Age 7. I think that's when it began.
That year, I was officially old enough to go on the annual dad/kid canoe trip. There's nothing cooler than a rite of passage when you're 7. Because it was my first year, I couldn't be in a canoe with my best friend, Crissy. Or with my brother and sister (as if they'd even WANT me in their canoe). Nope, I was in a canoe with my dad. (Thinking back on it now, that must have sucked for him. Fifteen miles of paddling pretty much by himself. I mean, what good is a 7-year-old in a canoe?)
So, it must have been about three miles into the trip when I realized: I have got to pee. NOW. My dad told me to go for a "swim" and pee in the water. I was horrified by this suggestion and refused. Being 7, I had no concept of 15 miles. Being 37, my dad knew very well how long 15 miles was going to be with a kid who needed to pee. About a mile later, he presented me with my only remaining alternative: Peeing in the woods. Later I would perfect the art of peeing in the great outdoors (and seriously, when you're a girl it IS an art). But, at 7, I had never heard of people doing such things. After much convincing (and probably a few threats) I agreed that it was the only option. My dad steered the canoe to the bank and led me up a hill, looking for the perfect place to do my business.
And then it happened.
I looked down at the forest floor and there were spiders scurrying everywhere. And I was barefoot. I tried to convince my dad this was not a good idea, that I could hold it for the rest of the trip. No dice. He found me a tree, then walked about halfway down the hill so I could have some privacy.
Now please let me tell you what is involved in pulling off a pee squat when you're a 7-year-old girl with no peeing-in-the-woods experience: It means you're completely exposed by the time you've gotten your bathing suit down to the necessary level. It was when I was in this exposed state that I realized that the tree in front of me was also covered in spiders.
That's when the shouts for my dad and the tears began. My dad lumbered back up the hill to see me half-naked and doing a kind of weird spider avoidance dance. The poor man did the only thing he could think of (the only thing that would get him to the end of that 15 miles): He held me up above the ground, facing away from the spider-infested tree and DEMANDED that I pee. And lucky for me, about three canoes from our group passed by at this precise moment and they all somehow managed to spot us up on the hill. (Yeah, thanks for picking such a *secluded* spot, dad.) There were shouts of, "Hey, whatcha guys doing up there?" and a lot of laughter.
When you have an experience like this, you've got no choice but to learn how to perfect the pee squat. I've done that. But the spiders ... I still can't get over the spiders.