Today Laurel and I played out our prehistorically-determined sex roles, not in the bedroom, but in the shops of Lahaina and the waters of Napili Bay. Evolutionary psychology tells us that deeply engrained in the female and male psyche are traits accumulated over hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of years of genetic experience in Homo sapiens and prior species forms.
Laurel is the quintessential gatherer, finely attuned to the shapes, colors, and textures of what is hanging in the (many, many) stores we entered this evening. I tag along a humble three steps behind, well aware that I am outside of my element and need to be led by a female who knows how to recognize the clothing ripe for purchase. She moves assuredly, using her peripheral vision to see subtle signs of potential bounty that escape me: “Sale rack: 50% off” The sign is at the back of the store and half-hidden behind a display. Laurel sees it instantly.
She is able to absorb the essence of a large circular rack of clothes at a glance, and almost instantly pick out the few items that might fit her fancies. Standing to the side, in the subservient husband posture I instinctively assume in such situations, I picture Laurel’s distant female ancestor riffling through the leaves of a bush on the African savannah, searching for the color of fruit just right to bring back to the clan.
Tonight, having just 10 minutes to shop before our take-out Thai food was ready to be picked up, Laurel darted into one of the ubiquitous ABC stores in Lahaina and saw a just-right shirt for me in about two seconds. I was still trying to get my bearings, aimlessly looking around for the men’s T-shirt section, as Laurel was saying, “Look, this is a great shirt. And it’s just $19.99.” Inwardly (it would be un-macho to do this outwardly, especially in an ABC store), I bowed at her feet, fully recognizing when I am in the presence of Shopping Greatness.
On the other hand, it dawned on me today that boogie-boarding is closely akin to hunting waves. When I first go down to the beach I sit motionless on my mat for some time, intently watching the patterns of the waves as they approach the shoreline. Speed. Size. Height. Frequency. Breaking location. All this information must be accumulated before the quarry can be successfully hunted.
Then, when the moment speaks to me, I make my move. Success is not assured, but I am confident enough to gird myself for the hunt. Fin holders around the ankles. Fins on feet. Boogie board leash tied around wrist. Jump into the water. Paddle for the anticipated meeting point of hunter and prey (though with boogie boarding, as with surfing, sometimes it is difficult to tell whether the wave or the human has the upper hand—which is part of what makes the sport so enticing).
Once out where the biggest waves are likely to be found, there is a lot of waiting. Stalking, if you like. It is mostly a male activity, boogie-boarding (as with surfing, so I understand). Today a few girls came out to try their luck, but they didn’t last long. I’m not sure why. Catching even moderate-sized waves takes quite a bit of strength, good timing, and some guts—when rocks/reefs must be negotiated for a successful hunt. Much of the afternoon today I had the break all to myself, catching good wave after good wave while I wondered, “Where are my tribesmen?”
Eventually one of my new boogie-brothers paddled out, a twelve-year old boy (or so I guessed) who I had shared waves with before. We had a great time. Similar abilities, separated only by some 43 years, not by our enthusiasm for wave-hunting. Often we found ourselves zipping in to shore side by side on a wave that we had caught at the same time. We didn’t share many words, but we did share a lot that can’t be said. I hope to see him tomorrow. His mother can do the shopping. I liked having a companion on the hunt.