“Can we be gay here?”
This question comes up rather frequently when my girlfriend and I travel, or rather exist together in public. This past weekend proved to be no different when we decided to embrace the pastime of our people and go to the mountains for some good old outdoorsy fun. As we spiraled our way up in elevation along Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, our growing excitement kept pace with the steady incline.
After registering with the park rangers, we were instructed to choose one of the remaining campsites as our homestead for the next two nights. I had never camped before, outside a trip to Peru, and tried to discern what characteristics we should be looking for in the ideal campsite. We engaged in a few rounds of speed dating with our potential candidates, in part because Hunter refused to heed the 10 MPH requirement when circling the grounds on Loft Mountain. We agreed, size should be a primary factor given our friends would be joining us the following night and we would need to accommodate two tents. We surveyed the intimate settings of several campsites, longing to be near our car, but also to enjoy a false sense of seclusion amidst the trees’ falling leaves.
Finally, and most importantly, we needed to check out our neighbors. With our trained eyes, we surveyed car decals, coolers, and the like for any mention of N.R.A., Pro-Life, M.A.G.A., Fundamentalist Christian affiliations, or the Confederacy. This was rural Virginia, after all. It was still early in the day and not all the campsites had been claimed, so we knew we would have to run the risk of intolerant neighbors to some extent. Initially, we selected a campsite, but soon realized a rather large group of small children and their parents would be only a few feet away. After hearing what I believed was the first verse of “Jesus, loves me this I know,” we decided to keep searching for our new temporary home. Next, we found an even larger campsite that was further removed from the road. Unfortunately, my fragile disposition when it comes to irrational fears (i.e. bears and axe murderers) rendered this campsite a no-go. It was too secluded for my taste. Hunter did not want to camp with the stage-five clinger version of myself for two days, so we tried the site nearer to the road.
As Goldilocks would have it, we landed on a campsite as close to perfect as it gets in the first-come-first-serve lot of campsites. To the south, a non-descript middle-aged couple with excellent camping equipment, and a “BEASTYBOY” license plate, smiled and waved when walking by our site. Non-gay hating neighbors, check. To the north, a young couple set up camp with a black lab and a Subaru. A Subaru, double check.
At last, we could answer the question, “Can we be gay here?”
This time in the affirmative.