On any normal day, our incoming mail is predictable and boring: bills, junk advertisements, pre-approved credit card applications with large spending limits, and coupons for remodeling contractors. That’s why I was captivated immediately by the glossy color brochure with a vivid photograph of a bunch of guys in a raft, navigating frothy white water rapids. Their eyes were bugged out and mouths agape in that distinctive combination of terror and joy that men find so thrilling. Below the photo was this teaser, all in giant capital letters:
THIS COULD BE YOU!
But of course, this couldn’t be me, because this rafting deal was designed as a male-bonding thing, organized by guys, for guys. I showed the brochure to my husband when he came home. I hadn’t seen him with an expression of that much terror and joy since the time he tried to teach me to ski and we narrowly missed that big tree.
“This could be you,” I said, handing him the brochure. “Why don’t you consider it?”
Space was limited, so before he could think of an objection, I signed him up for a two-day adventure amid burly pines, raging waters and no bathroom facilities.
But soon I had buyer’s remorse. While my husband went out shopping for a wet suit, water-safe shoes and insect repellent, I read the thick packet of instructions, warnings and disclaimers that the trip organizers had sent. “There are significant risks to whitewater rafting, and previous rafting experience is strongly recommended. You could be swept overboard. Rafts, dories and kayaks do capsize, especially on the infamous Slaughter’s Sluice, with its crashing eight-foot drops. Every reasonable attempt will be made to rescue rafters tossed overboard, except in cases where rafters refused requests to stop singing ‘Hotel California’ during the previous night’s cookout.”
“Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea,” I said to my husband. “You’ve never rafted in anything more dangerous than a motorboat in Marina del Rey.” This was a fatally stupid thing to say to a guy. I meant no affront to his manliness. I just didn’t want to end up a river rafting widow.
“Don’t worry, I’ll be fine,” he said, packing his flashlight, sun visor and new, quick-drying pants that he bought at an outdoor adventure equipment store. “Besides, if anything happens, my life insurance is paid up.”
The next day at the crack of dawn, I drove him to the airport. I kissed him goodbye and wished him a safe journey. I thought about him during the day and hoped that he wouldn’t find himself somewhere on that river without his paddle. Late that night, I reached him on his cell.
“How was it?” I asked.
He tried to tell me, but words failed him, in part because he was so deliriously happy from the adrenalin rush and the male bonding, and partly because he sounded kind of sloshed. He said something about having been tossed out of the boat, which was frightening yet thrilling, but his mates had saved him. As he spoke, I heard manly shouts and laughter in the background. “I have to go now,” he said. “We’re about to sing ‘Hotel California’ again and they need me on back-up vocals.”
“I guess this means you don’t miss me,” I said, slightly wounded.
“Nah, not really. I’m coming, guys!” He hung up.
The next evening, my husband came home a changed man. At the airport, he hugged his fellow rafters goodbye as if they had raised the flags at Iwo Jima together. Two days earlier, they had been strangers. Now, they were a band of rafting brothers, closer than any men could be. This was the natural result of having shared one boat, one tent, several rescues of guys thrown overboard on perilous Class 4 rapids, several steaks and God knows how many bottles of Scotch.
Since the trip, our friends (those we have left) have been treated to the digital slide show of my husband’s rafting trip many times. “There I am, about to get tossed out of the boat!” “There we are, pitching our tents!” “Look at the other boat capsizing!” There were many photos of guys with burly arms in wetsuits, wearing helmets and cocky expressions, photos of guys resting on craggy rocks, and photos of guys eating a lot of meat.
My husband enjoyed his rafting adventure so much that he has taken to wearing his quick-dry adventure clothing around the house, perhaps in the hope that a raft will stop on our porch and some guys will shout, “C’mon in!” If they do, he’ll be ready.
Naturally, I have felt left out. I’ve looked far and wide for a thrilling outdoor adventure for me, but nothing seems right. Dog sledding in Minnesota? Too remote. Rock climbing on some crazy, sheer cliff? You’ve got to be kidding. I want an adventure, but I don’t have a death wish. Backpacking in the Appalachians might work if I could get my chiropractor to come along. Canoeing in mangrove tunnels sounded good until I learned that the canoeing was in Florida. Too many alligators.
Finally, I found just the thing: I’m going to Sea World with the family and will go on every ride that requires guests to be more than 42 inches tall. This will include a ride that makes you feel like you’re on a rocky helicopter ride while just sitting in a seat and a water ride that will plunge me through an underground cavern, with my seat belt securely fastened. My husband is not the only one capable of fearless exploits, you know.
Next summer, I don’t plan to stand idly by while he rushes down the rapids. I, too, am entitled to some exhilaration. So far I’m debating between the Iowa State Fair and the National Spelling Bee, though the Zucchini Festival in Ludlow, Vermont is also tempting. Either way, I’ll make sure to have lots of photos to show to one and all upon my return.
(This column is from The Women’s Daily Irony Supplement. Why not get your own copy today?