Thank you all for indulging me in this multi-week story of my teenage Outward Bound experience.
Here is Part 2:
The worse we smell, the less the bugs will bother us, they say. Well, isn’t that a relief—my perma-bbq/bug spray/sweat smell is a good thing. I can see that this will also work back home in Toronto—when mosquito season hits I’ll just stop showering. It’s only a few months of the year and you’ll be grateful, I’m sure, to save on water, deodorant, shampoo and so on. And though I’ve never seen you go without a shower yourself, you will no doubt be impressed at how deep and earthy I’ve become, because really, what are looks and personal grooming but expressions of depravity and shallowness. To think you fired that one housekeeper because of her extreme body odor! Perhaps you will embrace this new lifestyle with me and we can get her back. And when I go to McGill in the fall, I will make sure to befriend other smelly, earthy types and bring them home with me for Thanksgiving. They’ll pitch their tents in the backyard between the tennis court and the pool and won’t even need to come indoors to use the bathroom because they’ll go in the bushes and save their toilet paper in Ziplock bags. Nothing like the faint odor of crap to really get our saliva flowing at the dinner table.
I think I mentioned that I do like hiking. I’ve eschewed the position of “lead” for the hikes—that’s the person at the front of the line for the day who has to find the path, call the breaks, etc—but I complained about how late we’re getting to camp every night and so today I was made the “lead.” Don’t worry, I’m didn’t miss the reverse psychology. Regardless, I got us to camp in record time and even better, camp turned out to be on a beautiful beach.
It was the middle of the afternoon and a gorgeous, sunny day. But my craven, shallow nature reared its ugly head yet again. I dared to dream of dinner without mosquitoes in it, a swim in the lake and the chance to wash my clothes, (underwear in particular, PLEASE GOD!), while there was still a chance they would dry in the sun. I was even so foolish as to think I’d set my sleeping bag out where it would finally dry after being damp for four days.
But, no. The Outward Bound gurus had a superior plan. They blindfolded us, stood us in a circle and wrapped a long rope twice around the circle. We each held two knots, one on each part of the rope we were holding. Without letting go of our knots and without taking our blindfolds off, we were to get ourselves into one circle instead of two. Genius. We were soon tangled beyond hope and people were yelling and swearing. I kept quiet. I had no idea how to get us untangled and I don’t like to fight. We sweated in the sun and never figured it out, but by the end of the afternoon, everyone had demonstrated multiple personality flaws, which was obviously the point. By the time they “released” us the sun was going down. I wept tears of joy at having been rescued from such trivialities as clean underwear and dry bedding, which would clearly have been a terrible setback.
Turns out I’m a decent lead but now people are complaining that I’m too strict with the breaks, hike too fast, won’t let the group be spontaneous, blah, blah, blah. Someone else will be taking over tomorrow even though I’ve got us to camp early both days.
And it’s time to be honest: the smellier I get, the more upset I become that you forced me to do this. I am miserable. The leaders are worried about me and actually said I could leave the program once we finish this hike, two days from now. Otherwise, we’re off for a second week—a canoeing trip this time. I said I’d hate to disappoint you but I had my first moment of hope in days. And then I started bawling again and told them you’d never give me permission to leave since both my brothers did this successfully (albeit voluntarily) and came back “better people.”
And then the conversation got interesting.
“How old are you?” the female leader asked.
“Eighteen,” I said. “I just turned eighteen.”
She gazed at me without speaking and eventually it sunk in.
I am eighteen. I’m eighteen and I don’t need permission.
I go to sleep tonight with deep questions about what that means, Mom—about what that means for both of us.
Stay tuned next week for (I promise!) the final installment.