Surviving Summer ‘Adventures’ with Men and Boys
Here’s my quick take on survival tips and general advisories for women and girls who find themselves camping in a recreational vehicle - in the pervasive presence of men and boys - sons, grandsons, nephews, cousins…
Since the beginning of time, humankind has been all-too-keenly aware of the fundamental differences between girls and boys. An RV camping trip certainly brings such gender-specific tendencies into the spotlight. As a female who’s always been outnumbered (four to one) on travels with my husband and three sons, I’ve gradually come to understand and appreciate the rough n’ tumble male perspective. Here’s my quick take on survival tips and general advisories for women and girls who find themselves camping in a recreational vehicle - in the pervasive presence of men and boys - sons, grandsons, nephews, cousins…
Scan the broccoli for night-crawlers (as in worms). Try to imagine reaching for a bunch of broccoli in your RV’s refrigerator, and finding a wiggly slimy night-crawler nestled on top. This surreal event actually happened to me when an intrepid bait worm escaped from his (???) little plastic tub of dirt and migrated into the green florets of a broccoli bouquet. Ever since that fateful meeting, I’ve scheduled routine security checks on the lids of all worm tubs that we store in our RV. Better yet, I try to keep all visiting worms outside in a separate, sealed cooler - sans broccoli.
Remember... Camping males are avid eaters. Whether or not there are worms in the fridge, camping men and boys generally require large quantities of short-order food. Resolve to teach everyone in your hungry travel group how to cook and clean up in the galley (a camper’s term for an RV kitchen). Teamwork is the best way to stay ahead of the demand for bushels of good grub on wheels.
Grit in your salad is never lethal. Beach trips with boys include an inevitable influx of gritty sand and gravel. The stray grit that infiltrates your RV eventually makes its way into pillows, clothes, bars of soap, and your entire food supply. Some parakeets I’ve met like to eat gravel to help digest their seeds. As for me, I prefer croutons for the crunch in my salad.
Male children and soap don’t mix - without coercion. In their youthful days, our boys devised scores of reasons to skip showers on camping trips. Some of their most inventive pleas were...
The same teenage boy who plays possum when you try to wake him on a school morning will spring spontaneously from his sleeping bag at 5 a.m., provided you’re camping near a fishing pond.
Whatever you do, stow extra toothbrushes . When several small boys brush their teeth in an RV bathroom, at least one of them is likely to fumble his brush in the line of duty. Open ‘seats’ and sudsy shower drains are probable landing strips for free-falling dental equipment. A ready supply of spare toothbrushes is absolutely essential.
- “I washed myself in the ocean.”
- “Have you heard about the water shortage in Florida?”
- “The fish bite better when I’m dirty.”
- “If I use hot water, there won’t be any left for you and Dad.”
- And the old standby… “But Mom, we’re camping!”
Most men and boys disregard appearances when they’re camping. Combs, brushes and razors can go unused for days, and clothes might never get changed without your persistent prodding. These sluggish male tendencies are probably representative of a gender-specific ‘back-to-nature’ mentality. My firsthand observations indicate that boys of all ages disregard grooming standards most stridently when they’re camping in the woods or at the seashore.
Leave the frilly stuff at home. I notice the vast differences in the decorating preferences of boy and girl campers whenever I visit the motor-home of my friend, Cheryl, who camps with her husband, son and daughter. Cheryl’s rig features ruffled curtains, plush velour upholstery, and a pink silk floral arrangement with crochet-trimmed runner on the galley table. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming in a way that females genuinely appreciate. In contrast, my family’s male-dominated motor-home sports industrial strength slipcovers (chosen by my no-nonsense husband), basic beige window blinds (easier to wipe clean than curtains), and a hanging metal basket stocked with fishing lures, pocket knife, ragged baseball, skipping stones, and a jumbo roll of duct tape. If I attempted to decorate our RV’s interior with a silk flower bouquet like Cheryl does, the blossoms would likely fall upside down into our bubbling bait bucket, just next to the minnows.
It’s amazing how the addition or subtraction of a girl sibling can influence a family’s choice of camping activities.
Guys crave perpetual motion. While Cheryl’s gender-balanced family plays a board game or gets creative with a craft project inside their RV, our crew votes for shooting hoops, paddling kayaks, or surfing waves ‘til sunset. It’s amazing how the addition or subtraction of a girl sibling can influence a family’s choice of camping activities.
Fishing dreams inspire early risers. The same teenage boy who plays possum when you try to wake him on a school morning will spring spontaneously from his sleeping bag at 5 a.m., provided you’re camping near a fishing pond. What’s more, he’ll probably be noisy enough to wake up his younger siblings and weary parents, who are subsequently required to stumble out of their cozy RV bed into the chilly, dark morning, with tackle box and bait in hand. May all sleepy-headed adults be comforted by the reassurance that fishing is a healthy, wholesome activity for children of all ages.
Regardless of your planned pastimes, remember to pack two pairs of shoes (or more) for each camper. A minimum of one shoe per boy child will be misplaced permanently, due to a combination of the following reasons:
To prepare adequately for any water you might encounter, be sure to purchase rain gear for every man and boy in your party. In light of the reality that most guys refuse to actually wear rain gear, you can employ all the unused plastic ponchos and coveralls to wrap and contain the mounds of wet, stinky, mud-stained laundry that pile up while it rains non-stop for the duration of your trip.
- It will get stuck in the muck at the bottom of a pond.
- The dog will eat it.
- A rogue beach wave will splash onshore, washing it out to sea.
- A playful raccoon will drag it into the woods.
- It will bounce off a dock into a very deep lake.
Bring heavy-duty laundry detergent and tons of quarters. Whether it’s rainy or sunny, boys and campground grime and slime share a mutual magnetic attraction. Better be prepared.
First and foremost, it’s your responsibility to relax and enjoy your exclusive status as Queen Bee of your family’s male-dominated camping adventures. There are, after all, surprising advantages when you’re the solo woman or girl at a campsite. Chances are you’ll never regret or forget all the unique experiences you’ve shared with your favorite guys, no matter how hard you try!
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"Surviving Summer ‘Adventures’ with Men and Boys"
Paula Loehr, R.N., B.A., worked in the fields of community health and nursing education, and was a school health nurse at the elementary, secondary and collegiate levels before becoming a fulltime journalist. Her writing specialties include family tr...