Like all good lesbians, I love REI. I’m not even outdoorsy—I love to kayak and walk my dog and wear comfy shoes and that’s it—but I buy all my clothes at REI, so actual outdoorsy people constantly stop and ask me “Did you get that hoodie from Rocky Mountain National Park?” and I say “No, I got it from REI,” and I feel athletic.
If I had to attend the Oscars, I would get my outfit at REI.
I like shopping at REI by myself, and really become one with the canteens and moisture-wicking socks, so I was dismayed to go there one morning and find the store packed to the gills. I got genuinely worried that some apocalyptic event was happening, because why else would all six registers be open for people buying water bottles and windbreakers at eleven in the morning?
Or maybe I’m not the only one who has the annual 20% off sale marked in my calendar.
Since I actually did need new kayaking shoes, I wandered over to the shoe section to check some out—not only was the all-time greatest waterproof shoe brand in stock, it was twenty percent off. And all the lesbians were there.
Not just some of the lesbians. All of the lesbians. Nice older lesbians, super buff sporty lesbians, this really tan lesbian with a buzz cut and tattoos, and me.
And in the middle of this lesbian fray, one mild-mannered bespectacled REI employee was doing his best to cater to all of our whims. He’d come out from the back and three lesbians would pounce on him. And we were all trying to buy the same kayaking shoes.
I tried on a display shoe and politely asked the guy for my size, which he acknowledged with the urgency of a firefighter about to dive back into the burning orphanage, and then a nice lesbian asked if she could have my display shoe.
“Is that okay? Can I borrow it? Just to try on?” like she was asking for the last pair of pantyhose during the Blitz.
I wanted to say, “Go ahead, kayaking shoes aren’t rationed. Wait, are they? Is something happening?” but I just handed it over, because the poor REI employee had just emerged from the back with a stack of shoeboxes so high that he couldn’t see over it, he was just tossing shoeboxes right and left to all the lesbians.
Fortunately, I managed to catch my size.
While I tried them on, I overheard the tattooed lesbian ask a super buff one, “Do I know you? I feel like I’ve seen you before. Don’t you go to my gym?”
And I had that lightbulb go off, “This is the scene. The lesbian scene. Right here in the REI shoe section, between the hiking boots and the vegan sandals. Maybe only when they’re having a sale?”
I had never seen more than two registers open in the many, many times I’d gone to REI, but all six registers were staffed and humming. Again, I really thought something was going down because there’s no way that more than three people at any given time actually want to go camping, right?
The couple in front of me was buying a tent. This chick said to her boyfriend or husband, “Honey, you can stand up in it!” And then they high-fived. I observed this with the same fervor as an anthropologist discovering some exotic new behavior.
How could anyone high-five a loved one over the purchase of a thin sheet of plastic that will be shredded in seconds by a grizzly bear’s claws? You might as well wrap yourself up in a giant burrito. But hey, at least you can stand up.
But the best part was that when I got to the parking lot, I needed to fold the seats down in my car for reasons that would take another entire post to explain, but I’d never folded down the seats so I wasn’t sure what to do, and was just standing in the REI parking lot wishing I’d bought a canteen because I was getting a little parched, when all of a sudden a midsize SUV with lots of bumper stickers screeched to a halt beside me, and a super tanned and toned woman in a baseball hat materialized at my side and without a word, started helping me fold my seats down.
No greeting, “Do you need help?” or anything, she just snapped into action. Straight people don’t do that. Straight people wait for permission to help, but gay people don’t have time for pleasantries.
She even jumped in the backseat to get a better angle, and lo and behold, with the strength of two lesbians, the seats folded down.
“Are you a real person?” I asked at one point, and she just nodded tersely because she had only moments left in this dimension before her assistance was needed elsewhere.
I got my car closed, and shook her hand—she had a strong grip, because lesbian—and then she jumped back into her SUV and sped off to wherever the rainbow signal in the sky sent her next.
I was eager to tell A about my adventures, and show off my new shoes, which she has in the exact same style and brand but in a slightly different color.
“I had to fend off much stronger lesbians to get my size,” I said. “And then the strongest lesbian of all teleported to the parking lot just to help me with my car seats.”
She was really proud of me, and also envious of the couple buying a tent together.
I said, “I feel really lucky that my girlfriend loves me enough to respect my need for a literal roof over my head. Also, they’re not having sex in that tent.”
Because we are very, very different people, A said, at the exact same time, “They are so having sex in that tent.”
Oh my god. Is that why he needs to be able to stand up?
“I think you would really love tent camping,” she said, with that dreamy tone of voice that normal people have when they talk about going to Paris someday, where you don’t have to sleep on the goddamn dirt. “Although, if you really want to do it right, you have to sleep in a hammock, with a mosquito net over your face.”
“Why would anyone do that?” I said.
“That’s what they do in Africa!”
“No, that’s what they do in the Hunger Games!”
“I wouldn’t make you do that. I just think a tent would be fun.”
“See, that’s what I’m worried about,” I said. “Eventually, you wear me down and we go camping, in a tent. I’m on the ground, the actual ground, staring up at the stars through the flimsy plastic that is all that’s protecting us from rain, wind, and ax murderers. And then, in the darkness, you say, ‘If we really wanted to do this right, we’d be in a hammock.’”
Later that night, I realized, in that catapult nightmare fashion that you only see in horror movies, that I’d bought the exact same kayak shoes as my mom.