The women look at each other and have a moment of recognition. The couple behind them are on a date. Willfully ignorant of their presence, the men are getting louder and louder with each drink. “Early flights,” the women state, though the men have early flights too. “Need to finish packing,” the women state, and push back their chairs, agreeing upon this excuse with almost no conversation. One of the men stands up, saying he should join the women, but the other men tease him and he relents. “Just one more round,” he consents, and as the women flee the restaurant, they hear the men, going up in volume. “I felt so bad for those people behind us,” says one of the women, “you could see they were trying to have a romantic date, but the men were getting louder and louder…”
There are women on the trip, but it is clear from day one that they are with men, traveling.
During activities, the men are separated from the women. It’s unclear why this is so. There are no brute strength activities. There is no heavy lifting. Nor are the activities skewed towards the cliches stuck on women, there are no spas, shopping, galleries. But the women are assigned the female guides.This is weird, archaic, but by as early as the second day, the women are not sorry. The segregation gives them respite from The Men Traveling.
The men put their hardware on display. They pile electronics on the breakfast table. Their camera lenses are bigger, they have more machinery. The women keep their gear stowed unless they are using it. The men present their opinions, the women ask questions. The men order a second round, and then a third, the women nurse their drinks. “You are a tee-totaler,” one of the men says to one of the women, even though there is a cocktail in front of her. “No, ” she corrects, “I am a very modest drinker. I like to keep my wits about me when I am traveling.” The men order another round. The woman asks for soda with lime.
The men are great travelers. They have been to many extreme places. They ask if the women have been to such extreme places. If the answer is yes — because the women are great travelers, too — they change the question until the answer is no so they can discuss their superior knowledge of the place at great length. The men are not genuinely interested in whether or not the women have been somewhere, they are only interested in talking about places the women have not been.
The men go to the bar, the one that is populated by professional drinkers. They are proud of this bold move. Local people have advised the men against this visit, so now there are stories of obstacles overcome, aggression survived, anger defused, as though the men have established a colony amongst the alcoholics. All the experiences the men have are bigger, more adventurous, better, bolder. The people they meet are more interesting, their transportation is faster and more dangerous.
The men flirt with the waitresses. The waitresses purse their lips, answer questions literally, and continue listing the specials. When the waitresses walk away, the men talk about them in way that that suggests that the women are in on the joke. They do not directly mention the exposed cleavage or tight dresses, they are oblique, surely the women could not take offense at this approach. The men flirt with other women they encounter while traveling, telling of their travel exploits. They flirt with the women in the group, too, alternating between obscene humor and solicitous condescension. They strive to include sexual innuendo into conversations. Sometimes the women blush in anger, sometimes they plead incomprehension, sometimes they make jokes. Sometimes, they tell the men to fuck off. Not nearly often enough. When one of the women issues a particularly sharp reply, the men laugh. They never allow it to appear as though the women have got the better of them.
One man tells stories of women who travel. They are always demeaning. The woman is always a joke, she is unqualified, unprepared, uncredentialed, not to be taken seriously. One man repeats his own qualifications over and over and over again as though repetition will make these qualifications more important. One man seizes any opportunity to discuss his extensive resume of conquered destinations. The women nearly always leave the table first but if they stay and drink, it is treated as a novelty. If the women are funny or interesting or bold, they receive an amused and patronizing response. The women have their own stories, but this is not the place for them.
They are women, traveling, they are more used to this than they care to admit.
Image: Balloon Explorers via Wikimedia/Creative Commons