After our first day of skiing in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, all I could think about was how good the hot jets would feel on my tired muscles. But as we approached the hot tub, my senses were overwhelmed with the laughter of five gray-haired men. I smiled as they said hello and waved at me and my friend to join the party. As we found our little sliver of space within the crowded tub, the men asked questions about us and our day of skiing. They shared that this was their 22nd year of meeting up–without their wives. The men told us that they looked forward to getting together to ski, drink beer, do stupid things–and a lot of nothing. Yet, this distinguished group of men included a Silicon Valley business man, doctor, lawyer, accountant, and retired business executives.

I was curious about the delight these men had in doing nothing. As a woman I just don’t understand how–or why–men do that. In the middle of the playful bantering within the group, the men shared that recent research validated what these men have always known, their brains are compartmentalized with a preference to do one thing at a time and there is one compartment for nothing. Meanwhile, I think that no woman I have ever known would admit to–or truly understand–thinking about nothing. Even in the hot tub, I was pondering about dinner, will I be able to ski tomorrow without pain, and are men really idiots? It seems as though the antidote for men to reduce stress is to get stupid and think about nothing, but what do women do?

The next day we took a lesson to improve our ability to ski in these spring conditions where the snow is like corn pops, slushy and crackling as we swish down the mountain. My brain is freaking out, concentrating on not injuring myself. The lesson helped us have a great day skiing. I just enjoyed flying down the mountain, taking in the view, and appreciated the warmth of the spring day. These moments are the female version of nothing – actually being present.

We head to the hot tub on day 2, and sure enough our buddies are there. One old guy proudly showed off a T-shirt they had made for the group that said, “Five Old Guys Who Ski.” Seeming a little louder and giddier than the first day, we asked them where they had been. They had found an après-ski bar where there was a St. Patrick’s Day beer drinking game. They enthusiastically discussed this game as if they were 21 years old and had just discovered alcohol. It’s no wonder their wives don’t want to go with them!

Perhaps these men are on to something, as these stupid activities seem rejuvenating to them. I had to wonder, what is the female version of doing stupid things?

We didn’t ski the following day and decided to pamper ourselves at a local spa. We slept in, ate bacon and eggs for breakfast, took a leisurely walk into town, had a Colorado lamb salad for lunch, and wandered around the shops, before heading to the spa. I ventured into a little shop that was recommended by our hosts as having clothing that even someone from NYC such as myself might like. The clothes didn’t interest me as I am not ready to become an “earth mother,” however the t-shirts and sweatshirts did. They had a selection of hand-painted shirts with a variety of silly graphics ranging from a moose playing with snow flakes, to a bear on skies. Inspired by the men with their silly t-shirts, I couldn’t resist the one with the moose chasing snowflakes. Why not?

The massage did wonders for my body as my muscles felt soft and flexible. I feel a little more adventurous than the first two days. We skied a steep black diamond slope, and then by accident almost ended up in a sea of moguls which looked like a series of ground swells. The moguls would have done me in, but I quickly found a gentler way down the mountain. I felt playful as we experimented, skied new slopes, and recovered from some whoopsies!

The ski trip ended with us sitting outside, listening to a small ensemble with a male guitar player and female singer/percussionist/key board player singing old western and folk songs. This group played twice a week outside in a large public space at the base of the mountain. They appeared to have a devoted following given the size of the audience that gathered after skiing. It was happy hour so we both had two drinks – me with the most delicious India Pale Ale – The Amputator. Usually one beer with 7% alcohol does me, but this was my last day of vacation, so I thought “why not?”

As I am tapping my feet and singing along, a young developmentally-disabled man started dancing to the music. The band obviously knew him as they say hello to Scottie and applaud his dancing. As I watched Scottie swing his legs from one side and to another and wildly wave his arms about, I got an urge to join him. The song was one that invited partner dancing, so I put my hands out and asked if he wanted to dance with me. He smiled and we started jigging, twirling, waving our arms, and laughing. I attempted to keep up with Scottie as he did break dance moves, wide leg kicks, and jumps. I felt so silly as I did my favorite Elvis Presley move of bringing your knees in and out and then started waving my arms and jumping around.

This silliness feels like the female version of “stupid”. Given that women are always multitasking and trying to be perfect, it felt so refreshing to be in the moment skiing or wearing a silly moose t-shirt while dancing badly – very badly. These men had what appeared to be an enviable friendship and ritual of getting together without their wives every year for 22 years! They saw vacation as an opportunity to reduce their stress by bonding over stupid-nothing. I am still laughing as I remember what one old guy said when his wife asked him what he was thinking and he said  the word “nothing”.   But how many of us have an annual ritual where we go away or do something with good women friends that involves ample time to enjoy the moment and be silly? I left Colorado inspired by these five old guys who ski, as I walked on to the plane wearing my moose t-shirt. I am already thinking about how to integrate more tiny moments of watching a bird sing, or dancing to music while washing the dishes, as a way to refresh myself on a regular basis while I look forward to next year’s ski trip…


2 Responses to Hot Tub Transformation

  1. Theresa Smith says:

    Sitting outside my window is a turkey who visits us just about every day. I spend sometime just watching her. The adult hairy woodpecker has brought her baby to our suet feeder giving the baby a lesson in eating suet. I’ve learned how to do “nothing” after all. It wasn’t easy. I still find myself feeling guilty.

    • kcmayer says:

      Good for you! Remember it is ok to feel guilty at times as long as it is not all-encompassing. Thanks for reminding me the importance of doing nothing!

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