The nightmare of walking down the high street naked is realized in the pursuit of swimming, only it takes place in a chlorinated sweatbox and you are wearing a sausage skin sheath of threadbare polyester.
Swimming pools should be sexy places: their sultry fluidity and proximity to the sauna room promise to make you feel like a porn star at Snoop Dog’s Malibu birthday party.
In reality, you will never have looked so unattractive in your life, especially to the body-fascist lifeguard, who watches Baywatch in his spare time.
While the hat, goggles and errant pubes vie to rob the body of Bond-girl allure, your facial features will be re-arranged into an expression of anxious derangement by a pre-occupation with catching athlete’s foot.
As with all physical activities, swimming differentiates the sexes.
Men thrash up and down for two lengths, fearful that they may drown or turn into women if they ease up.
They huff purposefully after one, in order to check out the totty, only resuming when they realize the shape bobbing towards them in a Speedo is unlikely to be Kelly Brook.
Women doggedly swim breaststroke for 2 hours in slow motion, to the point where it appears they are going backwards.
Both groups will be polarized in the ‘Fast’ and ‘Slow’ lanes, whose front-crawling mentalists are separated from the Sunday-driving walruses by a dividing plastic ‘rope’ designed to help those clutching at it sink to their deaths.
This need not concern old people, who float on their backs draped around large foamy floating aids, looking disturbingly like corpses anyway.
Children, meanwhile, are busy filling their bladders in anticipation of Family Swim Time, when they will achieve a random motion usually found in gas particles and emit noises so loud that any passing dog will perish like a Pompeii resident, frozen in an attitude of oral agony.
The taking of children to these watery adventures is, in itself, a profoundly unpleasurable experience, on a par with visiting elderly relatives in hospital.
The actual business in the pool (though always taking place in water deliberately planned to be one degree too cold for a motionless, submerged body) seems almost like fun when compared with the intense rigmarole involved in its preparation and aftermath.
The negotiation of wet and dry apparel, damp towels and locker padlocks, while in possession of a screaming, slippery infant expends a mental and physical energy so complete that only a post-swim chocolate binge and long nap will re-dress the balance.
As with driving, certain aspects of swimming can elicit surprising levels of rage.
In particular: the restricted movement necessitated by the unwelcome materialisation of a swimmer in your lane; the sighting of a steam-room alumni entering the pool un-showered; and the heavy petting of new lovers, to which a pair of waterproof spectacles unavoidably affords excessive access.
That said, any tension can be summarily eased by watching a session of swim aerobics, an activity so futile and humiliating that only sucking the sincerity out of Davina McCall could accomplish an equal measure of calorie-burning shame.
Fear also plays an unexpected role in the contained and monitored environment of the swimming pool- namely that of inanimate objects, un-ironically magnified by the magnifying effect of the water.
There is nothing to be so carefully avoided- so monumentally mistrusted- as the stray hair, nail fragment or band-aid that has recently gained its freedom.
Unremarkable on dry land these flotsams take on a voodoo significance when suspended underwater, evoking as they do the indelicate fornication of the dead cells of strangers with your live ones.
Together, these conspiring impediments are the reason that people only swim in the first place because they have injured the part of the body that enables them to indulge in the sport they actually enjoy. Or they are pregnant.
Nevertheless, there remains a form of recreation still more undignified- one that exposes corporeal imperfections, substandard fitness levels and personal hygiene oversights in an even less flattering context.
And that, of course, is swimming in the sea.