It All Starts
It was Joni's idea.
Personally, I was just hoping to get some serious housecleaning done during the break. My place is a wreck by the middle of the semester and I try to take every opportunity I can to get it back in order. A long-term student has to have these kinds of strategies, you know. Spring Break has often been my last chance before finals. But Joni was persistent and charming and somehow convinced me that this little piece of paper, this dinky advertisement, held the answer to my winter blahs.
Now Joni is okay. I knew her from high school, though we didn't associate much back then. She was a senior and she was "the dyke." Everybody at school knew it, even me. Her dykeness was apparent in the clothes, the attitude, and the buzz cut hairdo. I'm sure school was difficult for her because it was for me and I was not gay. Actually, I was almost asexual. I didn't "bloom," into sex until I was older. I was fairly ignorant about love and relationships in general. At the time I don't think I even knew what the words meant. I just recognized the tone of voice commonly connected with them.
In those days, I was the klutz - the NON-gym person - and I knew the other kids talked about me. Or at least I thought they did because that's how we are at that age. I was fortunate in a way; I developed this mysterious rash around ninth grade and got a note from the dermatologist excusing me from my least favorite high school experience. The results were that I gained weight, the library became my hangout and my grades improved a little.
So, like I said before, I never hung out much with Joni, except to grimace hello every now and again in the hallways. When Joni graduated, I was still in tenth grade so I didn't think about her much. It wasn't until I graduated and went to college and then grad school, that I saw her again.
Of course, it was a women's history class, and I was an expert at notetaking by then. A group of us got together for studying and weekly bitch sessions because the professor didn't believe in being "soft" on the students. And that's where I really met Joni.
This blonde with the quirky sense of humor became my best friend. She introduced me to ear piercing (she has five, two on the left and three on the right; I agreed to the standard one pierce for each ear and somehow wound up with two. How does she talk me into these things?) and the aerobic workout. I introduced her to classic sci-fi movies and the gentle art of toll painting. I commented on the fact that she had let her hair grow out and that she wore dresses now and then and she told me it had to do with developing her femme self. I had no clue, but whatever works. I told her about the joys and heartaches that I was having with Gary. She told me about her Pauline. When Gary and I broke up, Joni was there. When Pauline and Joni broke up, I was there. Through laughter and heartache, we were best friends, buddies, comrades.
And that's why, when she held this little shred of paper in my face with the word "camping" on it, I did not just toss it away and tell her to peddle her business elsewhere. Camping. Did I tell you how much I loathe camping? Bugs, hard ground, smoke in your eyes, Bugs. Not to mention the bear that ate great uncle Jack - A grisly family story.
I know I told her how much I detested camping.
I'm pretty sure I mentioned it early on in our friendship because she had proposed something along that line with a "wouldn't it be great..." kind of statement somewhen back when we were still in women's history. That made this whole thing kind of a surprise for me and I pointed it out to her. I said, "Did you read this?"
She said, "Of course."
I said, "It has that word in it." And I pointed directly at "camping."
She said, "Yeah, but it's not what you think."
This is what led to a great conversation about the difference between camping out in the woods and CAMPING.
A distinction I'm still not sure that I get.
I'd heard just enough about "women's camps" to be totally misinformed and therefore completely biased. She had an answer for almost everything, including the crack I made about odd nicknames like wombwymn. I still found it hard to distinguish, but Joni guaranteed that this one was more of a woman's getting to know herself in the presence of others experience and that it really wasn't a "women's camp" per se, there were some men, and that there would be showers. I said something about not -wanting- to be a radical feminist. She said something about power and self-esteem. Did I say no tents? She said, "Only if you want one, there should be buildings."
I was still not quite convinced, but like I said, Joni is charming when she wants to be. So we signed up for the camp and sent in our cash and the straight girl and the dyke went on an adventure