What happens if you step off the beaten path

by singlemomseeking on February 25, 2008

poison-oak.gifI wasn’t going to write about Him in my blog because I’d already promised him that I wouldn’t.

But I can’t hold it in anymore.

I’ve never gone this long without blogging. Granted, I was in New York City last week, riding the subway up and down Manhattan with M, as well as meeting my go-getting’ new agent, the infamous Trey Ellis (and I mean that in the best, most honorable way) and my spunky LifetimeTV editor.

But here’s where I fess up: I actually had a date on Valentine’s Day. Really. I’d gone out with this Biologist once before, and it was just what you’d hope for in a first date: comfortable, fun, open, genuine, flirty. When I told him about my book, he didn’t seem intimidated.

The problem? The Biologist lives far away. I’m talking over an hour and a half away — without traffic. I just couldn’t fathom driving three hours round-trip, having a date, and driving back home. Granted, he could do all the driving… but that seems like a lot to ask.

Just before Valentine’s Day, however, he called me out of the blue and said, “I heard that you don’t have a date for Valentine’s Day–”

Me: “How did you hear that?”

Him: “Well, I got curious—”

Me: “You read my blog?”

Him: “I know all about the Postman.”

Me: “No!”

Him: “It’s okay, it doesn’t bother me… So, would you like to go out for Valentines Day?”

I was honey. We planned to go on a hike in the local national park. M had the flu for 5 days that week and it was my first time out of the house (thanks to Grandpa for coming over for a few hours!). The Biologist brought his binoculars and bird book; it was touching.

At one point, he wanted to look for a salamander. There had just been a big rain, and he was sure that he could find one under a log. No luck. Then he saw a big log off the trail. I told him that I never go off-trail because of poison oak. I used to get it really badly as a kid. Also, after a big rain, I could only imagine how potent the poison might be.

He said, “There’s no poison oak. It’s just blackberry bushes.”

I hesitated. He’s the expert, after all. (Sure, it was my choice to step off the beaten path. But as one of my guy friends pointed out, No Means No. FYI, we didn’t find any salamanders, either.)

I started itching that night. By the time M and I boarded the plane, my left arm was covered in red bumps. My friends with whom we stayed in Manhattan were angels. They ran out for me to buy gauze and Cortaid. As the days passed, I went through another bottle of Calamine. I thought I’d be okay, but it was getting bright red and swollen. M wanted to help me put more gauze on before we went outside, as her 8-year-old friend shrieked out of disgust. Sorry to get gross on you, but when it started to get pussy, I knew I was in trouble.

Last night, back in California, my entire left arm swelled up. At 4 a.m., I couldn’t move my fingers. It was scary. I knew this meant infection. I tried to hide my fear from M, but she caught me crying this morning into the phone with the doctor.

“Are you going to be okay, Mommy?”

“Yes, honey.”

But I wasn’t sure, until the doctor told me so. Yes, my poison oak had gotten infected. I’m on steroids for the first time in my life, along with antibiotics four times a day. At least the swelling is down so I can type.

In the meantime, I emailed the Biologist — and also left him a message — to let him know what happened. He has apologized profusely on my voice mail.

I haven’t called him back. I can’t say that I’m feeling very fond of him right now.

Please tell me: If this happened to you, would you muster up every bit of forgiveness and go on another date?… Or walk the other way?

Image from California Poison Action Line, whom I called to ask if I should go to a doctor.

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

M. D. Vaden of Oregon January 5, 2009 at 10:50 pm

Treat your loved ones to this page:


With the included albums, it helps people identify poison_oak in the winter too; partly by knowing what it is not, when the leaves are gone.

When in doubt, stay on the trail, and wrap arms tight around the body.


tigresscalliope April 17, 2008 at 3:20 pm

Are you kidding? SO romantic. The first time I went skiing with my fiance I fell, got a fat lip and a black eye (and probably a concussion, judging by the uncontrollable shivers and dizziness…)

It was my fault. I was trying to impress him. I saw a small bump coming up on the hill and thought (with dread) “oh god moguls!” so I aimed right for it, in an attempt to slow me down.

It was not a mogul. It was a rock. there was no snow under it. That is where I landed, on my head.

Anyhoo, he had ASKED if I was okay with doing diamond trails and I was all “are you kidding me? of COURSE!” but I insisted on leading because (at the time) my ass looked GREAT in ski pants and I knew it!

Um, point is, however convoluted, I long to know biologists. I long to search for salamanders, and finding a guy who still has that wonder and awe for a life so small? Poison oak be DAMNED. I love this story!!


oscar March 6, 2008 at 4:12 pm



Hunter March 4, 2008 at 9:26 am

The correct magazine name for Rachel’s feature article is Family Circle (March 2008), not Woman’s Day.

Remedy info update:
Johnson & Johnson Anti-Itch Clear Gel –
Immediate Cooling Relief For Insect Bites and Poison Ivy/Oak/Sumac External Analgesic
This product formerly known as Ruligel.


Hunter March 3, 2008 at 8:52 pm

Hi Rachel,
I didn’t know about the poison oak until seeing your blog tonight(just bought the Family Circle March issue, bravo!).
Sorry you have had so much pain and stress from the botanical irritant.
Every time I have gotten it, I bi-pass the standard/recommended Calamine lotion and instead use Ruligel. It’s a clear gel in a tube that relieves the itching and heals the affected area in a week or so.
Figure on using at least a tube a day.
Wishing you quick healing up, restored faith in nature and MANkind.
I’m so glad that you & M got to be in NYC. I hope she’s all over her flu.


Leslie February 27, 2008 at 7:47 am

Aw Zenseeker made me misty!

I can’t wait to hear more about the biologist, I know there’s good stuff yet to come.


Dr. J February 27, 2008 at 6:55 am

When I read the title? heading? headline,
tag?(whatever it’s called in blogspeak) of this this post I immediately thought of a different question, perhaps a little rhetorical, that you were posing to us.

We can go through life down the middle of the path with clean shoes and deodorant, but real life, like evolution, goes along in spurts and jumps along the edges. What is our approach to relationships, or life in general

The Robert Frost poem Stopping By Woods came to mind. The path less traveled made all the difference.

Thoreau also talks to us about different drummers. My 13-year-old, Granger, does not hear a different drummer. He hears the entire percussion section. This frequently makes for sweat and muddy shoes, for which I have become thankful, ultimately, because it prods me (not forces) to think and understand the complexity of life and the plurality that makes life possible.

Glad you’re feeling better.


VJ February 26, 2008 at 7:21 pm

Well I had several thoughts here Rachael.

1.) All things considered, this man probably owes you a dinner.

2.) Always. Always wear long sleeves & long pants when in the woods or when in fields searching for something in unfamiliar territory. It’s real hard to avoid scratching up against something nasty. Or getting bitten by something strange or common. Ditto for the full strength Deet bug juice, sun screen where applicable. And good boots. So winter’s the time to explore actually…

3.) It’s actually hard to ID many plants after a hard rain. The pics they have to ID plants are taken in full sunshine, and we have a hard time recalling what so & so looks like when wet. Still the proper response here was for him to say, ‘Wait here a bit while I do a quick search’. There was no reason for you to be joining him in that jaunt.

4.) Blogging while in a relationship while everyone knows you’ve got a blog relating your experiences as a single dating mom? Incredibly difficult. It takes the incredible dedicated skills of a diplomat and a terse, tight lipped reticent Yankee farmer of yore. In short, it’s damn near impossible to please everyone, but here you’ll almost be happy just to please yourself on occasion.

5.) Still we’re always hopeful, and despite the infection (always Nothing to sneeze at!), I think a man with such fans deserves another chance. As long as it’s sitting down in a nice restaurant while he’s explaining the biological journey of the food on offer. OK maybe not. But sitting down avoiding field biology for a date is a good thing & a good start.

Cheers & Hoipe you’re doing better soon, ‘VJ’


Ms Single Mama February 26, 2008 at 7:09 pm

See? You do like him! Yay! Maybe one day you’ll be laughing about this. It took my boyfriend a while to get used to me writing about him – but when it’s all said and done – it’s really not a big issue. If anything – gives them a one up b/c they can really understand where we’re coming from. It’s like a bible on how to date me. Wish he had one I could read. : )


Amy February 26, 2008 at 7:04 pm

Hey Rachel,

It sounds like an honest mistake – and truly something to laugh about later.

You didn’t really mention how he assured you that “off trail” would be safe. If he was genuine and kind in assuring you that you were safe – then I wouldn’t give it a second thought about whether or not you should see him again. On the other hand – if he said something like “Don’t be a big baby, just come on!” Or was very condescending and bossy about it – then that would ahve been a different story. I am not saying that would have made him a bad guy – but it would be something that you would want to consider simply to determine if you see yourself being compatable with that type of a guy.

But really – sounds like he is a good guy and worth a shot.



Susan February 26, 2008 at 6:20 pm

I’m with zenseeker…I think this might just be the start of something good.

And if not, well you got the blog material 🙂

Welcome back!


singlemomseeking February 26, 2008 at 3:10 pm

To the Biologist’s Friend:

OMG. You’ve made me forget all about the poison oak. Please thank your wife. I’ve heard about you two from the Biologist.

Well, I was super excited about getting to know him, too. Even before reading your note, I called him to say that I’ll wrap up my arm soon so I can see him again. Maybe indoors this time.

He was very, very good to handle my post so well. It says a lot about him.

And it says even more that he has such good friends.

Kimberly: ah, you’re right. I can’t believe that everyone has come to his defense. I’m sure he’s loving that.


Kimberly February 26, 2008 at 2:00 pm

Hun, as much as I would like to be a bitter old hag and blame him completely.. I can’t. Yes he is the BIOLOGIST and should have known… based on that, but YOU knew that the chances of this happening were pretty high. So I think .. he deserves another chance provided he didn’t drag you into the bushes!
Next time you will know better.


biologist's friend February 26, 2008 at 1:59 pm

I’ve had the priviledge of being the Biologist’s friend for 23 years (although that might all change when he finds out that I am writing this!)…

Just wanted to say that Biologist man is an incredibly sweet, intelligent, and funny guy. When I last spoke to him he was super excited about getting to know you, and showed us your blog.

Now Biologist man is kind of low key and modest, in the sense that while he probably doesn’t consider it ideal to have his relationships scrutinized on the web….I am sure he can handle it.

And Biologist man likes to drive, and has friends with whom he’s always welcome to stay in the Bay Area…

So in conclusion, those of us who know Biologist man whole-heartedly encourage you to put up with his occasional off-trail trekking. We find that he functions equally well in an urban environment.


Biologist Man’s Friend (with help from Biologist Man’s Friend’s wife)


zenseeker February 26, 2008 at 1:01 pm

Hey…you never know… this could end up being one of the stories you tell at your 40th anniversary party. 😉


singlemomseeking February 26, 2008 at 9:59 am

Now that the drugs are really kicking in, my sanity is coming back.

Alice: You’re right, it’s a silly question. I would go out with him again. Just give me time to heal.

Ms. Single Mama: The fact that he’s okay with the fact that I wrote about him — he read this last night — shows what a good guy he is. I guess I should re-title this entry, “OUT OF THE WOODS.”


Ms. Single Mama February 26, 2008 at 8:22 am

Wow. Yeah. He might be a bit upset about this entry..yikes. Not sure what to say…but if you really liked him you would have overlooked it? Aside from the Poison Oak would you want to see him again? I guess what I’m trying to say is – if you really were into a guy even poison oak wouldn’t keep you away from him. Right?

And – it’s no one’s “fault.” It just happened. I feel bad for him though…he was probably so excited to take you into the woods. Worst case scenario.


alice February 26, 2008 at 7:43 am

I have a hard time believing that you’re asking that question seriously – would you honestly not date someone you find attractive, fun and appealing because of an honest mistake? (I’m assuming the the foregoing are true, because you went out with him in the first place.)

Yes, that mistake led you to make a decision that led to a lot of suffering on your part, but I just can’t imagine seeing that one mistake as a dealbreaker.

I hope that New York was fun, despite the copious amounts of calamine!


singlemomseeking February 26, 2008 at 7:37 am

Amy: Yes, it was my fault. You’re right.

I don’t know if he would go out with me again because he just read this blog, and I think I’ve pissed him off.

Amy Nathan: He asked me out to dinner on voicemail, he has been extremely apologetic. At this point, I can barely stand to wear a long-sleeved shirt because it hurts so much. So, maybe after this heals…. if we’re able to talk through this.

Leslie: I actually hike a lot, but it’s going off the trail that did me in. As long as I stay in the dotted lines, I’m safe.

Dr. J: That sounds like a beautiful epiphany. Thanks.


Dr. J February 26, 2008 at 6:36 am

If poison oak is the worst that ever happens to us in a relationship, we should feel fortunate (but I have missed your blog updates.)


Leslie February 26, 2008 at 6:21 am

I’d definitely go out with him again, I bet he feels terrible anyway! Sounds like you should avoid woods in the future – what a mess!


Amy Nathan February 26, 2008 at 4:37 am

Has he asked you out again? If you like him, then go. And wear long sleeves.


Amy February 26, 2008 at 3:44 am

You should totally go out with him again.

As much as I’d like to not say this… it was actually your fault. You know yourself. You know the situations when you were/are likely to get the poison oak… You second guessed yourself & should have just gone with your first gut instinct..


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