So the girl I was dating turned to me out of the blue and asked if I wanted to go camping.
Something I need to make clear right off bat: I am not opposed to nature. In theory. In fact, I consider myself a conservationist. I do what I can for the environment. I believe that keeping the Earth healthy and strong increases the quality of our lives and our long-term prospects on this planet.
However, the desire to do things such as camping, hiking, backpacking and other forms of “getting back to nature” completely confounds me. Several millennia of existence on this planet has taught us that mankind’s entrenched desire is to get AWAY from nature. That’s why we built shelters, created manufacturing, embraced the digital age. Are we not flying in the faces of the ancestors who gave us such gifts as air conditioning and indoor plumbing when we decide to spend the weekend in a stuffy tent and defecate in a glorified hole in the ground?
Still, my girlfriend at the time extolled the virtues of camping and as she did, I couldn’t help noticing this naughty little gleam in her eye. I got the distinct impression that nature acted as a sort of aphrodisiac. And when she mentioned the sublime delights of enjoying a glass of wine or a beer around the campfire, I was sold. I have the same problem a lot of guys have: the possibility of booze and sex makes me way too agreeable.
The first problem I noticed when the camping adventure with Cherry began (We’ll refer to the girlfriend as Cherry. It’s not her real name, but it WAS the name of a character in the porn video I watched right after we broke up) was the construction of the tent. Cherry had not worked on the tent in a few years and had lost the directions, but assured me that it was self-explanatory. I would’ve loved to have met the self that could have explained it to us. Because after an hour of trying to stick various poles through various sleeves, we had a construct that resembled a Jenga set put together by heroin addicts going through withdrawal. The process was so frustrating, Cherry and I exchanged the first heated words of our relationship. And the next fifty.
Since I didn’t trust the tent to stay upright in even a light breeze, there was no option of retiring to it. And that’s when I noticed the stunning lack of privacy at the campground. The apartment I live in isn’t exactly secluded, but it’s private enough that my neighbors can’t watch my every move (that I’m aware of.) The nearby campers who made me the most uneasy were the—how to state this sensitively—redneck couple next door. At first, I thought it was a father and daughter. Until I saw them tongue-kissing next to the door of their RV. (I’m not ruling out the father-daughter theory, by the way.) Said RV could more accurately be described as a rolling condo. It had a big screen TV on the inside AND outside of the vehicle, a stereo system that blasted Waylon Jennings from the satellite radio, a floodlight that went off if a cricket so much as looked at it funny and enough floor space to house a college football team. I would have mocked their idea of roughing it, but I was busy seething with jealousy.
Once the tent was constructed, Cherry had the idea of going for a hike. This roused my spirits, as I thought it was code for some sort of tete-a-tete in the wilderness. And it might have been, had the mosquitoes not been so thick that they could have carried off a Buick if they got the whim. Cherry and I slathered ourselves with insect repellent, only to discover that, A. it was so pungent that it (and by extension, we) smelled like a eucalyptus plant had passed gas and B. for every mosquito repelled, there were fifty to take its place. I swear I heard a few of the little bastards laughing. It took me three minutes to realize that no matter what amorous intent either Cherry or I may have had, there was no way I was exposing my wang to that kind of jeopardy.
So the hike contained nothing but walking, which was really boring. I heroically tried to cover up my dissatisfaction by harrumphing and grumbling under my breath, but I think Cherry picked up on the fact I wasn’t happy. Finally, she turned to me and said, “If you’re going to be like that, let’s just go back.” I pumped my fist and was fifty feet back up the trail before I realized that was an expression of Cherry’s frustration rather than actual suggestion. But I’d gone too far to turn back, so: end of hike.
After an early evening filled with a rousing round of not speaking to each other, Cherry suggested we try a campfire. I readily agreed. Within ten minutes, Cherry had gathered the kindling, arranged the firewood, strategically placed the fire starters, lit the kindling and coaxed the whole operation into flame. And I popped the tops on two beers. Judging by the way she folded her arms across her chest and glared at the fire, I got the feeling she wasn’t happy with the division of labor. I was smart enough, at least, not to point out that we really didn’t need a campfire when the temperature was dipping into the low 80’s.
At least, I was smart enough at first.
After about a beer and a half, I realized I’d had nothing to eat but trail mix and a turkey sandwich. So I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been when Cherry turned to me and asked, “Having a good time?” I responded with an assessment of camping that was admirable in its candor and truly stunning in the breadth of its insults. When I was done, Cherry said, “Fine” and I could swear I saw ice crystals forming on her breath.
From there, we retired to the tent. If there was even a speck of hope that we might reconcile this trip sexually, it was dashed early on. It’s hard to make any kind of a move when you’re covered in the sort of sweat and filth it would probably take a chemical bath to totally remove. Add in the now-seething resentment that existed on both sides of the sexual equation and it didn’t exactly enhance the mood. I’m pretty sure the guys from Deliverance got more action on their camping trip.
Our redneck neighbors apparently faced no such obstacles. They managed to keep the entire campground awake for most of the night with the sounds of some serious body-slappin’, butt whippin’, high yodelin’ hillbilly lovin’. I don’t know if there’s such a thing as an anti-erection, but by three in the morning I was pretty sure I had one.
Once we were awake, Cherry and I packed up our stuff, took down the tent (which was easy, since all I had to do was push it over) and got the hell out of the campground. During the drive home, we exchanged roughly the same number of words as Booth and Lincoln. When we got to my place, she threw my stuff out of the car, pulled away and gave me the finger.
She hasn’t returned my calls.
So, needless to say, I’ll not be getting back to nature any time soon. But I won’t let an experience like this sour my otherwise sunny outlook. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go watch The Blair Witch Project and laugh my ass off.