The Grating Outdoors

By Amy Alkon

This great girl I’ve been dating just invited me on a camping trip. Frankly, there is nothing I would like to do less. I hate camping, and I won’t know anyone but her. The trip is three days with 20 of her friends, including her ex-boyfriend, so I worry about asking her to go without me, especially since we aren’t “official” yet. Can I skip this without it being a big deal, or is it a mistake to let her go when we’re right at the monogamy crossroads?

— City Boy

The comforts of civilization abound. Even Walmart stocks a heated toilet seat — complete with a handy-dandy nightlight in the bowl — for a rather reasonable $119. Yet — go figure — there are all these people who think it would be super-cool to go out for a weekend and squat behind a bush.

In other words, I’m right there with you, City Boy. My idea of camping is waiting for our room to be ready in the lobby of a hotel with exposed wood. My favorite hiking safety tip? Avoid hiking. But I understand your problem. It’s a bad idea to stay home when it means she’ll be out there in nature with nothing to block the view of her ex-boyfriend. Unfortunately, you’re being asked on not just a camping trip but a vetting trip (even if she hasn’t put it that plainly to you or even herself). She’ll be looking at how well you fit in with her friends (which will tell her something about how well you’ll fit into her life) and, possibly, evaluating your camping prowess: whether you can start a fire with a single soggy match, put up a tent using only your teeth, and talk geopolitics with a raccoon.

But chances are, if she were some hardcore camper looking for the man to play Lewis to her Clark, she wouldn’t even consider dating a guy whose idea of a nature hike is probably cutting across the lawn to get the mail. I shared this thought with a mentally ill friend of mine (translation: one who camps on purpose), and she agreed. She also added that “camping with 20 people is not camping; it’s ‘camping.’ It’s getting drunk beside your car, tripping over your tent stake, and passing out next to your sleeping bag. Even a city boy can do that once.”

Let your girlfriend know that camping isn’t your thing but that you’re sure you’ll have a great time with her over the weekend. This sets her up not to expect much more of this outdoorsy business from you while setting you up as a good sport who’s willing to go out of his way to make her happy. If both you and your relationship survive the weekend, maybe you can show her a thing or two about the great indoors — like how, of all the current wonders of nature, one of the most wonderful is how you can sit in your house drinking martinis while watching them on Discovery Channel. And don’t forget my absolute favorite thing about nature — the whoosh it makes as you’re driving past it to get back to your hotel.

Friskies Sour

My best friend, “Rob,” is really into this girl he’s been dating. She is loud, talks constantly about vapid subjects, generally rubs everyone the wrong way, and — I’m not kidding — makes cat “meow” sounds. (For instance: “I’m hungry; let’s get pancakes! Meow.”) Recently, a mutual friend blurted out to Rob, “Dude, seriously, how do you put up with her?” Rob was upset, and I sympathized, but the reality is, we all think that. Shouldn’t he know the truth — that none of us wants to be around him when he’s around her?

— Biting Tongue

When you’re all out to dinner, you must live for those moments when she and some other woman excuse themselves to go talk about all you guys in the litter box. As hard as it must be for you to hold back, all this guy should know is that you’re his friend. People mistakenly believe that you can criticize somebody into changing. You can’t. What you typically end up doing is criticizing them into clinging even more tenaciously to whatever you were hoping to pry them away from. Because, in relationships, initially adorable idiosyncrasies can turn screechingly annoying, it’s possible your friend will eventually grow allergic to loud, vapid women who make cat sounds. Until then, well, that’s why there’s guys’ night out at the cigar bar. You might also try to curb your annoyance by feeling happy for him. For him to be blind to how irritating she is, she must do some really special things in the bedroom — you know, like marking the bed with urine and killing mice and leaving them on his pillow.

(c)2014, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail ( Weekly radio show:


Categories: Advice, Advice Goddess