I find myself thinking about summer camp and other outdoor activities these days.
Summer camp was such a miserable failure for me -- or, more accurately, I was a failure at camp. I stuck it out through one week of church camp with the help of my best friend, as well as a few overnight Boy Scout ventures. But everyone knew that they were forcing a square peg through a round hole. A weeping, vomiting, insecure, non-compliant square peg.
Did I like or dislike camp activities? I don't remember. I do remember our cabin being read to every night by "Aunt Shirley," our cabin mom. I got to ring the dining hall bell to announce dinner. That was nice. I remember getting a demerit for leaving my jacket outside on the cabin porch. That never happened again.
I was just too prone to homesickness to go to camp. The one week of family church camp we went to was fine: my family was there, some of my friends were there. But, being away from home was really traumatic for me; I missed my mom, my routine, my stuff.
I am amazed when I meet people who went to camp for the entire summer. I would have been found dead by the end of the first week, curled up under my cabin steps, a copy of the New Yorker clutched to my chest.
Part of camp that didn't work for me even as a child is all the enforced gaiety. You are supposed to be having a wonderful time and loving every minute of it. Like a long, hot, buggy New Year's Eve party.
And camp didn't work because I already knew that for reasons not yet clear I wasn't like other boys.
All of this is a big send up to the video above and website for Camp Camp. It's summer camp for adult gays and lesbians. Where in the security of our brothers and sisters we can camp it up. The video is long, but worth watching.
Most of the people interviewed characterize Camp Camp as simply summer camp for adults, someplace that rekindles fond memories of childhood summers. But, a few of the folks seem to be finding the magical summer experience they never had. Claiming as adults something they were never able to claim as children.
Close to the beginning of the video, there's a guy who slips down some sort of rope course. He looks fearless. And happy. He says he was never secure in this ability to do "manly man" things, but he's doing them. He's the guy I identify with.
I was never secure in my ability to do anything physical. I relied on my wit, cunning, and charm, but not my body. In the past few years, I've made a real effort to take to the great outdoors. Not sports, but the outdoors. Hiking's cool and I can manage kayaking and canoeing. I don't want to play baseball, but going to games is fun. I still hide when people try to round up teams for sports that involve balls moving at fast speeds, but I am learning to trust and enjoy a different side of myself, and that feels good.
That rock climbing wall at Camp Camp looks pretty fun. And, the chance to do it with -- and, more importantly, in front of-- people who won't judge me feels right. Maybe Camp Camp's in my future.
What about you, Straight Guy? Were you one of those kids who went off to camp with nary a backward glance?
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