Mein Camp

by Tana Wedum
from WestWord magazine

When I was a Campfire Girl, we all had to choose Indian names for ourselves.  Most of the girls combined several, to come up with names like “Tawandolenana,” meaning, “one who seeks beauty, one who speaks the truth, one who is joyful.”  I didn’t have time for that gobbeldygook.  My name was straight out of the book and to the point: Lolua.  “One who likes to sleep outside.”

I HATE to sleep outside.  Sure, when I was ten years old, I would have slept on the railroad tracks to get out of a bath.  Bugs and mud were fun then.  Not anymore. 

There is no greater detriment to woman’s personal appearance than a camping trip.  Hair, makeup, clothing: the whole ball of wax is trouble with a capital “T".  You want to give you some pointers on turning a camping trip into a pleasant, feminine experience?  No can do.  Take my advice and skip it.  Camping is a one-way trip to Ickyville.

First of all, no woman ever came up with the idea of camping.  Name me one pioneer woman who ever said, “Forget building the cabin, Jake, let’s just sleep in the dirt.”  Never happened.  You think a woman ever wrote songs like, “Tenting Tonight on the Old Campground” or “Don’t Fence Me In?”  No way.  Women like being fenced in.  Fencing in is what we’re all about.

Every man I know, if he doesn’t love camping, at least doesn’t mind it, and I’ll tell you why: because men don’t care if they smell and they can pee standing up.  That’s it in a nutshell.  Women in this country are raised to be absolutely phobic about their body odors, and as for peeing, well, I suppose if she took off all her clothes and assumed the stance of a Sumo wrestler, maybe a woman could be technically be doing it in an upright position, but it would still be a mess.

Let me just tell you about my first camping trip as a grown woman, many years after my Campfire Girl days.  I had decided I was going to be a good sport if it killed me, and it nearly did. 

Night One

“Oh, what lovely mountain air!”  I exclaimed with a Blanche DuBois lilt.  “It’s so nice to get away from that dirty, noisy city!  By the way, where is the restroom?”

My gentleman companion pointed wordlessly towards the bushes.  Good lord.  I moved, wordlessly, toward the bushes, trying to tell myself this would be a new experience.  It certainly was.  There’s nothing quite like squatting in the flora with your pants around your ankles, praying that crawly, fuzzy forest dwellers don’t climb up your legs.

Morning One

I awakened to a glorious morning - about 5:15 a.m.  - after perhaps three hours of sleep on a bed of granite arrowheads. 

“My, what a lovely morning!"  I exclaimed, from a mouth that tasted like a cement mixer.  “By the way, where might I freshen up?”

My boyfriend pointed wordlessly toward the bushes.  I should have guessed.  I took my allotted tablespoon of water with which I was to wash myself, brush my teeth, remove my old makeup, and spruce up my hair, and headed for the shrubbery.

Afternoon One

After a hearty breakfast of Eggs Au Dirt, the guy I came with decided it was time for a brisk hike.  What followed more closely approximated the Bataan Death March, and we returned to the campsite around dusk.  I was covered with dried sweat, and convinced that every gnat, horsefly and mosquito in the area had been alerted to my presence.  Body all achin’ and racked with pain, I couldn’t wait to eat and get to bed.

Night Two

Yum, yum.  Weenies on a stick (mine fell in the fire twice).  I could have roasted marshmallows bug begged off, knowing I had a big decision to ponder before bedtime: was I going to brush the bugs off my teeth, or was I going to wash the caked layer off my face? I didn’t have enough water for both.  At least I didn’t have to decide where my grooming was to take place.  The bushes.

Morning Two

Whoever named this thing a “mummy” sleeping bag sure knew what he was talking about.  Why is it designed so you can’t move an inch inside?  It’s like sleep wear for the criminally insane.  I didn’t even notice the arrowheads anymore; I was too busy waiting for the sun to come up so I could get out of this straitjacket.

The morning did, at last, arrive, and it wasn’t so d*mned glorious.  I told the jerk who dragged me up here to count me out for breakfast.  “I need a beer,” I grunted.  He pointed wordlessly - oh, forget it.

Afternoon Two

"“Please, God,” I beseeched the skies, "“tell me this jackass wants to go home soon.  I can’t take it anymore.”  My eyes were swollen and bleary, my hair was one, greasy strand and I smelled like a roustabout.  I caught a glimpse of myself in the car window, and with my Hollywood sunglasses, I looked like someone about to enter the Betty Ford Clinic.

My fingernails, what was left of them, were black.  My jeans were so filthy that when I wanted to sit down, they kept me on my feet.  The aroma of burning wood was seeping from every pore.  I wanted out.

Night Three

I’m home, I’m home, I’m home!  Look, here’s a sink!  I’ve got a toilet here, and if I want to take a shower, I can!  I’ve got a bed to sleep in, a nice, soft bed, and I can wash my hair and smell good again!  I’ve got clean clothes and food that doesn’t make funny noises when I’m chewing it!  I’m home!

Now, I know there are those of you out there who are going to deny sharing my feelings about camping.  You’ll tell your husband or your boyfriend that you really love it.  Go ahead; I don’t care.  But you know - all women know - you’re just doing it for him.  Show me a woman who likes camping, and I’ll show you a woman who thinks dirt is a condiment.  It just isn’t in the hormones.

Should you decide you simply have to go camping and experience it first hand, I can at least give you a few guidelines about how to prepare yourself.  Here goes:

Take with you:

Leave at home:

Have fun.

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This page last modified on 14-Feb-2004