Thursday, December 13, 2007

Alpha Chick Pilgrimage

September 24, 2007
MacLean's Magazine arrived today. News is not what it used to be. It seems to be on the light-weight, sensational and biased side, with heavy emphasis on the quirks and shenanigans of celebrities. After a few minutes of browsing, my generation gap starts showing and I feel like a backwater dinosaur.

I learned that, according to Statistics Canada, in 2006, 43.5 percent of adults aged 20 to 29 either never left their parents' house, or moved baack after a short stint away from the nest. In a growing number of these cases, the kids are bringing spouses with them. Yikes!! What is going on here? Parents need to sell their houses, buy tiny condos, travel a lot, and stop cooking with cheese.

My favourite story so far in an interview with Jane Christmas after her 800-kilometer Camino pilgrimage through Spain. She wanted to get away from her children, and expected her experience to be a modern version of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales -- relaxation, companionship and story-telling.

Alas! Female bonding was not what she expected. "We're trained to believe we're inclusive and bridge-building, but particularly in group situations, that just doesn't happen. 'Bonding' is really code for 'the need to know another woman's secrets, so you can render her defenceless'. That sort of knowledge is power for women, and they use it to exclude others . . . .We call men on their bad behavior, but not each other, because we're afraid of other women, of what they could say about us or how they could exclude us." Our budding pilgrim found herself trapped in a "consciousness-raising Oprah orgy", where alpha chicks fluffed their feathers until Jane wanted to slug them all. The experience was Lord of the Flies on estrogen.

"Sometimes it takes someone else's really bad behaviour to shift you onto a different path and make you walk alone."

Not that she was ever alone. There were always other pilgrims on the route. At night, in the refugios (pilgrims' hostels), they were crammed together in bunk beds, with no privacy whatsoever. Even when she was completely exhausted, the snoring of strangers kept her awake.

She said everybody she knew took taxis sooner or later rather than continue the hike.

Final question: Would you ever go on holiday with a group of women again?
Answer: NO! NO WAY.

I found this interview refreshing because it admits that hiking 800 km is not all glamour. It also admits that women aren't perfect. I generally find men easier to talk to. They have a wider range of interests, are more likely to say what they think, and take criticism more easily. If a problem develops, it is usually solved within a reasonable time, and if it can't, the relationship is allowed to die a natural death. Conflicts with women go on endlessly, keep taking new forms, and never seem to be forgiven or forgotten. The punishment of exclusion never ends, until some major incentive is offered. A lot of women never seem to outgrow the grade four playground. Men aren't perfect either, of course, and can be very annoying, but I find their imperfections easier to forgive.

I'm talking about friendship here, not mating. That's a whole different scene, which I don't understand and never expect to. Mating seems to bring out the best and worst in people.

If I were going to walk 800 km with a group, I would like it to be an assortment of men and women of different ages, including children. I would like the alpha wolves and chicks to stay home, so we could all feel free to be ourselves and do whatever seemed good to us, within reasonable limits.

Oh yes, one more thing. I would like to spend my nights in four-star hotels with whirlpools and fluffy bath robes and people who don't snore.

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