The time has come to open old wounds and talk about feelings you haven’t felt in a long time.
I’m not talking about the guilt from when you “accidentally” tripped your neighbor during an intense game of flashlight tag, nor am I talking about the pain you felt when you came home from school to find that your mother had sold your beloved guinea pig to the plumber, even though you totally weren’t allergic and Peekaboo really understood you. I am talking about something far worse — a childhood pain that probably left years of emotional damage only to be subdued with Avril Lavinge’s greatest hits album.
For those who don’t know, the Camp Crush is the first of many whirlwind romances that will tear your life apart. The years spent at the same outdoor adventure camp can bond two people in ways not often seen, only felt deep down.
Somewhere amidst all the pre-teen angst and really bad romantic comedies, we all knew what true love was. Many of you may not have had the chance to go to camp, to which I say: consider yourself lucky. The fun spent out by the lake and crafting in bungalows will never amount to the pain from what almost was.
The summer always starts the same. You show up, bag filled with Nike shorts and buoyant dreams. This is your summer. This is the season of love you have been singing about since your mother left “Rent” on in the living room and you learned that the Cat-Scratch Club is not a place suitable for children’s cat-themed parties.
You meet everyone by the large, inflatable tabernacle of doom, known to most as “The Blob.” The sun is setting, people are applying different variations of SPF and the mixture of bug spray and AXE body wash overwhelms you.
Love is in the air.
The best part of summer camp is the first day. Everyone chooses their crush, silently at first until the first stages of “dibs” set in. It went a little something like this: (The following names have been changed to protect individuals’ anonymity)
You know you like Kyle the moment you see the way the reflection of the lake bounces off his cool, football-colored retainer when he laughs. Kyle is hot. He gets hotter every year. But Samantha, your bunk mate, also thinks Kyle is hot. Samantha is not your friend. She thinks she and Kyle are meant to be. She doesn’t know you and Kyle have had an on-again-off-again passionate love affair for three summers now.
Your mother raised you as a lady, so you know not to say mean things about Samantha. She is entitled to her wrong opinion. Samantha will accept defeat once camp-wide relays start. This is your year. You are the elite. You are the champion. You are the eighth grade alumna.
But, luckily for Sam, this was not your year. By the time the basketball court dance rolled around, not only had Kyle and Sam gone behind your back, but they had also exchanged bracelets, something Kyle knew you held sacred. This is probably the best place to put in some historical context, specifically an excerpt from my Camp Allen journal:
“To the boy who broke my heart,
I trusted you. I picked you first for kickball, which was a very generous thing for me to do. I could have picked anyone. I could have picked Clayton Rupp, who had calves the size of my head. He was strong. He was sturdy. He was liberal.
I could have picked Marissa Hendricks. She could have taken down an ox with one blow. I think she held most of her power behind her knee caps, like most women do. She had a stare that could scorch right through your soul and make anyone vanquish their rubbery, sphere weaponry just at the thought of eternal damnation from Marissa’s glare. I could have chosen either of them. I had the power.
But you, you had my heart. In your sweaty little palms.”
Maybe I was a dramatic kid, even though I prefer the word “expressive.” I may have taken a bit of artistic liberty with this column, but the important thing to realize is that summer love doesn’t have to rock your entire world. I learned a lot of valuable lessons that final summer: like how to skip rocks and how to make a fisherman’s knot.
But most importantly, I learned how to branch out and make new friends that were way cooler than Kyle and Sam. Camp teaches you how to find the good in a bad situation. Sometimes the good is just disguised as hitting your crush in the face with a kickball.
As summer approaches, remember to stay true to who you are and to enjoy yourself. Different strokes for different folks.
Collegian A&E Columnist Kendall McElhaney is willing to give out Kyle and Sam’s real identities if anyone wants to send them sassy tweets. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kendallaftrdark.