Posts Tagged ‘relationships’

Sorry Girl Scouts, you were not my type

October 13, 2017

If I could go back in time, I’d apologize to a few people. My Girl Scout leaders would be some of them.

You see, I was raised in a household of rambunctious, hockey-playing boys. I am still a “tomboy” because I require a pretty significant level of physical activity to balance the amount of time I’m required to sit still most days. Back when I was 8 or 10 or 12 years old I was a good student and focused in school, but wanted to let loose afterward. I was into climbing trees, building forts, playing football or baseball or whatever the other kids in the neighborhood were up to. I delivered newspapers on my skateboard. I started running races around age 12 (just a few but it planted the seed). Girl Scouts was the wrong organization for me to join.

Girl Scouts was anathema to me. It was more sitting still. The leaders, God bless them, tried to teach me things like paper mache and embroidery. We used miles of colored yarn to earn badges that required nothing more than channeling our natural energy into a checklist of pseudo domestic skills designed to make us better housewives. That’s the worst thing for pubescent girls who are beginning to battle body image issues, to face “mean girl” school cliques, and often having few outlets for confidence building activities. Girls need to test their physical skills and keep endorphins flowing through rock climbing, biking, problem solving and meaningful activities like public service, in my opinion. Like I believe Boy Scouts do.

Girls belong in trees and on climbing walls and participating in more than glue and glitter activities.

In Girl Scouts, when I was participating, we never went hiking or learned survival skills, but my brothers did in Boy Scouts. In Girl Scouts, we never rode bikes or camped outside, but my brothers did in Boy Scouts. In Girl Scouts we never shoveled snow for the elderly, paddled canoes, or learned fire-starting techniques as Boy Scouts did. I asked to join Boy Scouts but was told no, that’s not for you. Instinctively I knew it was exactly what I wanted to do but in 1978 or thereabouts very few people were challenging the rules and my parents were not going to rock the boat. So I made my Girl Scout leaders miserable by misbehaving.

Later in life I became a Girl Scout leader, hoping to provide the right opportunities to my daughters and other young girls. Sadly, I wasn’t able to offer the kids much better than I had experienced in  my youth. Up against a bulwark of rules designed to protect the organization from liability, we could not push girls to participate in activities that they didn’t want to do, perpetuating a system that clearly discouraged physical activities in favor of using more yarn and glue and glitter. It was nearly impossible to even teach the kids to cook or allow them to use scissors. It was ridiculous. But if you sold lots of cookies and made money for the organization to pay its attorneys (the troops got pennies on the dollar) you got a pat on the head.

The climax of this frustrating exercise of working within the status quo was when I went as a leader with a dozen other troops (total of 60-100 girls) for a camp experience. We were going to be allowed to cook over fires (if you followed a dozen pages of rules of course)! We were going to be outside! What actually happened was these 60-100 girls were stuck playing kickball in a big field under the burning sun on a 100 degree day while a nearby beach had to be ignored because of rules and liability issues. That’s when I had enough.

Girl Scouts is nothing more, in my opinion, than an outdated organization run by old biddies who believe girls should be seen and not heard, clean and not dirty, still and not active.

This week, the Boy Scouts finally announced that they’d allow girls to join. I surely hope that means more kids will be allowed to run outside and be physically active and learn meaningful skills. The attorneys who have made their living writing rules that made generations of Girl Scouts sit miserably still should be forced into retirement.

You see, I’m still climbing trees and playing in the dirt, despite Girl Scouts.

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Mom needs a kayak

May 12, 2017

Yup, you read that correctly: it’s your answer for the annual Mother’s Day conundrum — and you still have two whole days to shop (or procrastinate).

Freedom. Power. Shopping. Those are the reasons why you’ll buy Mom (or your wife or significant other — or yourself or your daughter!) a kayak this year. Let me explain (note: this is one of those kayak-endorphin inspired musings that revealed itself to me as I plied the windy waters of the St. Lucie River, which will make more sense as the explanation unfolds):

Freedom: The realization that she can’t do anything she wants and she can’t do everything the boys do is something that slowly and insidiously seeps into a young girl’s consciousness. The result is often a home-bound woman frustrated by her limited choices and afraid to step outside the boundaries that society and the media have created. Those boundaries tell her she’s too old or too weak or it’s dangerous for her to do something like kayaking.

Of course the first problem with kayaking is “I can’t lift one of those onto my car.” But this video (link below) shows plenty of ways to get around that issue, even for a small woman. Where there’s a will …

Think about this: As we age and grow, true freedom evaporates for girls. We’re in the kitchen cleaning up after parties and dinners while the guys continue drinking and watching the football game. There’s little choice in the matter. We’re constrained by expectations of appearance in dress and manner, further eliminating choices and options. By adulthood, because we’re working and nurturing others or doing free work at schools and libraries many women are too pressed for time to do anything for ourselves. We’re too concerned about smelling bad or looking disheveled to participate in anything athletic, so we turn to finding cute outfits and cooking or keeping house as our outlets.

But eventually the beast emerges, hungry for freedom and choices that aren’t satisfied by retail therapy. A woman who’s been saddled with raising children, toiling under an ungrateful boss, and frustrated by time passing will inevitably implode.

Unless she has a kayak and freedom.

A kayak is a vehicle that doesn’t need roads and signs; it carves its own path to adventure and happiness. Travel quickly or meander aimlessly, the kayak doesn’t care. She may look for fish, for birds, for signs of spring or fall colors — or nothing but peace and quiet.

A in kayak Pittsburg NH  Freedom. Serenity. Power.

Power:  Women are generally discouraged from building or using muscle. “Let me do that for you” is a frequent phrase we hear for everything from lifting groceries to moving furniture. Call the handyman when a job requires lifting. Get a man to do that. Well, I’m calling BS — start with a kayak and pretty soon she’ll be doing pushups like Ahhhnold.

The sore muscles are a badge of honor after a long paddle. They remind you that you did it yourself, you propelled a watercraft and succeeded. You tamed the wind and were challenged by the tides, but you survived. Pretty soon the desire to tackle more physical challenges takes hold and the sky is the limit: a 5K run? climb a mountain? anything is possible.

Shopping: This is the gateway, it’s one of the ways a woman’s mind works when her options are limited. Bear with me: If Mom/wife/daughter is used to handling the family shopping, she will love a kayak because it opens a new world of choices and decisions. Cruise through a scenic harbor and she’ll begin to imagine herself aboard a variety of yachts or looking down from the balcony of a chic townhouse (whether as a Bond Girl or maritime skipper, that’s up to her). Glide by some cute seaside shacks and she’ll consider the scenario of running away from responsibilities to make a new life without the SUV and 9-to-5. She may be immersed in the suburban lifestyle now while raising a family but things will change eventually and unless she’s got some inkling of her next step (through “shopping”) the transition could be rocky.

It’s liberating to enjoy sights and sounds and sensations that aren’t loading up the car, getting kids to school, or the same old power walk around the neighborhood. You might have let the genie out of the bottle, but that’s OK because she will escape one way or the other.

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Note to readers: if you’ve read this far, I have one small item of advice — DO NOT buy a tandem/2 person kayak. If she’s timid of the water then start on a quiet, windless day on a small pond in separate kayaks. Tandems simply accelerate the implosion that I warned you about.

Also, don’t buy a crappy $300 kayak. Spend the $1400 and get something above 12 feet with a bit of a keel. If she’s nervous about controlling it, get a rudder installed. Mom is worth it.

Compromise is a hard trail to ride

November 4, 2015

There’s one perfect day each fall when a light breeze is just enough to loosen colorful leaves from their summertime perches and send them fluttering to the ground through bars of golden sunlight. That was today — before I ruined everything.

I made the mistake of thinking someone else would enjoy my kind of mountain biking as much as I do. When will I learn?

We drove to a place in a nearby town where an old silo is crumbling in weeds next to the road. A trail used by ATVs runs past it, through a field and and into the woods. As soon as we had our bikes off the car and orange “don’t shoot me” vests on, I was completely engrossed in the experience, zipping around the looping path across a hillside and down along a stone wall. Nirvana! But at the bottom of the hill there was a bit of mud. A lot of mud, actually, because (so cool!) we’d found an old mill dam that held back a swampy pond with multiple great blue heron nests in the trees. That’s when I heard doubt creeping into Mike’s voice (not cool!).

“Are you sure we can get through there? We could go back and ride on some of those back roads instead,” he suggested (sounding hopeful that I’d change my mind).

not Mike's idea of a fun place to ride

not Mike’s idea of a fun place to ride

I was sure there would be amazing trails beyond the mud, so I skipped ahead, crossed some railroad tracks and tempted Mike to follow me into the woods beyond. He was hesitant. He said he’d give me 20 minutes to explore this area because he had somewhere to be tonight, he didn’t want to get lost in the woods…. he knew better than to follow me but he did.

The trails looped, followed old walls and tumbled over rocks on big hills. I was in heaven, he was being tolerant. “This has to loop back to that field where we started,” I told him, taking off in yet another direction, following rarely-used dirt bike tracks that were buried in a month’s worth of autumn leaves. He went along with it again for a little while but finally called my bluff, telling me we had to turn back because we had no idea where the trail we were on would go. He was right, but… God, I hate to turn around, to purposely find my way out of the woods when the afternoon  promised many more hours of golden sunlight and peaceful woods and fun exploration. But I knew it was time to be a grown up and turn around. I didn’t want one afternoon to poison an otherwise great relationship.

Oftentimes when I’m mountain biking I find the zone and enjoy it so thoroughly that my mind wanders through a strange playlist of music, maybe starting with something I heard in the car and veering around my memories to bump against anything from Van Halen to Lyle Lovett to Joanie Mitchell. Today my subconscious was kicking in and the playlist included a lot of breakup songs as I watched Mike sullenly push his bike over stone walls and up big hills. He wasn’t noticing the majestic pine grove we were in, the massive stone walls or commenting on the warmth of this November afternoon. Did I really want to be singing along with Kelly Clarkson on “Since U Been Gone” or Gotye’s “Somebody I Used To Know”?

We eventually found the way back to the mud hole, back up the hills to the old silo and… to a nice, paved suburban neighborhood where he could enjoy a ride without worrying about ticks or hunters or getting lost and missing his engagement tonight. That’s fine, I thought, he’s going to be busy the next few days and I can ride to my heart’s content … alone.

that's okay, I'll get my fill of riding with my GF* when you're not around, honey *Gary Fisher

that’s okay, I’ll get my fill of riding with my GF* when you’re not around, honey
*Gary Fisher

A cynical take on a sweet sentiment

November 29, 2011

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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