Love and the Great Outdoors

When I was younger, I thought that finding the right person meant meeting someone who didn’t live with their mother and had an equal appreciation for David Bowie. It wasn’t until much later that I realized most men fond of Ziggy Stardust probably weren’t straight anyway, which has for the most part explained why I’m still single.

Over the years, I’ve refined my criteria slightly to include anyone who can ride a mountain bike and owns a climbing rack with more economic value than their car. You’d think if I showed up at any old crag, the place would be teeming with dateable candidates. You’d think that by sundown, I’d be gnawing on some beef jerky over the romantic light of a camp stove with a tanned man named Taz who had just returned from a stint with the Peace Corps setting new routes in Patagonia. The reality is, the statistical likelihood that you’ll meet your next date in the outdoors is about as high as the likelihood of getting impaled by one of Cupid’s arrows.

"Must have: 1. Coffee, 2. Laughter, 3. Adventure." Photo: Bea Lackoff
“Must have: 1. Coffee, 2. Laughter, 3. Adventure.” Photo: Bea Lackoff

Most social interaction on the trail is done in the form of a wave and trying to hear over Paul Simon blaring in your headphones. (Okay, maybe I’m still single because I run to my mom’s music. In my defense, “Graceland” is a great trail soundtrack.) We’re either narrowly escaping a head-on collision on bikes or under 14 layers of androgynous, sound-muffling ski gear. This leaves us with few options. We can hang out at the climbing gym with the hipsters and poach their dates; or we can get into the wrong tent at base camp.

There is, of course, the option of finding someone on the great interweb of possibilities. I’m less versed in this form of fated love. Once I posted in an online forum looking for someone to mountain bike with and got about 17,000 responses from men who motocross while chugging Pabst. I could maybe deal with the motocross.

The reality is, the older we get and the more set in our ways (hobbies that take over our lives and pocket books), the less flexible we become about what we want to do and who we want to date. Aside from the fact that it would be nice if they had an employee discount at Mountain Gear, we’d also like them to like all our favorite sports with equal fervor. I mean really, if I met a guy who was into curling, would I give him my number?

"We need to come out of our isolating stimuli, take a giant leap of social faith, and make eye contact." Photo: Bea Lackoff
“We need to come out of our isolating stimuli, take a giant leap of social faith, and make eye contact.”

Recently I decided to make a list of the things I’d want in my life and things I did not want in my life. It went something like this.

Must have: 1. Coffee, 2. Laughter 3. Adventure. Don’t want: 1. Gluten, 2. Asshats, 3. Laziness.

I made this abridged list because my previous list describing my dream partner was four pages dedicated mostly to a description of bike parts and bedroom tricks. I figured some simplification was necessary, and dare I say, an opening of my mind. I went back outside to observe all the single people complaining that they don’t meet other single people, and I made a couple of observations.

First of all, we have to put our damn phones down. We need to take our headphones off. We need to come out of our isolating stimuli, take a giant leap of social faith, and make eye contact. And if we’re feeling particularly outgoing, perhaps even start a conversation. I see a lot of head nodding and a lot of hey, hows it going, but I don’t see people taking a moment of pause to interact on a human level.

Next, we need to try new things. Sure, I have my sports of choice (pretty much anything that is likely to cause an injury costing more than my insurance deductible), but how often am I willing to take time out of  my stubborn priorities and play at something I likely suck at? It just so happens, plenty of really nice people are into curling, and a great number of them are probably even gluten-free. Stand up paddling might be a stretch though.

Opening your mind and your mouth is conducive to all sorts of wonders, like making new friends, discovering new muscle groups, finding new climbing partners and maybe even meeting that person you’re willing to share your last Clifbar with. So the next time you go out, turn off your music, try something new, and say hello. //

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