One Burning Man Story - 2016
On my second day on the playa I decided I would try to find a camp called Costco Soul Mate Trading Outlet. I’d heard about this camp and how busy they can get and how important it was to get there early in the journey so there’d be time to find your soul mate. The way it was explained to me, you go in, fill out a questionnaire, have an interview, they give you a membership card. They put your info in a computer somewhere and mix in their love and magic. You are supposed to go back in a few days with your membership card to pick up your match’s questionnaire with their playa address, and then it’s up to you to find them. Meanwhile, your questionnaire has been given to another person who is searching for you, so it’s a two for one.
I stopped by Playa Info to look at the map and get directions. I innocently approached one of the Oracles and asked, “Where’s Costco?” She looked at me in fright and slowly said, “It’s a little late for that.” I looked back at her and said “Wow, are they already full?” She continued to stare at me in a perplexed way, and reiterated that it was too late for Costco, I should have gone days ago. She had no idea what I was talking about and I imagine was trying to determine if I needed psychiatric care, or emotional support since we were at Burning Man and there were no stores, particularly not a Costco. Luckily another Oracle stepped in and knew exactly what I was asking about. He showed her on the map, and then put his arm around me and walked me toward my soul mate finding dream palace. As we walked he asked if I was seeking a soul mate. “Yes” I replied, “Are you?” He looked at me and said yes, he was in fact looking for a soul mate. Arm in arm we sized each other up, and with our eyes and then our words we asked each other if we could circumvent the process and live happily ever after. Could it truly be that easy? For me, no, never. Somehow we parted and I continued my life without said Oracle.
Approaching Costco I saw a man standing at a fork in the road with a help wanted sign. Hecalled out to me, and I asked if he knew where Costco was. He said they sent him out to find a woman to go in with, so this chance meeting was perfect. We went in and sat side by side filling out our questionnaires while the Violent Femmes sang to me through the speakers. There was a section that asked to have someone else fill out a description of you. Having known each other a full five minutes, we agreed to do that for each other. Right now I can’t recall his name, I think his playa name might have been Sunscreen. As luck would have it, a woman that actually knows me happened to walk in, and I asked her to describe me.
I was taking this Costco soul mate finding process very seriously. For much of my life I have been a competitor, achiever and I like to win things. This is one thing that I have not been able to “win” for most of my life. High achiever academically, check. Successful career, done. Happy loving partnership with a loyal, committed, monogamous, generous, sexy man - evades me.
Interesting notes about the questionnaire: 1) did not ask age; 2) did not ask gender; 3) did not ask age range or gender seeking. I digress.
After we turned in our questionnaires, Sunscreen and I were told to wait to be called back for interviews. We hung out in the hot lounge area. Within minutes I’d made friends with the folks sitting near us and had people up and dancing. Eventually, my name was called and I went back to have a long chat with a big midwestern football player looking guy who told me his sister was a ballerina and he always wanted to dance. Again, I digress. We had a great talk, he seemed to be totally invested in finding a great soul mate for me. By the time we finished talking I had the feeling that this guy was rooting for me in life no matter what I wanted. Me knowing what I wanted was a whole other question.
I went about my life in Black Rock City for a few days, and finally found time to go back and pick up my soul mate’s questionnaire. When I went up to the counter my questionnaire was sitting on the table. I asked to take it and they guy said, “No, that’s not for you, that’s for your soul mate. He’s here. Wait a minute and we’ll get your match.” Wait, what?!?!?!?! The person you picked for me happens to be here now? Seriously? While I was waiting I walked around and handed out schedules for our camp. Most people were happy to see what we are offering, except one tall guy with a rainbow cape who summarily shooed me away.
Finally, the Costco magicians handed me a questionnaire for someone that I had to seek, and the person who was seeking me happened to be in the room. Excitement! Goosebumps! A million what-ifs about to be busted open! I folded the form given to me, decided to look at that later and focus on the person here now. They asked me to go to the microphone and say, “So and So, your soulmate has arrived.” Which I did. It was the guy who tried to shoo me away. He is like 22 years old. I’m 46. Bubble burst, goosebumps gone. Disappointment on the rise for both of us, I imagine. I sit and we talk. As we talk I discover he’s a great guy, and I understand why they matched us, but the age thing is not happening for me. I imagine we could be friends and I’m happy to have more people in my spirit family, and it’s all good, blah blah blah…and….disappointment.
Later that day I take out the other soulmate’s questionnaire and discover he sounds pretty amazing on paper. He lives in Kaui, building a house in Costa Rica, he’s a sculptor, artist, likes working with bamboo, is a hippie, morning person, spiritual. He’s sounding great, and I start to imagine he’s 24, and I’m just not up for more disappointment. I fold the paper up and tuck it in my backpack.
Many of my friends also visited Costco with a range of results, mostly just nice connections, but no major sparks. Hey, we’re all Burners, so there’s a built in connection with a lot of potential, but chemistry’s hard to predict. I was losing hope in Costco. One evening a few of my friends were comparing matches and doing some trading. I decided to take out my match and share it with the group. I kept saying, he’s probably 21 and I just don’t want to put any energy into more disappointment. They loved him, “We need him for our camp, he’s a builder” and “Take one for the team, Jen.”
We joked about sending the guys to go find him and bring him back to play the dating game with me and two of my girlfriends who also went to Costco. I added that we should bring him back when the wedding is happening (yes - two dear friends got married at our camp - it was magical) and tell him that he will be expected to marry the woman he chooses at the end of the dating game. We laughed. The stars filled the sky and time passed.
Next morning I was up at 5 am, as I’m want to do. I took care of my body with a soapy sponge bath, covered myself with coconut oil, brushed my teeth, and set off to find my bamboo building soul mate. He said he’s a morning person, so I took my time and made it to his camp by around 9 am. My time taking included quiet time with a gorgeous sunrise, a stop for coffee and writing at center camp cafe, a chat with a lady at the message sending camp about the soul mate circumstances, a sinus rinse at the Naughty Naked Netty Pot Camp, and shots of healing water (and hugs) from a Reiki master in a frog suit at Aqua Zone.
When I arrived at Such and Such's camp I asked around for him. One of his friends said something like, oh Such and Such, he’s a good looking guy, he did ecstasy and mushrooms last night so he’s probably here sleeping. Um, hmmmm….ah…well…hmmmm….I wasn’t sure what to do with that bit of information. So I just kind of followed as he walked me over to a van and tried to wake Such and Such. Such and Such did not appear. I inquired about Such and Such's age, and was assured he’s somewhere in his forties. Whew, that’s a relief. I left my contact info, and took off on my bike.
On my way home I met a fabulous man called Lucky from Telluride. He stopped his giant art car when he saw me, slowly stepped down to approach and embrace me. I never saw him again. I digress.
I made it back home for morning dance. Amazing as usual. After lunch I helped give away ham sandwiches on the corner of 5:00 & A, and then it was time to breathe deeply with the bride to be. Oh such beautiful grace, as she would say. I won’t try to tell the story of these two lovelies here and now. That’s their story to tell. Just know that I was moving back and forth across camp changing into wedding attire, gathering a few needed items of support when I was interrupted twice. First interruption came from a woman in a pink wig and platform boots. It was Angel, one of my travel companions who was saying to me that our driver had an emergency and needed to leave the playa now. All I could say is that my dear friends are getting married in 15 minutes, and I hope all will be well with her and the driver and I will find a way to get home. Ciao, hugs.
Yes - my ride fell through less than 36 hours before agreed upon Exodus. Next interruption, as I’m pulling on my dress, I hear my name. I unzip the door and poke my head out. “Hi, are you Jen? I’m Such and Such, your soul mate.” Wow, what timing. “Hi, Love. My friends are getting married in ten minutes.” I say. “May I be your wedding date?” He asks. Oh my, ok, sure, I guess. Quick, dissolve the other guy I haven’t mentioned in this story. Whew, Mrs. God is on my side.
Such and Such sits with me at the wedding and is a great sport about it all. He seems to know people and fits in easily. After the ceremony we dance, and I introduce him to friends. He knows nothing about me. He meets one of my friends who proceeds to tell him about our dating game idea. We laugh about it, and then talk about it more, and decide why not, let’s do it! We rounded up bachelorette number three and got one of the guys to emcee.
Such and Such took the game rather seriously with questions, and we responded in kind with real answers. It became clear, at least to me, pretty quickly that Such and Such was not my true love, and what I really wanted to do was take off for an adventure with my dear friend and known soul mate, Bachelorette #3. We stayed seated through the game, and in the end Such and Such chose Bachelorette #1. Bless their hearts. Off to the Burn they went.