A cynical take on a sweet sentiment

Orange just isn’t my color. It makes my skin look sallow. Ask any beautician. So why am I wearing an enormous blaze orange vest and equally ugly hat — with a Bass Pro logo no less — but didn’t get the free beer belly that I thought would come with it?

Same reason I now own a ski helmet, the first in my life. Because a guy is insisting on it.

It’s interesting, this dynamic: men who can’t or don’t want to be out on the trails with me but impose their presence in other ways, on when I go, what I wear, and especially, what I carry.

Sure, it’s hunting season, but the latest guy, a bonafide outdoorsman by anyone’s standards, insists I have a pack full of safety equipment with me anytime I’m out of sight of my house: the phone, car keys, blaze orange outfit, and even pepper spray. What am I gonna do, lie to him? Well, maybe. If I have to.

The last guy’s idea of getting close to nature was putting his elbows on a bar. Thank God his obsession with getting me an impact-activated rescue beacon for mountain biking was never realized. I’m sure I would have made front page news for a multi-town rescue for a simple handlebar stand that way. Come on, guys, when my mom’s known my outdoor antics forever and is only concerned that I wear a mouth guard to protect her 30-year-old investment in my front teeth, doesn’t that tell you something? You just can’t live life encased in bubblewrap.

is it the color or the control that isn't sitting well with me?

The safety sentiment is sweet on the surface, yet getting out on the trails to run or ride loosens my ties to daily life, recharging my batteries. The lighter the gear, the faster I go and the better I feel. To him it means that I’m in danger. He wants to pile on safety devices, to be able to call anytime and get an answer. I want to ignore my phone and tell him (again) that I’ve been doing this all my life and somehow never got seriously hurt, stuck or attacked by wild animals. I’ve done nothing to support this assumption that I’m a danger to myself: the last time I stayed too long in the woods I did have a headlamp. (But I also loved the trails in the dark, information that would probably elicit howls of objection if he knew.)

He has been charged by a moose and bolted when he disturbed a sleeping bear. But God forbid I go for a trail run in the middle of the afternoon. It didn’t help that I dumped my bike on a trail right in front of him last weekend. Think I should’ve ridden like somebody’s grandma so he wouldn’t spend time worrying? I think that would be the same as lying.

The situation prompted an interesting philosophical exchange with the OutdoorNinja. He wears a helmet when he skis and climbs, he says, and the scars on the helmets are proof they’re necessary gear. Yet he refuses to carry his phone when he bikes.

Subconsciously, doesn’t carrying or wearing all this safety crap prompt you to take risks that you otherwise would not? Doesn’t its very presence impede on your enjoyment of the freedom you seek, I wondered. The Ninja and I agreed on principle that risky behavior could result if one felt protected by gear or the ability to phone in a rescue ‘copter. Ergo, I could argue that self-preservation is justification for prevaricating to those who worry about me. I’m just not sure if that would be good for the ongoing relationship. Hmm.

Then this came in while I was writing: “I see hunter’s trucks along the road so just go road biking the next couple weeks …” That means the blaze orange fashion statement is no longer enough. Where will it end? Sigh.

There has to be a happy medium somewhere. I’ll wear the orange, OK, but don’t call me, I’ll call you. And, about the helmet: Dude#1, did you ever pay attention? I cross country ski. Duh.


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