BRYCE CANYON — I would like to begin with the following multiple choice question for guys. Please circle the correct response.
Question: What color socks do you wear with your shorts and sandals?
C. Navy blue
D. SOCKS WITH SANDALS? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
You will find the answer to today's question at the end of this column. But first, let me tell you the true story about the day I realized why I love American men.
My husband and I once lived in Finland, which is a cold, vodka-intensive country in northern Europe. It's extremely beautiful there — when you can see it, which turns out to be for a couple of hours on Midsummer's Eve. Other than that, it's pretty much dark 24/7, which means you wander around a lot, bumping into other people, as well as a lot of big trees.
The Finns are a tough, hardy people. They have to be to survive in such a harsh climate. I admired their grit, but (not being hardy or tough or Finnish myself) I was confused by their Spartan responses to things. For example, if I were living in a cold dark place on top of the world, I think I would find little ways to pamper myself. Eat yummy food, for example. Sleep in a comfy bed. Take hot baths. Listen to good music.
Not the Finns.
They dine on Bering sprat. They sleep on thin foam mattresses on top of wooden cots. They charge naked through snow-covered forests and leap into lakes where polar bears float on ice. They listen to polka music.
"What do Americans think of us?" I was often asked by Finns we met. I didn't have the heart to tell them that Americans never think about Finns, except once every four years when they win all the ski-jumping events during the Winter Olympic games. So I lied.
"Americans think you have sisu," I said. "In fact, we are jealous we don't have as much sisu as you do."
Sisu is a Finnish term for "inner fortitude," which Finns have in truckloads. In fact, it is against the law to be a wimp in Finland, so this answer from a wimpy American girl named moi always pleased them.
Generally speaking, I was happy there. "Happy in Helsinki!" was practically my middle name. But one day I was overwhelmed by a massive case of homesickness, triggered by the sight of a pair of men's shoes.
I was waiting at a bus stop, standing next to a Finnish man who looked like a Nordic god. Tall. Strong. Ripped. Good teeth. If he'd been a horse, I'd have bought him, because this guy was the total Valhalla package. Except for his shoes. Which had sissy little Velcro strips instead of shoelaces. Oddly fascinated, I kept staring at them, trying to imagine my dad wearing those shoes. Or my brothers. Or my husband.
Just couldn't do it.
Suddenly I was homesick for America, land of the free and home of the brave, where the men aren't perfect, but where they at least have enough sense to wear manly shoes with manly shoelaces at a bus stop.
I was reminded of this experience as I hiked around Bryce Canyon enjoying nature along with busloads of tourists from the major European nations. I'm here in southern Utah with my husband and his extended family for a family reunion, and I'm sure we look silly (possibly even scary) wearing our matching T-shirts whenever we make a public appearance. But at least the guys in our group are NOT wearing dark socks with sandals. Which brings us back to our multiple-choice question.
You can answer it any way you want to. This is Utah, honey, and the world is welcome here.
(If you want me to have a little crush on you, however, choose "d.")