It’s that time of year again — temperatures are rising, school’s out and if you’re like me, you start an inner final-phase countdown toward the two months you live ten for: summer vacation.
Thing is, it ain’t necessarily what it used to be. As a grown-up, summer “break” starts with a mad scramble of labeling underwear, a seemingly endless stream of P (planning, prepping and packing) and the inevitable draining of all your assets (time, energy, finances) and ends with someone else heading out for the time of her/his life while you sit at home, hitting the goddamn refresh button on the camp website to see if you can catch a glimpse of your kid looking as happy as you always were when you were her/his age.
All I can say is STOP THAT. Stop it right now because you and I both know that once a camper, always a camper. You don’t need to live vicariously through your child because camp is in your blood and makes you a better person every single day.
Want proof? Last year I pulled 100 reasons you’ll always be a camper out of my psychic camper trunk like that; this year, thanks to a little help from my camp amigos who are my friends for life and THAT’S THE NUMBER ONE REASON YOU’LL ALWAYS BE A CAMPER — here’s s’more:
100) You’re never afraid to get up in front of a crowd and make a bloody fool of yourself because… talent show.
99) When your daughter got her period, you had 17 different ways to explain to her how to use a tampon and a demonstration so graphic that there was no time for either one of you to freak out or panic. Somewhere your bunk 13 counselor is smiling because her Period Padawan just became a Jedi Master of Menstruation.
98) Sure, you shower regularly, but frankly you’d rather sponge off in a rainstorm or just hop in a lake.
97) Two words either excite you beyond belief or strike incredible terror in your heart: ropes course.
96) MOST of your Facebook friends are camp friends — and they show up in your stream because you ALWAYS comment on their posts with some stupid reference to summer 1978 (or 1992 or 2007 whenever you were a camper).
95) You forgive yourself for bad haircuts, unflattering shorts, overly cropped tops, saggy bathing suits and a litany of embarrassing old looks because inside nobody was cooler than you at camp and that’s the one true emotion you remember best.
94) You can do things with toilet paper than most mere mortals would never even think of.
93) When you need a vote of confidence, you close your eyes and think about that moment in camp when you got up on one ski, won a campfire award, led a team to victory, kick ass in tennis or… [Fill in your camp win here].
92) You realize all your current day BBFs (Best Bunkies Forever) were either from your camp or loved their own camp. But s/he’s definitely a camp person.
91) Sundays are the days you do your laundry and dinner’s go-to meal is hot dogs and beans.
90) If someone asks you to sing a song, a camp song is the first thing that comes to mind… and you still know every single word.
89) You own a vacation home or plan vacations to the area where you went to camp as a kid because that’s the way life should be….
88) In any situation, be it work, PTA, youth sports, etc., you automatically decide who of the other parents you’d pick to be on your Color War team… and whom you wouldn’t.
87) You still pull off a midnight kitchen raid here and there. Bonus points if you lock your own fridge just to be sure you still remember how to pick locks!
86) When your parents come over for a visit, you secretly sing to yourself: “Today is Visiting Day, today is Visiting Day, today is Visiting Day, today is Visiting Day…” and hope they bring you Tiger Beat magazines, new shorts, a can or two of Pringles and maybe a small bag of pistachio nuts.
85) You make your bed every day… with hospital corners.
84) You could easily withstand torture because you’ve lived with splinters under your fingernails (from jacks), atomic wedgies (from fellow campers and/or unruly ski boat wakes), had your ear double pierced with some ice and a (sorta) sterilized needle and survived deprivation from society’s influences (no TV, screens, interaction with family)… and loved it.
83) Whenever Free Bird or Stairway to Heaven comes on the radio, you pull over and wait patiently for someone to ask you to slow dance.
82) You can’t ride in a van or a bus without singing a dirty ditty at the top of your lungs or at least giving three cheers for the bus driver. This is especially embarrassing on public transportation, but then again – you’re not easily embarrassed.
81) Given the opportunity to go to a high-end spa or shave your legs with a dozen other women in broad daylight on a porch with nothing more than flimsy disposable razors, small cups of water and Barbasol shaving cream, there’s no question what you’d do.
80) When it’s time to get dressed, you raid your family’s drawers for something “better” to wear – even if what you choose looks like shit on you, it’s always better when it’s someone else’s.
79) You can easily slip in and out of places undetected, like a ninja… or a true camper.
78) Rainy days always make you want to go roller skating. And go you do — because real campers roller skate. (Or at least enjoy eating candy and playing video games rink-side.)
77) You throw the best birthday parties for your kids because you pull out camp ideas for the theme. (Birthday ball, costume ball… and ask me if you want to know what Headquarters is & how can be the best tween or teen party EVER.)
76) Your heart skips a beat when you get mail or a phone call. A care package throws you into a full-on frenzy.
75) You can easily skip putting on makeup, doing your hair or even getting out of your PJs and happily head out for a beautiful day, anyway.
74) The smell of cut grass whisks you back to dreamy camp mornings and beats the hell out of any other scent.
73) I’m not saying you’re an artisan, but left in an Arts ‘n Craft shed for an hour, I know you’d come out with a perfect clay pot, a yummy smelling beeswax candle, a fetching box-stitch gimp keychain, a macramé plant holder and at least one tie-dyed pair of socks.
72) You learned the fine art of smuggling contraband by enlisting the kitchen staff and/or your counselors to bring you precious things (Dunkin’ Munchkins, gum, a pack of smokes).
71) Appreciation of nature – sun and moon, stars and sky, dirt under your feet, shady trees, the call of the loon, lake and ocean – fills your heart and reminds you that you’d rather be at camp.
70) Oars in the water are music to your ears.
69) You get along with pretty much anyone because you’ve lived in tight quarters with a dozen or more people – Kumbaya, y’all, Kumbaya!
68) Your ankles are for shit now thanks to a lifetime devotion to flip flops, Dr. Scholl’s and/or plain old going barefoot.
67) When you get sick you wish there was a nearby infirmary to check yourself into to sweat it out in wool blankets while watching old TV shows on a black and white television and sipping cold Gingerale — a luxury!
66) After lunch is always rest hour.
65) When you are in a meeting and the person presenting is droning on, you alternatively wish s/he could at least talk with flair and rhythm, add claps or end up being drowned out by a spontaneous cheer that wells up from you and your compadres.
64) James Taylor is your jam. (So are Cat Stevens, Carly Simon and Kenny Loggins). (Feel free to fill in the sappy/acoustic guitar heroes of your generation here.)
63) There is a rock out there somewhere that you need to be sitting on right now with your BBF.
62) Judy Blume taught you everything you needed to know about sex. Well, she and your first social crush.
61) You understand that if you were someone’s counselor, that wasn’t just for a summer or two – it’s a lifelong commitment to being their biggest cheerleader and conversely, shoulder to cry on.
60) The scent of bug spray and sunscreen is the sexiest combo you know.
59) When you don’t get milk and cookies before bed, you’re pissed.
58) You have an impressive prank repertoire, from short-sheeting beds to stealing everyone’s underwear, sticking fingers in hot water to bring on uncontrollable pee urges, etc. – and you’re not afraid to use them on your friends and family.
57) You have scars and perma-bruises all over your body from doing things in the dark, blindfolded and/or at top speed. Or all three scenarios at once.
56) Any silly experience instantaneously turns into a song.
55) There’s a good chance if there’s a powdered drink or food product laying around, you’ll eat it raw (cocoa, Kool-Aid, Jell-O, Lipton’s Cup a Soup, etc.)
54) You still think of your camp directors as your REAL aunts and uncles… and maybe even honorary moms and dads.
53) When you’re packing for a trip, you either fight the urge to put name tags on your clothing or just do it anyways — you know what a drag it is when your clothes get mixed up with everyone else’s.
52) You lost your virginity at camp…the time you decided to try to do a split on the balance beam.
51) You’re not a stand-up comedian, but you know how to get a crowd of people to laugh nonetheless.
50) On a hot summer day, nothing quenches your thirst quite like a cold glass of bug juice.
49) You have been known to initiate a tickle chain or two.
48) When there is an activity you REALLY don’t want to do, you have to fight the impulse to hide in the bathroom… literally stand on the toilet so nobody can see your feet under the door.
47) You keep colorful wigs, suspenders, tutus and other props ‘n costumes in your closet just in case you have to dress up in the spur of the moment… and, for the record, you’re not in any kind of vocation that normally requires disguises (i.e. clown, hooker, celebrity), but as an eternal camper you know the power of a sparkly, eye-ball grabbing outfit.
46) You’ve had some bad scares in your life, but nothing as terrifying as that one year’s Color War break was [fill in your blank: mine was a faked kidnapping and possible rape… hullo, scare tactics of the 1970s!]
45) What happens at camp, stays at camp. Sort of… first the thing that happened is encrypted in a funny shorthand, then it becomes your “Last Will” in your camp yearbook, then decades later when you run into an old camp friend the first thing s/he says to you is that code word/phrase for that thing that happened at camp all those years ago.
44) Speaking of what happens at camp… some of your life’s most important firsts went down there.
43) You set your phone’s alarm ringtone to a bugle. It’s like a Pavlovian response to get your ass in gear; every time I hear a bugle I’m sure I’m going to miss breakfast… and I HATE missing breakfast!
42) You have spirit, pep and zest. And you’re not afraid to show it.
41) Camp made you feel cool because all activities are geared towards leveling the playing field — and everyone is forced out of their comfort zone multiple times a day. Whether your jam is theater, sports, academics or art, there is some place you excel and make a positive name for yourself at camp. Even your weaknesses are your strengths because those displays are the ones that get the biggest laughs WITH you (not at you) at camp.
40) There are many uses for a tennis court besides playing tennis… and you know them all. (Starting with star gazing, people, STAR GAZING! Get your mind out of the gutter! Wait, I’m sorry, maybe that was just MY mind…)
39) You’re very comfortable walking around outside in your underwear and bra — sometimes you think of your skivvies as a costume, and sometimes they actually are.
38) Hugs are your jam.
37) You get chills when you think about what your kids are going to experience because you know the feels that camp brings on.
36) Happiness is a daily candy bar fresh out of canteen, sitting on your bed and waiting for you.
35) You can easily find a peppermint lifesaver in a plate of whipped cream with your hands tied behind your back. This is a life skill that has endless applications when you really think about it.
34) Every Saturday night you secretly wish you had a social.
33) All someone has to do is yell “SING DOWN,” and you will bury that bitch with your vast knowledge of obscure show tunes, pop music (especially the summer hits), sappy folk songs and of course, camp ditties (which count, goddamnit!)
32) I’m not saying you’re an exhibitionist, but there’s a good chance you’ve streaked to the Rec Hall on a dare, dangled from a rafter naked, flashed a truck driver on the way to a camping trip or day off (if you were a counselor) and skinny dipped… a lot.
31) You’ve had a greased watermelon in between your legs. This is not a euphemism.
30) Sometimes when you’re putting on your makeup for the day, you decide you’d look better in warpaint and go with that look, just because sometimes we all need a shot of Color War empowerment.
29) You can burp and/or fart on command. This is a skill that you worked very hard on and mastered at camp.
28) Katniss Everdeen’s got nothing on you because… archery.
27) You know a bunch of Native American expressions — none of them real, all of them politically incorrect — and yet what would a campfire be without them?
26) Camp services are your spiritual jam, because under the trees next to your BBFs (best bunkies forever), you find love, connection, peace and gratitude embodied.
25) You lost your virginity at camp… trying to get back into your canoe after you capsized it.
24) Sure you get your hair professionally dyed now BUT left to your own devices, you could pull off reasonable highlights with a jar of Jolen creme bleach, a bottle of Sun-In or even plain old lemon juice.
23) Whatever you favorite activity at camp was you still consider yourself a master at — even if you haven’t waterskied/sailed/made pottery/etc. in a million years.
22) You’ve had a close encounter with a bat and lived to tell the tale.
21) You have a closet full of camp memorabilia — yearbooks, songbooks, camp t-shirts, plaques, arts ‘n crafts projects — and that’s you’d save first in a fire. (After your family and pets, of course. Well, probably.)
20) You believe in magic. And unicorns, rainbows and mermaids. Because you know enchantment up close and personal.
19) You may not remember what you ate for breakfast, but you do remember the words to the Color War songs you learned when you were 10.
18) Secrets are always safe with you. And you have a bunch of BBFs out there that keep your secrets, too.
17) You can do a reasonable British accent thanks to BUNAC counselors. (Well, not really but they indulged you anyway; just as you encouraged their “American” accents, which always had a Texas-by-way-of-London twang.)
16) Camp is located in your favorite ‘hood: sisterhood, brotherhood.
15) You understand that swimming is really about laying on a dock working on your tan. This is something your swim counselor taught you. (Did I mention I was a swim counselor for five years?)
14) You recognize the irony in the name “ball fields” very intimately. (See #34 and #62, respectively.)
13) You’re basically gender fluid, thanks to all the many times you went in drag at camp.
12) You can chitchat anywhere, but your preference is on a porch with no lighting other then the end of your smoke and a dim mosquito repellent bulb.
11) Sleep isn’t really an issue for you because once you’ve fallen asleep in a room with a dozen or more other people, you learn how to ignore snoring, sleep talking, sleep walking and other things that go bump in the night.
10) The words “happy place” conjure camp, period.
9) You’ve had more “sex” with stuffed animals than anyone really should… but then again, you wouldn’t be the international lover that you are today without all that practice, now would you?
8) You’re happy to go camping, just as long as a counselor shows up to pitch the tent, cook the food over the fire and tell you a super scary ghost story before bed.
7) You can easily whip out a skit in 10 minutes fast when asked. And you’re more than a little sad that you’re not asked to come up with skits so much anymore…. which is why you do improv as a grown-up! (No? Well, you should, I’m just saying.)
6) Everyone panics when Wifi is down, but you can easily live without electronics or screens. This is one of camp’s gifts that’s only grown over time.
5) You love learning new things. This is not anything you developed in a classroom; this is all about that time your counselor taught you some wacky foreign game in landsports, the first time you wake boarded, how you learned to windsurf… and the list goes on.
4) You don’t need Mufasa to illustrate the circle of life to you; you experienced it firsthand when you sent your child(ren) to camp.
3) Balancing a spoon on your nose is just one of the many party tricks you can whip out to amuse and delight your dining companions.
2) There are things you would do for an extra donut that should never be uttered, but it’s also what you’re known for. (See #45)
1) Your camp friends are your friends for life. (REMEMBER I ALREADY SAID THAT?! Second verse, same as the first, a little bit louder and a whole lot worse… OK BETTER!)
Don’t you miss camp now? Don’t you wish there was an amazing camp for adults? My new BBF Tammi Leader Fuller felt that way, too, and that’s why she started Campowerment — a camp experience for grown-ass women who need a shot of joy to help right their lady-ships and set a course for a healthier, happier existence. (Which is what camp does, as we all know!!! Also I enjoy the regatta allusion cuz I really love small crafts =) I just did a mini-camp, and in about five minutes I knew I had to go. SO my BBFs – JOIN ME this November 17-20 in Malibu OR East Coast peeps, there’s a Campowerment happening Sept. 22-25 in the Poconos.
Once a camper, always a camper — isn’t it time we all got back to where we belong?