“Women have long been associated with nature - metaphorically as in ‘mother Earth’, for instance.
Judith Plant, Green Line Magazine
I was just settling down for the night when I heard the murmured hush of low voices through the dark. I had arrived at this shelter hours before and quite exhausted from a long day on the trail. Looking forward to a quiet night I had built a fire and enjoyed an elegant dinner of shrimp-flavored ramen noodles.
My body needed rest. I had hiked over sixteen miles in the last ten hours and ingested 70% of my daily dose of sodium in a matter of moments. But now I was alert, shaken from the peaceful tranquility of God’s green forest at dusk. The voices grew clearer and my shoulders slumped as the figures emerged into the light of the fire. This would be no quiet night.
Don’t get me wrong. Enduring a through hike lies heavily in breaking the daily routine. Most of the time seeing an actual honest-to-god woman on the trail is about as welcome a break as you can get. As you might imagine, the social demographic that is “Long Trail Hikers” has a slight lack of female representation. A serious lack. You would probably find more women at a Taliban meeting than you would hiking the LT. Either way you have to grow a beard.
The majority of girls that you do meet on the trail are usually between 20 and 25 and easily placed into one of two categories:
A) Attractive females trying to deceive the guy they’re hiking with into thinking they actually enjoy the outdoors.
B) Water Buffaloes.
Still, after you’ve been in the wilderness for a few days you’ll find that looks don’t really matter. A girl is a girl, even if she has a Jack Sparrow haircut and wears hobo pants.
Seclusion plays strange tricks on the eyes of men. If you’ve ever seen the real life pictures of Pocohantas you know that hot mess from the Disney cartoon was a cruel mirage. I doubt she could even sing that well. Truth is If you walk in the woods for a few days we all become terrible creatures. We all look like shit. We all smell like shit. You might as well tell me about your humanities degree from Bennington College and why you decided to give up soap.
Regardless of this, middle aged women are never to be trusted in the wilderness. Their minds have been cruelly bent by years of grueling childcare and unaffectionate husbands. They come into the woods with misplaced motives and strange agendas of feminine empowerment.
As these women walked into the campsite I took a small comfort knowing that these two alone managed to toddle up the trail that night. A pair of these women can be a bother, but an organized group can be an outright danger to a lone male in the middle of the woods. Had my luck been different I could easily have been overcome by a whole gaggle of these bickering hens. God forbid one of them have a bongo drum or a Sarah McLachlan poem they could have scooped me up and burned me over my own damn fire. Drunk on faded memories of the Lilith Fair and hungry for ritual male sacrifice.
Kim and Ellen drop their packs and announce to me that they have come to the forest in order to liberate themselves from the cruel tyranny of their husbands and children. I can immediately tell they are proud women and they detest me for being there. Happily ignoring me they start unloading their bags while loudly vocalizing their inventory. I have noticed this is a strange trick women play in order to reenforce the invented idea that they are having some sort of crazy time.
The charade is repeated many times and usually would go something like this:
Kim, grinning like a lunatic, holds up a white box apparently garnering some sort of special announcement.
Ellen demonstrates her approval in an odd sort of sing song dance with her shoulders and head. She then pulls socks with individual toes out of her bag, and the ritual continues
You would pity me if you could wrap your head around how much dumb shit you can fit in a backpack.
The list goes on and on and I soon realize my dreams of going to bed early will soon be be shattered by a strong supply of smoked sausage, wine in a carton, and unbridled feminine angst.
After strewing all their worthless garbage across the floor they unwrap two sausages and stick them over the fire. They tell me they are eating sausages because they can splurge. I think they are eating sausages because it involves roasting phallic objects over an open flame. Castration is a realistic fear however and I do not say this out loud.
Once the girls are full of sausage the wine comes out and they begin to regale each other with stories of domestic tragedies. My Husband Expects Me to Make Dinner. The Basket of Socks Without a Match That Sits in the Living Room by the Sofa. These injustices are laid out like Greek plays. I have come to the understanding that middle aged women can talk about socks for well over an hour. And not just like a socks in general or a “socks of the world” sort of discussion. I’m talking about one pair of white fucking socks for 90 minutes.
The drama of socks weighs heavier and heavier on their cheap wine soaked brains they begin to gesture wildly with their plastic cups, cursing these misfortunes for stifling their free spirit.
It is at this point I first think about hanging myself.
I think this discussion will go on forever but the wine and self pity is a powerful concoction and the conversation begins to take a turn. Becoming sullen over their oppressive home lives Kim and Ellen began to rally themselves around their triumphs as “working mothers”. This is a strange practice I soon learn involves discussing some sort of maternal shortcoming followed by the phrase “but that’s how I make it work”.
“I can’t go to every soccer game, but that’s how I make it work”
“My kids eat chicken nuggets and microwave peas 3 times a week, but that’s how I make it work”
“That basket of socks in the living room has not moved for four months, but that’s how I make it work”
Somehow this swells the women with a strong pride. They are brought back to a sense of revelry and boastfulness and they begin to discuss how much money they could be making were it not for the oppressive factors holding them down. These factors take many shapes. Familial duties and ungrateful management are mentioned often. “Actually working harder” does not enter the conversation though I suspect I should keep this revelation to myself.
As the wine flows and the hour becomes late, the conversations start to run in circles. My eyelids are drooping and I can no longer listen to the wisdom that surrounds the fire. In the morning Kim will reluctantly ask me through red stained teeth how to put her camp stove together. She can’t figure out the “nozzle thingy”.
At the moment however I do not know this. I pull my sleeping bag up and close my eyes. The last thought I have before drifting into a deep sleep is how nice it would be if we were all eaten by bears.