sake of customer service and fighting off boredom, and is not an invitation to grab me without my permission. 

I don’t know what it is about the red shirt that gives certain men the idea that female lifeguards are there for their pleasure — maybe the chlorine fumes have gone straight to their brains? However, I have worked in over 10 different public customer service jobs, and the pool is the only environment in which I have been approached in a threatening manner. The behaviour I have seen over the years usually falls into the category of testosterone fueled mistakes and victim blaming.

I have never personally worked in the restaurant/bar industry, but I know that any woman that has knows this exact feeling. The only difference is that my wages do not depend on tips and I will get paid no matter how much of a scene I make when someone grabs a part of my body. When I yelled at a man for grabbing my chest as he walked past me, I made 50 other swimmers silent as the drama unfolded in front of them. I was met with “chill, it’s just a joke” — not sure what comedy club you just walked out of Philip, but I hope it burned to the ground. 

Women are not playthings, and just because I am dressed in shorts and bathing suit doesn’t mean I’m flirting with the patrons — it means I am wearing the appropriate clothing to jump into the pool in the case of an emergency. As the years have gone by, my wall has gotten stronger and more obvious. I am wary of most men that approach me and am short with them until they’ve shown me they’re not going to make rude comments or gestures. I am typically cold and dismissive with many swimmers, because I am tired of believing the best and discovering the worst. I am damn good at my job, and I hate that I have to be portrayed as the mean lifeguard. However, as far as preventative measures go, being unapproachable is as live-saving to me as any PFD is to you.

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