Live Through This

Notes on Camp

First kisses, Friendship Night, and the importance of snuggling.

Illustration by Olivia

It takes a certain person to be a camp person. Camp people reading this know who they are. Rookie writers Lesley and Elizabeth are both camp people, plus best friends in real life. I know! It’s cute. And as camp people, one of the many things they have in common is their raging love for the summer bonding meccas of their respective youths. Elizabeth went to Camp Merriwood, an all-girls camp in New Hampshire; and Lesley went to Camp Summit, a coed camp in upstate New York.

We asked them to have a Gchat about their summer-camp experiences. And they did so! Here’s proof:

LESLEY ARFIN: Yo dude.

ELIZABETH SPIRIDAKIS: Hiiii.

LA: Let’s talk camp.

ES: How many years did you go and how long was it every summer?

LA: I started in ’87 and left in…’93? ’94? It was 8 weeks. What about you?

ES: Five summers, ’89-’94. Seven weeks. In the wilds of New Hampshire. The best summers of my life, no contest. It is honestly the best thing my parents have ever done for me.

LA: It was the best thing my parents ever did for me, too. I still have dreams about camp and still go to the reunions and we all still love each other so much. We have a whole Facebook page where we all bond over mem’ries.

ES: I have dreams about camp too!

LA: I had my first kiss at camp. Were there any boys you guys used to see? Have dances with?

ES: Yes. We had a brother camp, Moosilauke, that we shared athletic fields with, and had dances and stuff with, but those boys weren’t cute. They were, like, our bros. Sometimes we snuck them over to hang out, but not for making out—just to chill and be a little bad, I guess? The really cute boys went to Kingswood and Deerwood. If you met a boy at a dance (I think we called them “socials” like it was 1952) and kissed after or whatevs, he gave you his shirt. The Deerwood ones were navy blue with a white D on the front.

LA: Cute! We had things we called “socials” and the big dances were called “discos.”

ES: DISCOS!!!! I love that. Coed camp seems STRESSFUL.

LA: It WAS stressful.

ES: I had middle school and high school to be worried about boys. I loved having the summer free.

LA: It’s weird, because I was friends with so many girls, but the girls in my group, whom I loved, ended up getting very competitive over guys.

ES: Of course! Because you were, like, 14! That is normal.

LA: The puberty thing was a hot-button issue. The girls with the big boobs got boyfriends. So I got dissed a lot.

ES: Awww, Lessles! I learned how to shave my legs at camp, and how to put in a tampon.

LA: OMG ME TOO! Re: shaving.

ES: What a mindblower shaving was.

LA: When I first shaved my legs, I cut myself soooo deep.

ES: Ohhhhhh.

LA: It was scary. I might still have the scar—I don’t feel like looking right now.

ES: I have a scar on my inner thigh from camp. Some sort of driftwood incident.

LA: Hahaha driftwood incident. So much goes on at camp every summer. I think about things and still laugh. We had a lot of private jokes that seemed super funny at the time. And songs we would listen to together in a really serious way. Like “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor.

ES: JAMES TAYLOR WAS HUGE. We had this thing called Friendship Night. It was toward the end of the summer and it was dark outside and everyone had a lit candle. We would sing this song about friends and then file into the dining room, where you were supposed to sit in silence and write a letter to yourself to read the next year. If you were a returning camper, you would have all your letters from the summers before to read. I would kill to find those letters. WHAT did I write to myself at 15??!?!?!

LA: I have a big bag of the letters I used to write to my parents from camp. “Dear Mom, send me a package. Love, Lesley.”

ES: Hahaha. I got drunk for the first time at camp. When you were 14 you got to go on a trip to MONTREAL, where the drinking age is 18. They sent all these 14-year-olds with a few 21-year-old college girls. The tradition was to buy cases of beer and get wasted in your hotel room. Because at least one girl could pass for 18. It was the first time I ever really drank beer. It was so gross to me. But I chugged it all night, like seven beers! I can’t even drink that much now. We were WASTED.

LA: Did your counselors enourage it or something?

ES: No. But they would go out on their own and we were, like, wasted in a hotel.

LA: Sounds so fun. I went to an art program when I was a junior in high school called the Bennington July Program. Me and this girl drank Scope to “get drunk” and then we made out with each other.

ES: You had such a Sapphic teenagedom.

LA: Did any of your girl friends at camp make out? Secret lesbians or bi-curious?

ES: There was a lot of nonsexual affection. Like, we slept on these tiiiiiny cots? And it was customary to share one with your best friend. Me and Melissa Stevens shared a teensy cot for weeks.

LA: Aww cute. Lizzie I wanna snugs with you in a non-lez way!

ES: LET’S GET SNUGS!!! LIZ N LEZ NON LEZ SNUGS.

LA: Yes! It’s on! I love snugg’lin.

ES: Me too.

LA: Some girls get freaked out but not this girl!

ES: Epic snuggler.

LA: OK I think this is a good ending. A plan to snuggle. An all-girl snuggle gang. Me and you are the leaders.

ES: I love this gang. You get jumped in by a lot of hugz. And ear nuzzles.

LA: In conclusion, summer camp is about snuggling with your friends. OK let’s make sure this is saved. Wait, do you know how to save? I just tried to copy and paste and it didn’t work.

ES: I think we can just check Chats?

LA: Shit, OK. I’m so paranoid about it not working. ♦

15 Comments

  • Shelia_The_Great November 4th, 2011 7:22 PM

    This just made me think of my best camp friend: we never plan to, but we always end up in the same tent.
    I should go email her now. Thanks Rookie.

  • Marie November 4th, 2011 7:28 PM

    I LOVE THIS SO. I wanted to go to camp SO BAD as a kid, but never got to! It sounds like it was JUST HOW I IMAGINED IT WOULD BE.

  • schoolsforbabelfish November 4th, 2011 7:36 PM

    I never really went to camp, and I kind of resented my friends that did? Mostly because I was that friend that was there on pick up day, and I had to watch my friend like say goodbye to a million other people and laugh with them and I just felt so awkward. Also they talk about it for like weeks afterwards and I want to be happy that hey had so much fun but I can’t help but feel a bit snubbed when all my friends would say for weeks was “OMG I had so many friends at camp and I miss them and I had so much fun and I totally love all my camp friends I can’t believe it’s over” IDK I’m kind of a jerk sometimes I guess…

  • Hummingbird November 4th, 2011 7:45 PM

    We dont have summer camps like that in Ireland…I always thought they sounded so cool! I’m super-jealous of anyone who actually got to go!

  • erin November 4th, 2011 7:52 PM

    ugh, another thing I feel like I missed out on in my childhood. I always watched The Parent Trap and wanted to go to camp sooo bad… not to find a secret twin or anything, but just… ugh. one time me and my family were wandering around in the wilderness (don’t ask) and we stumbled into this vacant camp. It was hardcore. Cabins and a mess hall and everything. Even a tombstone of the camps founder, which was kind of creepy. I always asked my mom if I could go, but she’s always been like really protective and never let me do anything fun as a child. I’m surprised that I haven’t rebelled by now. Hm. Anyways, I did eventually go to camp, but it was at this fancy college a few hours from my town, with no wilderness besides the polluted stream running through the tiny campus. I made lots of great friends and had a good time but I still don’t think of it as the “camp” experience. Sad times. I could go on about other things I’ve missed out on, and I feel like I’m missing out on now as a teen (sneaking out, meeting forbidden boys, staying out all night with my friends, doing craaaazy stuff.) but I won’t, cause I just did.

  • Pashupati November 4th, 2011 7:53 PM

    Weirdest conversation ending ever.
    Also, at first I thought it’d be about campiness, but I guess camps can be very campy.
    That illustration really makes you feel things and I wonder how it was made, especially the flowers and all. Are these glued on the drawing? Is it painted at all?

    • Olivia November 6th, 2011 12:16 PM

      i used watercolor to paint the black circle, figures and the faces, then a white china marker to highlight the faces, a halloween napkin for the fire, and then the flowers are pressed and glued on! xoxo

  • Jamie November 4th, 2011 8:08 PM

    i went to camp for seven years. during my last year i had become apparently too cool for camp because i got into a screaming match with this one girl about Oasis being a shitty band and then everyone decided i sucked and bullied me i had a mental breakdown and never went back to camp.

    otherwise, though, i have the fondest memories of color war and dances and boy drama. not sarcasm. camp ruled. want to send my future kids there

  • kittenmix November 4th, 2011 8:43 PM

    A hahaha I love this! Its so cute, I wish we had these kind if camps in aus, but knowing me I wouldn’t have made friends and would have sat silently in the corner whittling things out of plastic sporks

  • Whatsername November 5th, 2011 1:04 AM

    I love how they kept in the end, where they’re like, okay how do we save this?

    This is so great. I’ve never gone to a sleepaway camp, only day camps. I wish I could but sleepaways are expensiiive, according to mommy&daddy.

  • Laia November 5th, 2011 2:38 AM

    oh man, i wish I had gone to camp!

  • Hazel November 5th, 2011 11:15 AM

    I went to an all day Jewish camp in South Jersey for like three years and looking back on it I have no fucking idea why/how I did it. It was like, 8:00-4:00 in the boiling heat everyday and I was canoeing and playing volleyball and building furniture (for real!) There was no room to swim in the pool and my friends and I would always pass out somewhere on the miniature golf course or something. We had this night where everyone slept over at the camp and there was a boys side and a girls side but the counselors would always leave to go “get food” or SOMETHING and the sides would mix, of course. Good times. Then I got to an age and was like “Wait, this isn’t me” and went to art school in Philadelphia over the summer because I’m a nerd like that.

  • jeanette November 5th, 2011 3:26 PM

    We don’t have summer camp in England but we always see things about it in American tv shows that air here. I’m so jealous! It sounds like such an amazing time

  • Stephanie November 5th, 2011 3:55 PM

    Aww this made me wish I’d gone to camp too! And can I join the snuggle gang?

  • TheNarcissisticGinger November 13th, 2011 7:37 PM

    I loved this! CUDDLERS UNITE! :-)