Rippling Pectorals and Heartbroken Hangdogs: A Summertime Guide to Camp Counselors
Today, we’re exploring the complexities of one of our favorite summer-only social scenes:
Unfortunately, my personal camp experience is limited to a single three-week period, during which my parents thought it would be a good idea to ship my then-14-year-old self off to waterski camp. (This was revealed to be a terrible mistake on Day 2, when I discovered that learning to waterski involves a) ice-cold lake water, b) a lot of falling, and c) epically painful water-wedgies.) But with the help of Julie Kraut—a multiple-year camp veteran and the author of this summer’s camp-tastic new novel, Slept Away—we've put together the official...
Field Guide to Camp Counselors!!!
In the social strata of camp, counselors stand squarely at the top, occupying that hallowed ground between the camp-going masses and the key-keeping directors. Befriend a counselor, and your summer will pass free of worry. Alienate one, and you’ll find yourself on triple toilet-cleaning duty for the entire summer. But before you run off to grovel on their cabin doorstep, make sure you know how to spot:
The Golden Pec
Who he is: Often hailing from the rainy UK, the Golden Pec is drawn to camp as an ideal place to make money whilst working on his desperately-needed tan. Easy to spot from Day One, he’ll be the one who never wears a shirt… ever.
Most likely to: Buy your “I have an ear infection” excuse and let you spend instructional swim time sunbathing on the shore.
Win him over by: Offering up the tube of deep-tanning oil “your mom” “accidentally” packed in your bag.
The Manic Pollyanna
Who she is: A ten-year veteran of your camp, Manic Pollyanna finds every aspect of the camp-going experience obscenely exciting. She's the one who bounds up behind you during bunk cleanup, hands you a toothbrush for scrubbing the shower grout, and shrieks, “Isn’t this SO! Much! FUN!!!”
Most likely to: Let you stay out five minutes past curfew to finish putting the perfect touches on your ceramic “I LOVE CAMP 4EVER!” plaque.
Win her over by: Penning an original song about your deep devotion to all things camp-related, teaching it to your whole cabin, and singing it daily on your way to the mess hall.
The No Comprendo
Who he is: The European counselor who couldn’t quite master American English prior to arriving at camp. Common characteristics include a blank smile, confused expression, and wearing the same T-shirt and pair of shorts every day for 8 weeks. (3-page packing lists and poor reading comprehension don’t mix.)
Most likely to: Smile and wave vaguely no matter how outrageous a request you make.
Win him over by: Hooking him up with a couple extra pairs of socks.
The Lovesick Slumparoo
Who she is: The Lovesick Slumparoo met her boyfriend at camp five years ago, and this summer was supposed to be theirs… until his parents decided to ship him off on an Overseas Teen Tour instead. Easily distinguished by her swollen eyes and lethargic movements, the Lovesick Slumparoo can often be found lingering hopefully around the front gate when mail is delivered.
Most likely to: Look the other way when you sneak out to meet your own camp sweetheart after dark.
Win her over by: Telling her that European girls all have hairy armpits and terrible BO.
Do you have a comment on camp? Got a counselor to add to the lineup? How can I get rid of this horrendous water-wedgie?! Share your insight below!