I went to smart camp when I was a kid. This is a shocker, I know. It’s hard to believe for anyone who knows me that I would go to a summer camp that revolved around academics, rather than sports or controlling weight. Truth was, I was actually skinny once. I gained 30 pounds during my sophomore year of high school, but that’s another story for another time. It was called the Prairie Scholars Program and took place at MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Illinois.
I went from 4th grade until my Junior of high school. That is how much of a nerd I am. Let me get one thing out of the way, though. I didn’t go for the academia. I went for the counselors, campers and creative escapism. I did learn a lot here, though. I learned about conformity/non-conformity. Liberalism and everything else. Tolerance and intolerance. Sexism and misogyny (the latter wasn’t actually the case, but I will explain). I, in effect, grew up here, two weeks at a time. I met some of my favorite people here. Amanda Schmoker. Blonde princess. My brother from an entirely different mother, Brandon. Lipsky. The fat Jew who is now a skinny, beautiful man. Kaeti had really pretty hair. Jason Johnson. Cynicism was planted here. So on and so forth. Those were the campers.
Then there was Jon C. Neidy. A man that taught me tolerance at such a young age. Trent. The contagious smile and laugh that brought your lips to your ears. Adrienne. Hard to describe in words. Brenden Finnegan taught me about philosophy and reflection. Mary. Pretty sure I said some inappropriate things to her, but what does an 18 year that had a crush on a 23-year-old to do. There is a trend with the women I go for.
These people. These very smart people all left an everlasting impression on my life. I may not get to them all today, but this phase of my life will definitely be explored in future posts. Things like the sheer genius of Russel and Jason and the talent show. Maybe Eulouise and the plates full of bacon. Or a horse faced girl who gave hand jobs under the table.
For this one we can highlight Rachel and misogyny. She was a counselor and later became the head counselor. She taught me that I could use words to hurt people, no matter the subject matter of my words. She also taught me that I don’t have to feel empathy for making people cry after I use my words. It was a 90 degree day in the mid nineties. Even though I was skinny at this time, I was still embarrassed to take my shirt off in front of girls. But we were playing football. It was hot. Balls, fucking hot.
Naturally, the guys I was playing with, except for Lipsky and I, took off their shirts. Now, I spoke to some of the girls afterwards and they were not offended in the least. A good half hour went by while we were playing on the lawn. A lawn in between two dorms and the mess hall. We saw Rachel, a woman of slim stature and bitchy face power walking towards us. She stopped the game. She scowled and demanded we put our shirts back on because it was not fair to the girls. Girls could not take their shirts off. Someone quipped that they are more than welcome. She began yelling, promising we’d be sent home. We complied. She left. We cursed her out.
Every evening we would have an activity scheduled for all the campers. Casino night. Sports night. Movie night. This night was conversation night. I couldn’t tell you what her discussion topic was, but I had spent the last four hours seething at the chance. Before she finished her introduction I launched a diatribe about why it was okay for men to take off their shirts and it isn’t fair to punish the whole to please a few. A position I still hold today. I explained that if she wanted fairness, she needed to take action and have shirtless women legalized. I support that as well.
She began to cry. She didn’t understand why I attacked her. I didn’t understand why she didn’t understand. Brenden brought me out to the hallway. A common occurrence in my life. He dissected what I said and the meaning of it. I meant to tell her that society has an agreed upon set of rules and it is up to the people to change those rules when they meet their expiration date. Because someone with authority does not agree with those rules, does not mean they should be able to punish those compliant people because she, and she alone, find it offensive. He cleared the air with her and taught me how to construct an argument.
I didn’t go to learn. But I learned every day. I learned about life. It was my coming of age movie, two weeks at a time. Could be why I wrote a script and named the main character Brenden. It holds a dear place in my heart. And every once in a while you could hit on a counselor or get hand jobs under the table.
Please to enjoy.