(Originally published here on July 31, 2005.)
I think one of my favorite things about being in my thirties is the fact that I no longer feel like I have to pretend about who I really am (or am not) in order to get people to like me. This was not always the case.
Back during our first year of marriage my husband, who is himself an Eagle Scout, worked as a volunteer with a Boy Scout troop and I, caught up in the flush of wanting to impress my new husband, agreed to go along on one of his troop’s camping trips.
Important Side Note: If you have never been camping before, I would HIGHLY recommend that your first trip not be with a troop of scouts, because any points you feel you have gained by being “a really cool wife” will quickly fade when you realize that, compared to everyone else on the trip including elementary school students, trail dogs, etc., you feel like a giant, incompetent wuss.
I really should have known that I was in over my head when my husband and I went to the outdoor store to buy me some gear. We did not go there to buy a cool backpack, or a kicky bandanna, or a nifty trail tool. No,we went so that I could buy my very own, neon orange, plastic poo shovel.
Things kind of took a turn for the worse once we had hiked up the trail to the spot where we were going to camp that night. We had foolishly drunk all the water we’d packed, so my husband went down to the river, filled our two plastic bottles with water, ran some iodine through the bottles, and handed one to me. I looked at the bottle, looked at him, and said, “It’s brown, And. There. Are. Bugs. In. It!” He looked at me and said, (and please bear in mind that he had only been a husband for a little under a year and hadn’t yet developed the sensitivity that he has now after nine years of marriage), “Well, the bugs are dead. And we have this lemonade mix to add to it!”
Even now, eight years later, I can’t think of this story without experiencing total incredulity at his response. And even now, eight years later, my husband insists that we would not have even had this problem, if only he had packed a darker colored drink mix.
Happily I did recover enough from this trip to start going out on day hikes with my husband and our friends. As a matter of fact I was pretty impressed with myself on our last trip, because not only was I wearing my very own pair of official hiking boots, but they were so well used that we had to patch them together with duct tape.
(Yes of course we had duct tape-I was hiking with three engineers! As a matter of fact, the only reason that I didn’t have to sleep suspended in between two trees in some kind of jury-rigged duct tape shelter was the fact that the other spouse who came on this trip was five months pregnant.)
However, there are still some hurdles to overcome before I can consider going on another camping trip, as is clearly illustrated by the following conversation I had with my husband the last time he went camping.
10:00 pm. The phone rings.
My husband: “Hey, Jenny. I need your help.”
Me: (panicking at all the possible emergencies that could befall campers, and wondering just exactly where I can rent an emergency extraction helicopter at 10 pm on a Saturday night) “Oh my gosh, are you all right?!”
My husband: “What? Oh, yeah, we’re fine. I just need you to get the Almanac so you can tell us the geographical size of Liechtenstein in square miles.”
Silly me-what was I thinking?! These were highly trained, highly capable, highly intelligent men. Clearly the only emergency situation in which they could possibly have found themselves would be to be without immediate access to the geographical data of tiny, landlocked, central European countries.
So anyway, the jury is still out on the whole camping thing, but between you and me I wouldn’t hold my breath.