Thursday, June 13, 2013

Camping for Sissies



As you get older you try to accept things about yourself that you know are not going to change.  I will always have fine hair (I don't go in for extensions--too expensive and scary-looking), I will always be just a little bit too gullible, and I will always hate camping.

I know they say not to try to change yourself to please your man, and in principle I completely agree with this. But when my husband starts talking about backpacking with some guy friends, and how his good friend Greg's wife Genoa wants to come along, I start to feel like the stick-in-the-mud, high maintenance wife he would be better off without. Mike loves hiking and camping and doesn't care a fig what his hair looks like after a couple of days of not showering.

Unfortunately, I do care.  Plus the thought of trudging up a mountain and getting sticky-sweaty-dirty and not being able to shower afterward is as appealing to me as eating fried crickets as an appetizer--no matter how on trend it might seem to other people.  I have no interest in fishing an insect leg from between my teeth and I doubt I ever will.

"I wish we liked doing more things together," my husband said, not realizing that his words were causing my interior alarm to start buzzing off the hook.  I recently read that women measure their life satisfaction by how well their relationships are going. I liked to think that my primary relationship--my marriage--was Ashford and Simpson-esque. But then I remembered a CBS Sunday Morning interview with the husband-and-wife songwriters and how they fell in love in part because of their shared love of music. I quickly did a brain scan of the activities that Mike and I both enjoyed.

"We both like to go to nice restaurants," I said, which was probably more true of me than him, but it's not like he DIDN'T like nice restaurants, right?

Then I added, "And we both like books."

"But not the same books," my husband said. It was true that if you looked at our bookshelves you would see the dividing line pretty quick. My books tend to be novels about women in urban locales trying to manage careers and find love. Or they're about the perils of consumerism (I continue to believe if I read enough of these anti-materialistic tomes I will transform myself into an ascetic. So far it hasn't worked.) My books have colorful spines with interesting fonts. His spines are all grey or black and profile World War II heroes and accomplished scientists who would never write about their personal relationships because they're too busy BEING BRILLIANT.

"I liked In Harm's Way," I countered, referring to the book I just finished about the true story of the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis right before the end of World War II. But then I think, of course you did! The book was chock-full of I Shouldn't Be Alive-type moments, including passages about crazed, marauding sharks who crunch-crunched on the lower extremities of numerous unlucky survivors and the desperate fools who gave in to their thirst and drank the salt water, then decided that they could swim to shore even though they were in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

So maybe on paper my husband and I don't have a ton of common interests. But we could still do things to make the other person happy, even if it's not our first choice for a rockin' Saturday night.

This weekend I agreed to go camping with Mike. Well, not exactly CAMPING camping. We'll be sleeping in a tent all right, but it will be on my parents' property in Manchester, Vermont, a tony New England town known for its upscale outlet stores. My parents own a small cabin that can sleep two people comfortably. Usually when we visit them in Manchester we stay at a hotel, but since I'm currently bringing in just a fraction of my salary in weekly unemployment checks (plus the occasional $150 I earn for freelance assignments) we're trying to keep discretionary spending to a minimum.

Mike started packing for our one-night car camping adventure last night. He fired up his twenty-year old Coleman lantern to make sure it still worked, dusted off our wicker picnic set--complete with silverware, a tablecloth, and two wine glasses (OK, the wine glasses will come in handy), and asked me where we kept the long matches. He advised me to bring something warm to sleep in. He asked me to come over and look at his computer because he was thinking of buying me this.

"I'm glad my period will be over by this weekend," I muttered.

"That's OK, they have something for that, too!" he said, as if he was telling me that if I acted now, they'd throw in what those clever REI marketers decided to call The Diva Cup.

I have to admit, though, that I'm excited about this weekend, and not just because Mike is bribing me with a small stipend for outlet shopping. I will get to spend time with my parents, whom I miss, and for the first time sleep under the night sky with the man I love. That's worth skipping a shower and a continental breakfast.