(Hint: Just Go)

Recently, I took a backpacking trip to the Rockies with my parents, boyfriend, and good family friend, John, to hike the East Inlet Trail. Along the way, I had many realizations come to me about the equalizing force of nature – and I began to suspect that as a female living in an often sexist, patriarchal culture, nature has begun to not only provide an escape from the assortment of material needs and demands for me, but perhaps even a respite from the burden of the patriarchy itself.

That sounds heavy – should I go back to talking about nature dumps?

While nature dumping, and while the mosquitos were making a feast out of my exposed ass, I began to think deeply about my present inability to fall in line with the demands on my sex that normally encompass a large chunk of my life. I work in a position where a professional, tidy appearance is mandatory; at minimum, I am wearing makeup while working. If I were to follow ALL of the airline’s ideal requirements, my hair would be kept long enough to be deemed feminine (styled neatly with limited frizz, or “wispies”), I would be wearing heels until the very point which the airplane door has closed and we can – rightfully – assume passengers no longer have a clear view of my feet, I would wear an airline issued scarf with every outfit instead of just with the blazer when it is required, I would don a matching, singular pair of non-hoop earrings in the appropriate, lowest ear hole, and my skirts would be no more than 3 inches above or below my knee – because while we aren’t scandalous we can certainly afford to be looked at.

You know what's prettier than a 21 year old flight attendant in a rule-breaking dress? Thant's right, NATURE.

You know what's prettier than a 21 year old flight attendant in a rule-breaking dress? Thant's right, NATURE.

These requirements, which at my job are written in contract, but with others’ might exist within the unwritten rules that guide a professional woman through her career to protect her from being deemed “inappropriate,” “unprofessional” or on the other end of the scale, “bland” and “unstylish,” all seemed to fall away with each leafy butt wipe I used along the Rockies trail.

Backpacking is a unique sport; you carry what you need, and while you do contribute to lifting a portion of the group’s needs (pieces of the tent, communal cookware, etc.) you find yourself nearly in complete control of how much weight goes upon your back. Suddenly, items that most men would never consider carrying become small pieces of a larger debate, the debate of what is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY.

Sunscreen? Need. Ulta’s Special Oil-Free Face Lotion SPF 100+? Uh… maybe. Soap? Some. Acne-Fighting Super Scrub Blemish Be Gone Magic Potion? Probably not. Hairbrush? Questionable. Toothbrush? Yes. Shaving cream? No, I can get by without cream, right? Razor? But can I get by without shaving at all? Fuck it, no razors. Take that, menfolk! I will join the ranks of those with facial hair, armpit forests and prickly legs! JUDGE ME IF YE DARE. Underwear? Yes. One for every day?.... No. Food? Yes. Gluten-Free-Diet-Protein-Women’s-Health-Eat-For-Bigger-Boobs-And-A-Tinier-Waist? Hell, no.

And the list goes on.

Some of these items may seem small, but when you wander into the home of bears, you are required to put all food, cosmetics, and fragranced items in a super-sealed bear container, which is essentially a contraption that functions like a massive child-locked pill bottle, if children also had razor teeth and the ability to crush skulls between their hands. This way, any bears who do come along sniffing for your Febreze-scented body wipes will be stuck simply trying to smash open your paw-proof bear container (which has been conveniently placed 70 paces from your campsite) instead of tearing through your tent and, by happenstance, you. Because bears really just want to be our friends! Anyway, these containers aren’t very large, or very light, because beast-proof and feather-light are two camping ideals currently unable to coexist.

*None of the below are bears, but they are hungry. The deer's name, I decided, is Francis, and she waited quite patiently until we packed up before scrounging around for crumbs.*

Then, you consider the fact that 1lb of regular weight translates to what feels like 5lbs when hiking uphill through high altitude. It seems like a measly Ziploc of coverup, some gloss, and an old mascara until you’re halfway through your trip, your feet are openly oozing in your boots and you’re desperately dropping weight by consuming anything you can and ridding yourself of inessentials, at which point you’d chuck Bobbi Brown herself into the river if it would lighten your pack and wouldn’t damage the environment.

Camp life, too, becomes more gender neutralizing than your average task lists. Granted, I traveled with three men who would never allow me to escape my fair share of physical effort. Tent setup, cooking, and cleaning are team events – individuals trying to skirt “house duties” are unlikely to find themselves welcome on another trip. Duties are assigned on basis of skill level versus gender-specific roles. I, for instance, tend to burn things, and therefore am tasked with hauling water from the nearest source.

One of the aspects, I’ve found, that still puts me at a disadvantage is my need for a sports bra (goddamn extra weight) but I attempted to balance the additional clothing item with thong underwear – figuring that together they are of comparable weight to a pair of boxer shorts or men’s briefs. One day, I may forgo the entire contraption, accepting instead a sagging bosom later in life. Would that be my ultimate point of choosing nature over social standards? When my breasts touch the ground, can I finally say I have forsaken the mirror and am free from self-judgement? My current bowel movement is not long enough to consider the implications of going entirely braless.

I have yet to perfect the nature pee, which does also arrive more easily to males, but I’ve come close. After all, I have no trouble accomplishing the same result – the only true flaw to lady pissing is our desire (read, not need!) for a strategic current which ensures the urine trails away from our shoes instead of into them. I promise, I’m working on a position which aims our streams away or downhill with 100% clean boot success rate. When I discover it, I’ll not hesitate to share.

In the meantime, we’ve got double the squat practice over our male counterparts, so stretch those muscles next time you’re below the stars, ladies. Ignore the movement of anything below your feet, or fluttering lightly against your backside. Look high, shit proud, and raise your hairy armpits to the sky.

-        Esh