Surrogate Brothers


This is one of my favorite climbing partners of all time. Thirteen years after we first met, Dan still lives in his van (but has a great job and is saving a shit ton of money). We were so close back in the day that we even had our own secret language- this lion roar call and response thing, which allowed us to find each other almost anywhere. Like he could be on top of a mountain, climbing, and I could figure out which one and even find him by his roaring back at me as I hiked to him.

On super windy nights in Joshua Tree, we’d watch movies on my laptop inside his van while everyone else hid out in their tents or cars nearby. And then I’d high five him goodnight and roar to him from my truck as I wiggled into my sleeping bag and felt the wind rock my truck to sleep. He’d give me pounds and pounds of free food he found dumpster diving cuz he was really good at it. He even brought all of us dumpster roses once. So sweet, that Dan. We ended up in some epic adventures up on climbing walls, but Dan was always steady and calm and laughed at my jokes when we were both scared.  We taught each other so much about what it’s like existing in the world as a man and a woman, especially as ones who didn’t conform to *traditional* gender roles. He was a thoughtful, emotionally mature man without a single aggressive bone in his body and I was an emotionally detached tomboy terrified of intimacy with men unless I wasn’t sleeping with them. Hence why I never dated any of the amazing men I spent endless amounts of time with. They were my bros and I didn’t want to risk losing that.

When I tore my ACL in Jackson hole during the hardest winter of my 20’s, Dan drove down from Montana to take care of me. Most my friends were men back in the day so it was a harsh lesson when I got injured because all my guy friends in Jackson kinda bailed on me. But the women showed up of course— they took me to my surgery, got my meds at the pharmacy, brought me tea and movies, and even cleaned up my puke when my painkillers’ unintended side effects kicked in. I should note that I hardly knew some of these women who came through for me. I made it a point after that to always always have at least two close women in my life.

Women have never bailed on me.

It really hurt my feelings, actually, that my closest guy friends were all skiing and never even called to check on me after my surgery. It’s like they just forgot I even existed. But my sister reminded me that I’m a lot like a dude in this regard.  It didn’t come natural for me to just drop everything and go take care of someone the way a lot of women are raised to. (I’ve since gotten way better at this!). So imagine my delight and surprise when Dan, my nurturing, dreadlocked climbing buddy, drove like 8 hours each way to come and take care of me. Of course, while he was there, he got this crazy ear infection that almost popped his ear drum, so he ended up in the emergency room. But we spent the week laid up together on the floor of my winter rental  (because of course I didn’t have any furniture). But it was fun because we had each other.

Dan’s always been an important brother to me. And God, I miss having brothers. But such is life. When you get older and no longer live in sleeping bags under stars with your closest friends beside you, but rather in an apartment in a city with walls and no other human beings, platonic friend sleep overs are kinda weird to have. And even when you do go back out to the wilderness, most adults in their 30’s want privacy and sleep off on their own. I get that. I like privacy now too. But I will always miss sleeping next to Dan and my other surrogate bros, laughing and farting and talking until we pass out mid-sentence.

Getting older is great, but some parts really suck.

If you can hear me in your van wherever you are Dan, roooooooooar.

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