My boyfriend wants to drive across eight states to visit Yellowstone National Park. We’ll have to camp and stay in cabins, using public restrooms and probably a few coin-operated showers along the way. I think this is an awful idea, because we would risk exposure and because there would be a one-to-one ratio of driving to visiting the park. But he’s only got two weeks before he starts medical school, and he’s determined to do this. It’s going to hurt him when I let him down and back out of this plan, especially since I’ve already been ambivalent for the past few weeks and he’s felt frustrated about my lack of certainty. I feel so fucking guilty saying no. I know it’s shitty of me to have flip flopped on this, but I was fucking confused. How could he think this was a good idea? So I want to ask in case I’m missing something: what are your thoughts? Bad idea? Great idea? We won’t have a chance to visit a park together in the summer for the next four years at the minimum.
This kind of long-distance camping trip sounds like a waking nightmare under normal circumstances, so I would have said fuck no from the jump, but hey, different strokes for different Subaru drivers, I suppose.
I can’t quite tell if your ambivalence is genuinely COVID-based or if you share my general aversion to camping as a lifestyle choice. In other words, are you using the pandemic as cover for a fundamental compatibility issue? Is this dude too crunchy for you? Are you fully prepared for the intense emotional labor and unending string of compromises you will be expected to endure as the girlfriend of a medical student? Are you worried that he’s secretly bought a ring and is packing his best flannel shirt for a scenic trail proposal 100 miles from the nearest nail salon?
I hope I’m wrong. I hope you’re deeply in love. I hope the two of you wear matching Teva sandals and enjoy the same flavor granola bars. That would be adorable, and I would encourage you to join him on this trip to Yellowstone. However, if there are deeper issues that need to be addressed, let’s not avoid them by pretending your anxiety is due to the pandemic, because we both know you can safely visit a mostly-empty, middle-of-nowhere National Park by following some pretty basic hygiene and social distancing guidelines.
Be brutally honest with yourself, and then be brutally honest with your boyfriend. Would you want to go on this trip if there were no pandemic? I can’t know what’s in your heart, and obviously I’m biased against any venture involving coin-operated showers, but your faltering tone is not lost on me. You and your boyfriend are at the cusp of a really difficult four years. Medical school decimates long-term relationships, and if the two of you can’t get your shit together over a little road trip, I wouldn’t bet on you being there for his graduation. That’s not me telling you to go camping. That’s me telling you to improve your communication and conflict management skills.