I wasn’t much of a girly-girl to begin with. Thankfully. My ‘beauty’ routine has long included three essential products and genuine efforts to be content with Whatever God Gave Me. Gram always advised against covering up beauty with makeup. Just wash the dirt off so the beauty can shine through, she would say.
As a result, I never learned to properly apply mascara, line my lips or do a proper at-home exfoliation. To this day, attaining the “Smokey Eye” look simply requires getting too close to a camp fire and a pedicure requires running barefoot on the beach. Suffice to say, with only a very modest (I assumed healthy) amount of “vanity” going into this adventure, I didn’t anticipate too many challenges to my daily “upkeep” rituals.
Fast forward 20 days.
I also didn’t anticipate getting water from my tank would require manual syphoning of the water through the hose, making the availability of hot, clean water one step more challenging then I am often in the mood for. What I lack in vanity I make up in pride, so it also means ensuring no one is looking while I suck water into my basin from under my sink. Nor did I anticipate a boil-water advisory in three of the campsites I’ve stayed at, adding another level of water preparation. Despite my no-fuss short hair (which seems so practical) I still find myself sleeping in a hat that even a gale-force wind can’t remove. I assume this is because my hair is now velcro, likely attributable to leaving my hair brush in a campground during week one and not replacing it. My hair has felted. And why is there still soot in my ear? I totally meant to deal with that the day before yesterday. Unfortunately, I used all my Q Tips dipped in coconut oil to start a fire.
Having grown up on a farm, where water was measured, and having had some military training emphasizing the importance of hygiene efficiency, my showers are typically 3 minutes and extremely methodical. I’m all business; committed to ensuring others don’t smell me before they see me. I’m not neurotic about it, but I’m not one to let this slide too far down the slope either. How hard could having a shower while travelling be? Simple, right? Arrive at a campsite, determine the availability of a shower. If available, shower.
It’s never simply “Is there a shower?” Simplicity went out with the tide. There are now a limitless array of questions I must cycle through, before arriving at a successful showering.
Is there a shower in which I will be afforded a reasonable amount of privacy to get the job done? How many insects will occupy the shower when I arrive? Will they have 6 or 8 legs? What are the diameters of said insects? How hard will it be to entice them to leave? Will a water heater have even hissed on the water about to hit me? Will I need to pay for this shower? If so, how long will it operate so I can adequately rinse before the ride is over? Will this shower require loonies or quarters, or god help me, some combination of both? Because when do I ever has both? At the same time? Is Pippa howling in the van, suffering irreversible separation anxiety and waking sleeping campers while I wait in line? Which means I get to feel guilt and horror at the same time?
It’s not just hygiene either. My clothing senses has shifted in ways that are now becoming perceivable. I do not make any claim to having any fashion sense whatsoever, but, like most people, I have internalized guidelines that make living with myself acceptable. A fashion code that works for me. You know, like not putting striped and plaid on at the same time.
Today, I found myself in a laundromat in town – in socks and Crocs- with my jeans rolled up. This may mean nothing to you, but I can’t even imagine a scenario at home in which those three things could possibly happen at the same time. I’m not dissing Crocs, which are styrofoam slip-on shoes that resemble Gumby heads with air holes punched into them. At home these are my go-to footwear when I need to go-to the back yard to pick up poop. To my mind, my Crocs are slippers for the highly practical and industrious woman as she accomplishes secretive, sensitive and often highly unattractive domestic chores. Every woman needs one pair of shoes she can hose off. At home. Or perhaps in a dark campsite for a late night pee-run in the rain.
Today, however, my Crocs rolled up my jeans, made sure I had socks on underneath – right up my calf- and took me to town – essentially flipping the whole fashion world the bird. Literally, anything is now possible.
There were signs in the beginning; I see that now. Colours stopped making their usual sense.See photo on left. Contemplate the decision making process.
Is there a way to salvage any remaining vanity I may have, so it can rescue my dignity before it’s all beyond repair?
Here is a short list of suggestions I hope may rescue those of us who are still redeemable. Or care to be. If I can help just one other person who wants to be helped, this blog post will not have been in vain.
- Have three toothbrushes and keep them in different places. One should be on your person at all times. I suggest in your back pocket, like you might keep a comb in 1985. No matter why you have attended a bathroom, a quick brush, even without paste, is better than no brush at all.
- If you lose the comb or hairbrush, replace it. Dreads look good on some people and you may not be one of them. If you think it’s possible you are, solicit the opinion of both your parents, if possible, and any children you may have. They are likely to set you straight.
- Hang your shower towel inside the van so it remains warmish and dryish. I have a microfibre one that dries somewhat more quickly than the conventional type. This will also keep bats from sleeping in them at night and bats threaten the security of a potential shower.
- Keep both a roll of quarters and loonies in your glove compartment at all times. Do not trick yourself into believing that a Wet Wipe Shower is an ACTUAL shower. Your mind will attempt to make this seem rational, especially after several days and several aborted attempts to have a legitimate one.
- Carry wet wipes or toilet paper with you ALWAYS.
- Hang a number of mirrors where you can’t possibly avoid them. The avoidance of mirrors is the beginning of the end.
- If you ever have the chance to swim at a local pool, do it. It’s just a whole next-level clean. I did it once and it was nothing short of miraculous. I assume it’s the magic of chlorine, eating it’s way through soot and pine gum, finally reaching my inner beauty.
- No matter what time you normally do your “business” at home, be prepared to accomplish it at any available time. Because available times are no longer predictable, private or available.
Finally, If you are seriously concerned about the ultimate fate of your fading vanity, seek support from your family or friends. View this as a strength, not a weakness. Face-time on a regular basis with someone who loves you, or at least recognizes you. They will tell you if you look like shit, or if in fact, you are beginning to look like an entirely different person. If they are supportive of your travels, they will give you practical suggestions, as I have. If they are not, they will tell you to get home right away and call you a vagrant. In a non-supportive way.
I used to poo-poo vanity, and try to avoid it. Now I see that in small doses it may prevent me from frightening off potential friends or companions. I like travelling solo, but I want it to remain a choice.
So, from here on in, I’m going to make some effort to retain just enough vanity, and dental hygiene, to keep my dignity intact. And I’m definitely going to paint some flowers on my Crocs.