I wrote this article in a state of bitterness that I will never get invited to the awesomeness that is Man Camp, because I have ovaries. Ever been to woman camp? Yoga, wine, and whining, ugh. I think the guys have one up on us with this one.

All of these incredibly awesome photographs were taken by the even more incredibly awesome Andre Horton.

Dudes. I love them. They’re so great to have around, mostly because they have tougher fingernails and can help with things like putting keys on and off keychains and opening the battery compartment on my headlamp. It’s gotta be pretty good to be a dude, what with all the inherent societal advantages, built-in higher pay, and ability to recreate even after you procreate. Still, being a chick that has a mostly-dude cadre, I can see there are some built-in downsides:

1. You get hit in the nuts a lot. Hopefully not A LOT a lot, but, hanging (heh) with dudes as much as I do, I just have to notice that a fairly decent percentage of dude crashes involve smashing the twig and berries against something unyielding, usually a bike top tube or seat (or, worse, that part of the head tube where the headset meets the clamps. I’ve hit the kitty on that before, and am convinced there’s nothing worse). The nuts seem to get involved in crashes way more often than you’d like. That looks painful. And unavoidable.

2. You have no idea how to treat women these days. I ride with a dude who looks like a pirate, drinks a frightening amount of liquor, and embodies most of the other things on this list. At first blush he’s a scary bastard, but he’s the one who listens when I object to a trail choice, stops to help me with equipment issues, and will carry something for me if I don’t bring a backpack. The rest of the crew just rides on and let’s me deal. But pirate-guy is also the only male in our regular riding group who is not single. This isn’t a coincidence, but I don’t really blame the guys who are too full of bluster/themselves/“anger”* to stop and help when my bike light conks out because I didn’t charge it. After all, they’re confused and anxious these days; does stopping to lend a hand mean they’re being sexist? Do women want to be treated like one of the boys or would they appreciate the gesture? How DO you treat a woman like a human, anyway? Seriously, dudes are lost these days when it comes to gender relations. I feel for you (sort of).

You. Can. Never. Back. Down.

3. The Bro Thing. You can’t say no. You can’t back down. You can’t be The One Who Wussed Out. You die in disproportionate numbers in avalanches because your decision making ability goes to shit when you’re around other dudes. If one of your party darts across a rapidly-breaking-up ice floe, well, you have to go too, even if it means you meet your end. The Bro Thing rules all.

4. Being “in front of a girl” means you’re probably gonna have to show off.
My dude friends claim this one isn’t true. But come on, we all know it is. When there’s a chick around, everything about being a dude is amplified times twenty. Can’t wuss out in front of friends? Well not only can you not wuss out in front of a chick, but you have to step up your game even more. You can’t just drop in to the sketchy line, you have to huck the cornice and throw a backflip off the next facet-ridden rock, too. Charged by a moose? Ordinarily you’d scream and run behind a tree, but if a girl is watching, you have to hoick your front tire in the air and, if not charge manfully in return, at least stand your ground. And get stomped. I’ve seen this one in real life. Not pretty.

5. You’re expected to know stuff. I wish this wasn’t true, we all know that. Some would even say that it’s not true, that they NEVER SAID they knew stuff and shouldn’t be looked to to solve every contingency. Sorry, guys, you’re expected to have a clue. It’s even in writing.** But it must really suck to NOT know stuff, and have people look at you like you SHOULD. “Do you think it’s the solenoid?” “Which way do I turn this to keep my rear deraileur from skipping?” “How do you tie a bowline again?” “This anchor is solid, right?” You’re a dude. The phrase “I have no idea” is not within your vocal range. A pity, because that phrase is great for absolving responsibility, and can spare you many future arguments regarding who should or should not be blamed for a given incident.

This is how to open a keg, right?

Silver Linings

It ain’t all bad. Being a dude can be tough luck, but comes complete with many advantages and benefits. Feeling sorry for yourself because you didn’t know how to hook up the jumper cables on your date’s dead battery, leaving you to call AAA like a chump? Take heart. Being a dude can be pretty cool:

1. You take your lumps and are better for it.
Let’s face it. All the bro-ing and not backing down means you try a little harder. And you get hurt. Hell, sometimes you die. But if you don’t, you get a little better every time. Girls are taught to not get hurt, so by the time we realize we’ve got to take our own lumps to improve, we’re in our thirties and understand the consequences of breaking a leg without health insurance (which we couldn’t afford because our health insurance costs way more than yours…true story. Look it up. Reason #6: health insurance is cheaper for you. P.S. please support health care reform – thanks).

Even if it never even seemed like a good idea at the time, you have to see it through.

2. Your friends are impressed by your bro-ing. Please. I’ve heard y’all spraying to each other at the bar at Bear Tooth, weekend after weekend. They’re riveted by your tales of torn topsheets and hours-long alder-bashing sessions. You might not win a lady’s heart with your story about taking a dump while hanging off the bumper of your vehicle, but your friends will think you’re just the coolest. Women don’t get this benefit. Our friends think our stupid stories are stupid.

3. It’s OK if you’re single. People expect it, especially if you’re one of the guys in the bar telling stories about epic bushwhacks and voiding your bowels in public. No one’s creeped out by the fact a thirtysomething dude is single, particularly one with unkempt, unwashed hair, smelly base layer, and nasty crusty sandals that look like they were stuffed under the seat of your Tacoma for six months. Please. Stay single until you’re ready, no one minds.

4. If you do something cool, it’s allowed to stay cool. You won’t experience immediate downgrading of what you did because of the set of genitals you happen to sport. I’m stating this in a really bitchy way, but I mean it, it’s cool to be recognized for your achievements as ACTUAL achievements. None of this “that’s awesome…for a dude” or “I hope you know you can do ANYTHING you want!” (translation: you can’t, because you don’t have the correct genitalia, but you can sure try real hard and we’ll all think it’s adorable!) or “Ok, so he did it, but only because his fingers are so small” bullshit.*** You’re allowed to do well. Enjoy!

Everything awesome about being a dude captured in one single photo.

5. If you can figure all this out, you’re the catch of the century.
Seriously, dudes who can walk the tightrope between capable badass and sensitive soul partner are the pick of the litter. Life’s gonna be good for you if you can pull this off. Strive, dudes, strive. If you get it right it’s worth it.

*sexual frustration

**What is so fucking hard about titling such a piece “Knots Every PERSON Should Know?” You dudes absolutely do this to yourselves, and I have no pity.

***Let’s muse on the fact that only by having a man repeat her route was Lynn Hill able to be appreciated as actually a good climber and not just a small-fingered mutant.