I love camping. I have been camping ever since I was I was a tiny girl. Not that my father took me, as you are all assuming in your heads right now. No. My father hated camping. It was my mother who was more outdoorsy in this area. My father loved fishing and being out in the fresh air, but at the end of the day he wanted a hot shower, a meal cooked in a real kitchen, and a bed that was more than 6 inches off the ground. So it was my mother, and the Girl Scouts of America, who took me camping.
I have never been sure if my mother truly loved camping, or of it was just something she put up with just so she could wear the tailored green leader’s uniform (that she looked fabulous in, I may add…she had, and has still at the age of nearly 82, a cute little Irish body. I got the German hips and bosom from my father. Figures.) But at any rate, it was her leadership in Girl Scouts that started me out on a life-long love of camping. And the lessons I learned in Girl Scouts have served me well when in the wilds of a state park, which is about as remote as I’ve ever gotten.
But no Girl Scout Jamboree could have possibly prepared me for camping with gay men.
Let me preface the whole “camping with gay men” statement by qualifying a few things – first, none of the five men I camp with are very girly or anything like that. A few of them are downright butch. So I was fairly confidant there wouldn’t be any “Ahhhh! There’s a SPIDER in this wretched tent!” moments. And there weren’t. So while that stereotype didn’t play in camp, just about every other one did.
First, one couple was shocked and dismayed to see that the tent they purchased at a big warehouse store lacked all the poles essential for it’s erection (you can’t have a story about gay men without the word “erection.”). So almost as soon as they arrived they had to go to the local Wal-Mart to purchase another tent. While they were gone the rest of us busied ourselves with setting up camp. Aside from the couple who went tent shopping, there were two lesbian couples, another gay couple, and one gay man who is in-between relationships. And it was this man who brought the item that made the others very, very jealous. Because gay men are competitive, I was to learn that weekend. I guess when you strip away the word “gay” you still have “men,” after all. They can’t help it – it’s in their DNA.
I was busy putting up my tent when I realized that there was a lot of noise coming from Howard, the single man’s, tent. I walked over to see what was causing this not-very-nature-like noise, and there he was, his oh-so-fabulous tent pitched perfectly against the autumn backdrop, and he was vacuuming. And the vacuum was plugged in to the wall of his tent. “What are you doing?” I asked, loudly, over the noise of his camouflaged camping Dyson . He shut it off and said, as if everyone in the world vacuumed their tent, “I am vacuuming!” And with that the other two gay men screamed from inside their tent, where they were hanging faux-Persian rugs on the walls, "Whaaaaaaat? You have a vacuum?!?! Oooooo! Let us borrow it! There’s all this nasty dirt in here!”
And thus began a weekend (the first of many) of tent vacuuming. But wait, there’s more. Remember couple number one, who went to Wal-Mart to get a tent? Yes, well they arrived back in camp and began the very complicated set up of their tent-come-chalet. Vacuum man helped them since he was all done with his electric tent set up. I heard lots of “Oooo-ing” and “Ahh-ing,” and exclamations of “What a pretty color!" but when I heard Howard, the man with the coveted vacuum, say, with just a tinge of jealousy in his voice, “Are those closets?” I couldn’t stand it anymore. I had to go over.
Sure enough, their multi-room tent had closets, one on each side of the tent. The right closet had shelves; the left had a hanging bar. For all their camping suits and dresses, I suppose. These closets jutted out from the sides of the tent, looking like little after-thought additions to a summer bungalow. And remember the other gay couple, the ones who borrowed the vacuum? Yeah, well, by the time we all went camping again a few weeks later, they had purchased a new tent the size of a small park. We could have driven one of the cars right in to it. But they kept it very clean with Howards’s vacuum!
Soon I will write a story about how these men used tea lights and tiny paper bags to illuminate not only our campsite but the banks of the creek we camped upon. And about how Howard went in to the woods for firewood and came out with an entire dead tree that he knocked down. It’s true. I was there. Camping was never this much fun before the gay men started going…
Copyright (c) 2009 Leslie R Becker