Wednesday, February 1, 2006

"Good Night, Man": Some Questions About the Camping Habits of Men

Mike and I have been married for five years, and during our blissful time together, HE has done a lot of camping. I have done a little bit of camping, which we documented two years ago on film. Since then I've felt no need to go camping again, or revisit the issue of camping at all.

When Mike goes camping, he's all "let's go to the remotest place ever and carry in our supplies, including water, toilet paper, and a shovel." When I go camping, I'm all "if we really MUST camp, let's find the local campsite that includes flushing toilets, hot showers, and nice picnic tables." So you see how silly it is for us to camp together. Therefore, he goes with his buddies--his dudes, if you will. And every time he goes away for a camping trip and comes home, I can't help but follow him around, HOUNDING him with questions about his trip. These are not the typical what-did-you-see-what-did-you-do type questions. Instead, I am fascinated by the minutiae of their trip, the small acts, the conversations. So I ask the following:

1. When you go to sleep at night, do you say "good night" to each other? Do you slide into your sleeping bags, turn off your flashlights, then say "well...good night, man"?

2. What is the undressing/dressing situation? Are you doing that in your sleeping bag for maximum privacy or do you just turn your backs to each other? Or do you just get dressed right in front of each other? What is the underwear-changing situation? Are you on a daily, or only every other day? Do you change it at all? What about your buddy?

3. If you say goodnight, do you say good morning? Do you wait for your buddy to wake up before you get out of your sleeping bag? Do you bring him hot chocolate? Is it awkward when one of you sleeps longer than the other one?

4. Do you stay up all night talking and giggling like girls do when they have a sleepover?

5. Do you swap awful wife stories and see whose wife is more of a nag?

6. Do you use the words "man," "dude," or "buddy," or do you call each other by your given names, or do you just not refer to each other at all?

And so on. It's just so hard for me to picture two grown men going camping together: sleeping in the same tent, building a fire, cooking meals. It's weird. What do they talk about? I know what I used to talk about when I would camp with my friend Robyn during my teenage years: boys, clothes, crushes, and important philosophical questions like "if the arm coverings on shirts are called sleeves, what are the leg coverings on pants called?" We called them "bleeves." So, "bleeves" is my only frame of reference for camping with a friend. Now I am pretty sure Mike is not sitting around in a tent at one in the morning coming up with silly names for articles of clothing. Just a hunch. So what DO they talk about???

I may never know because Mike is so tight-lipped about everything. "We said nothing!" "No, we didn't say goodnight to each other." "No, I didn't tell him about the time you threw a chair across the room." Etc. He thinks my questions are ridiculous, but I mean, how am I supposed to find these things out? (Some of you may be bursting to make a joke, or refer me to the movie "Brokeback Mountain" right now, but please don't. I'm not talking about THAT kind of camping.) Maybe I should be like that lady on NPR who pretended to be a man for a while so she could study them in their natural environment. But that would require me getting over the whole fear of wilderness survival, which I will never do. So I shall remain, sadly, in the dark regarding men's camping habits.


  1. OMG, that's funny. When men go camping it's all abut the gross stuff we can do and not have to say "excuse me" for. The helacious by products of campfire meals, maybe even a beer or two,tall tales, regrets, what if's and the ever ubiquitous "of course I love my wife". Unfortuinately, it rarely gets deeper than that, unless it's like a church event, then there may, just may, be moments of man's progression beyond the inane.

  2. Huh. These are questions I have never thought about. Dave hasn't been camping in our three year marriage without me (even then, we only camped once though we have a tent the size of a condo). I'll have to send him camping and see what he says.

  3. I ask Christian the same kinds of questions about going to the gym with male friends. What do you talk about? Do you keep talking while you change clothes? Where do you look while you are showering? Etc.

  4. Those are such good questions Carly. With each question I was nodding my head in agreement with you for asking them. Especially the "dude, buddy" one. I wonder if even though a man is not inclined to use those nicknames in normal life, if they just come out in that setting. Like saying "awesome" for missionaries. Not that I would have reason to wonder since Matt hasn't camped since he was 1992.

    Was the bleeves campout also the "only coffee joke" campout? Man, was I cool or what?

    Congratulations on five years. Is it the 14th?

  5. Um, "since 1992". (I seem to have to revise a lot of my comments.)

  6. yes, good questions...i'm with you (and Kacy)...v.similar to things that come up about gyms and locker rooms. male friendship at all is fascinating to me.

  7. Anon,
    Thanks for the insight into male camping practices.

    I am glad Mike doesn't "lift" or "work out" in any other way because I would go mad with curiosity.

    I believe the bleeves incident was separate from the "only coffee" joke, but I'm not really sure. All of your brilliance just merges into one amazingly brilliant moment.

  8. I'm with you. I enjoy camping - in a motorhome! Maybe when the kids are all grown I will chance it again.

  9. Really sorry to burst your bubble, but the civilized man at home is usually the civilized man when among men. I can only comment on my own experiences and I have had a few.

    I am a wuss, so my camping adventures have been limited to lodges, cabins or an RV or two. I found it uncomfortable at times being around other men when it came time for private stuff, like going to the bathroom, showering or moments of silence where the conversation lacked. This is especially true if you’re in a group of men who are total strangers. In that instance I find that everyone usually minds their own business and don’t make an issue of anything.

    The people who I have associated over the years generally were raised in good homes and have common decency. I find that "colorful" language, jokes or antidotes that fall on deaf ears usually cause the purveyor to quickly change their demeanor. Although I must add, some rednecks don't have a clue and don’t take to subtle hints and keep on entertaining themselves. If they persist on being obnoxious, some one usually puts them in their place.

    I have been on company jaunts/boondoggles where behavior or the lack of was predicated on the amount of alcohol consumed. If you have ever been in the company of inebriated beings, you can imagine what color the conversation has a tendency to take. In these instances, the group has a tendency to splinter into like minded factions.

    So be assured, if your guys are gentlemen, then for the most part, they are gentlemen when they are left to themselves. I think they call it a conscience. I leave you with this advise regarding the cone of silence… men don’t have to be keeping things from you to be unresponsive, most of the time the events or conversation were so unmemorable that the average shallow thinking guy was just enjoying the moment and no deep thoughts were engrained.

  10. Very enlightening, Skewedview!

  11. Wow, your questions are everything us women want to know about how men act when with other men. It's a big black hole. Thanks for a great laugh.