Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Outdoor Partner Lottery

Sometimes I wonder. I wonder why people think "should of" is proper grammar. I wonder if cows get cold. I wonder why fuel is fifty cents cheaper a gallon in Montana than here. But mostly I wonder why people who love the outdoors marry others that don't.

Because of my checkered past, I've worked at many jobs that mostly men will do. (I once had a supervisor admit, "we weren't sure about hiring a woman for this job, but we decided to give it a try." True story). At our lunch breaks, when sharpening tools, or when we were lying in our sleeping bags under the stars, these men would sigh wistfully and say, "I wish my wife would {camp, hike, kayak}.

Now I am very aware that I was only getting one side of the story. There could be a myriad of reasons. Enough people said it, though, that I still wonder. However, I even made this mistake in my first marriage, an unwitting victim of the Bait and Switch method of dating. When you are the only one who loves something, you live in a lonely place.

In my long history of dating, I ran into Competitive Outdoor Boyfriend, the one who dashes up the trail and waits impatiently, rolling eyes skyward. I also encountered Whiny Boyfriend, who claimed an allergy to sunscreen as an excuse to turn back. And let's not forget Danger Ranger, who loved to take us into situations involving not life-threatening events, but enough discomfort that it wasn't really fun. Those men probably now have wives who don't want to {camp, hike, kayak}with them for those reasons.

I never wanted to be a "Lichen Couple," the kind who do everything together. Not that there's anything wrong with that! There isn't. But I love stories. I love coming back with them and I love hearing them. I think it's good to have your own  passions but intersect sometimes, like a Venn diagram. I'm a terrible mountain biker and a non-existent downhill skier but I like to hear about what it was like on that trail or mountain face. It also forces me to find my own companions to do things with, and that's always good, because you get someone new and interesting without any relationship baggage. Also, it gives me girlfriend time.

In the Outdoors Partner Lottery, I've been lucky this time. I have someone who doesn't want to run with me and doesn't always want to backpack either. But he supports my addiction and understands my obsession. Recently I fretted in the coffee shop as snow fell, working myself into a frenzy. "It's snowing the trail will be icy I can't stand the gym I should run should I ski whatshouldIdo?"

He scanned the notices pinned to the board. "Maybe you should join the Chess Club."

I laughed. A lot. And got over myself.

I'd love to know your experiences with the Outdoor Partner Lottery! Leave me a comment.


  1. Good post. Should of became a common mistake because in speech that's what should've sounds like. (And of course you can debate that particular use of a contraction.)

    I developed most of my outdoor passions alongside the men in my life, starting with my father, who himself discovered distance hiking when he was 40 years old. He coaxed me, then a curious teenager, along for a few of my first big adventures. Then there was the high school boyfriend who taught me to snowboard, the college boyfriend who introduced me to backpacking, and the guy who was my boyfriend for most of my 20s that helped me expand my views on what was possible. Cycling was the one thing I discovered on my own. Sometimes I wonder if that's why I love that particular activity and all of its applications most of all.

    Also, while I value shared experiences, I still carry a strong desire to seek solo adventures. Actually, having a nearly equal amount of both is ideal to me personally. I don't think I could tolerate a relationship in which my partner insisted on doing everything together.

  2. Great post. I too have had those boys along the way. I think I may have won my "outdoor partner lottery" with someone who skies and mountain bikes with me. Except he skies harder than I and I mountain bike harder than he. It is a nice trade off. I keep endurance running to myself. It's my time and my pace.

  3. Yep, sounds as if you have won the Outdoor Partner Lottery...I think I have one of those, too. Loved the post....what really wins the lottery is when the Outdoor Partner comes along just when we are ready for him!

  4. I love the term "Lichen Couple". El Bandito and I like to do things together, including some of our backcountry trips. He grew up a total city boy, so lots of this is new to him. To me, also, but not quite the same way. But he's willing to explore, and I'm willing to be a bit more cautious than I might be on my own. It's not a bad balance.

    Outdoors or not, part of what makes us work is that we can send each other off on adventures, hear stories, be excited that the other had a fabulous time -- and yet not want to have the same experiences all the time.

  5. I love to read your posts! The outdoor partner lottery for me is in the making. I guess if he's out there, he'll be working with me in GNP this summer. Tough to say. Thus far my lottery tickets have been for the Pick Dreamers, the jackpot being a wealth of creativity and adventure.. although, Meh. I keep calling up part of your piece from Permanent Vacation: "The men could never compete with the road." Thank you for that. I'm not alone! :)

  6. Great post you got here! I enjoyed reading it. :)


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