Friday, August 21, 2015

Call of the Wild

Or: On the Eighth Day, Let There be Leggings!

Walking into an oil town pub or a camp dining hall is sortof like having a bear encounter: in both scenarios, you are aware of being relegated in status down to mere "meat". I mean, no matter how tarted up I am in downtown Calgary I barely get an occasional second glance, but I can be just as grimy and sweaty and "practically" (i.e., strangely) attired as you please in, say, Fox Creek, and it is openly lascivious ogling all around. My friend (or, more specifically, her butt, in some leggings) nearly caused a riot at a hotel breakfast bar. Every female colleague of mine has experienced the same phenomenon, and I don't think any of them finds it flattering. At best, it's mildly amusing; at worst, disturbing - and even a little bit scary.

Bear, cool, I get it man, I'm in your space and I'm (slowly!) getting the hell out of here. Men, though: what the hell? Is there something about oil town living away from home that causes these fellows to go a little feral, or - as DH suggested - is it just that they were the dregs of society to begin with and have been unnaturally concentrated in oil towns due to their professions, so's that one notices them more?

Neither hypothesis seems very generous. Handily, I do a lot of living away from home during the field season, so I might have some insights into the phenomenon of going feral due to this bizarre natural experiment I conduct on myself every year.

I know I definitely start to get a little weird after a long field stint in the boonies. Weirder still if I'm working alone, as if the lack of human contact decalibrates my social compass. I spend hours every day fantasizing about real food - I probably spent a full two weeks near the end of my field season last year daydreaming about cooking myself a lasagna, then eating said lasagna. Every day the fantasy would get a little more elaborate - no! Not the farmer's market! I will use vine-ripened tomatoes from my own garden to make the sauce! Unnhhhh...

I do make a mean lasagna but I usually don't have the attention span to agonize over the origins of my sauce tomatoes, so this is pretty strange behaviour for me. Feral? Perhaps I was a short distance down that slippery slope... but when those men are leering at you while you eat your mashed potatoes as quickly and unsexily as you are able to, it is clearly not lasagna they are fantasizing about. I figured I was not quite feral yet.

Right at the end of my field season last year, I was standing around on a project - I don't fully understand it but there is somehow a LOT of standing around that is done in pipeline construction - just dreaming about lasagna and wishing we could get around to actually doing something at some point that day. One fellow broke up his standing activities by removing his sweater, which bunched up his t-shirt slightly and left a small sliver of hip bone exposed between his jeans and shirt. Just a little peek. Just a one-inch sliver of taut, tanned, male flesh...

I literally could not take my eyes off of it. The two weeks I had invested in an emotional affair with homemade lasagna were forgotten in an instant. I wanted to eat this guy instead.

Suddenly, I was off the deep end. I really needed to go home.

So when my friend was innocently causing the complete mental breakdown of a roomful of breakfasting riggers with her leggings, I flashed back to my deranged hip bone moment of the year before and I had an inkling of comprehension of how these fellows were feeling. She does have a great butt, after all - and everyone goes a little feral eventually.


  1. Interesting post. Not having been to a remote work camp, or even lived among a large, isolated male only cohort, I can't relate, but I can empathize. I decided to look up the effects on males of long term isolation from females and found a study where the males in equal male female populations were better adjusted than male only populations. In fact, in the male/female populations, the males showed higher testosterone and cortisol titers, higher adrenal tyrosine hydroxylase activities and higher seminal vesicles weights (imagination not required here) than the male only populations. Neither were more aggressive than the other apparently. Eight of the male-only males were placed into the male-female grouping and lost 16.3 to 20.9% of their initial body weights. Three died within 8 days although they were not attacked by male/female males. The 5 surviving males gained low ranking social positions, showed a high degree of arousal and probably were not able to reproduce.

    Now, admittedly, these were guinea pigs, but the way I read it, in your situation, you might have been the target of their affections, but they would likely have insignificant testes, and their low adrenaline levels would have made them easier to subdue, if they lived long enough to attempt to make a pass.

    Not sure how transferrable results from guinea pigs are to male humans, but keep this in mind next time you're in a work camp or when you or your companion think of wearing leggings to breakfast in these situations. The way I read it, try wearing the leggings on the eighth day, when about 37% of them will be dead.

  2. I've added a subtitle to the blog in honour of your most excellent comment!