Chauvinista by Hugh Chaloner

The male of the species ARE different, especially when they travel in packs. Having just returned from a grown up version of a scout trip- a week’s hiking with a bunch of Alpha Burlies and only a sprinkling of women, I feel I’ve glimpsed a completely alternate universe. And that I may be a sexist of sorts, a chauvinista.

It took a few days to settle into the pace- not just because men have a bigger stride, but because their camaraderie dictates an unfamiliar dynamic. They have a compulsive Hornbyesque need to bond over the first album they bought/got stoned to/snogged to and a pathological desire to trade facts and opinions- about how many people died in a specific trench on the Somme, the best try of all time, apps that can’t be lived without and of course what the Minister for Finance should do next.  They’re also achingly quick-witted and constantly going for the zinger punchline (even when hauling themselves and a 50 litre pack up a cliff in a thick mist). It’s no wonder that initially the female contingent felt weary and hopelessly dull in comparison.

Boys remember every detail of the oddest things. We might remember precisely how our first corduroy elephant flares sat on the hip just so and their precise break over our cowboy boot-top but they wallow in the nuances of a particular episode of The High Chaparral like they saw it yesterday (and can recite the cast in the exact order in which the credits rolled). In 25 years, their ageing sons will be duelling with Harry Potter spells in Latin and comparing the bean to rice ratio of various burrito joints before arguing about whether the fly monologue was in Breaking Bad Series Three or Four.

After a week in the wild with them, you’d be forgiven for thinking even the most random lyric (if you could remember it) is embued with significance, Proustian or otherwise.  “And keeps all your dead hair for making up underwear?”  Sure thing. “ Obla di obla da?” Bring it.

What lads don’t appear to do is gossip much. That means you never wake up the morning after a long night out enveloped in the guilty toxicity even your average morning coffee can generate. Gather 12 women together who’ve known each other for a long while and you won’t be laughing your arse off so much as wondering whether it’s wise to leave the room early.  Add alcohol into the mix and the gathering’s guaranteed to cause pain, at least on a karmic level. Far too often, we put a frau in Schadenfreude.

Maybe that’s the reason why quickly enough, hanging out with the boys stopped being a bit awkward and began to feel like the best idea ever despite the fact we had to share a terrifying communal loo and tight-quartered dormitory with each other and a herd of strangers. It was like being back in college all over again, idling over impossibly long, gloopy dinners with too many potatoes where, at least in retrospect, every conversation seemed to offer safe, absolute escape from the demands of a real world just beyond. What a lovely place to be, however temporarily.

Laura George @lgeorge353

Photo by Hugh Chaloner

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