Not college. Not boarding school. Not even those extended road trips with the varsity lax team that always ended with some underclassman crying to Coach about the inordinate number of towel-whip welts he sustained over the weekend. You learn those skills at summer camp.
Sports camps, sleepover camps, fat kid camps, camps sponsored by the local church that fix gay kids: they’re all essentially the same. You may be there for some nominal reason (“to improve my backhand and develop a more aggressive and confident serve-and-volley game” I wrote, years ago, under the “objectives” section of my personal Nike Tennis Camp player packet); but really, you’re there to learn how to survive in the same non-chaperoned social scenarios that you’ll be confronting for the rest of your life.
It’s time to give credit where credit is due. Here are 10 lessons most bros probably learned at summer camp, whether they ever realized it or not:
1. How to Hide a NARB (No Apparent Reason Boner)
Man, what I would give for the old circulatory system to pump blood to my loins the way it did when I was twelve. I used to get fully torqued flipping through National Geographic. Now five whiskey sours renders me impotent and somewhat flaccid for at least the first 25 minutes of a blowjob.
My NARBs (No Apparent Reason Boners) were a source of constant anxiety back in the day. Luckily, I quickly learned such maneuvers as the waistband tuck and the “it’s perfectly normal to walk around brandishing a Trapper Keeper across my groin.”
2. How to Pack 10 Lbs. of Junk Food into a Bag That’s Already at Capacity
Because the soft-serve machine never gets powered up until lunchtime, and everyone knows breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
3. How to Sneak Out of Your Room/Cabin/Lean-to Without Making a Sound
This is one you will continue to hone throughout your adolescence, and even into adulthood. But long before testing your old man’s patience or making a desperate dash out of some war-pig’s sorority house, you’ll test your Houdini skills on some Eagle scout camp counselor who has a total chub for Lake Weenamaka and the surrounding wilderness (“My15th straight year of attendance!” he says during the introduction, two thumbs held up in front of him).
4. How to Masturbate Without Waking Up Your Bunkmate
To quote virtuosic stand-up comedian Dave Attell: “Hey, what are you doing up there?” “I’m having an asthma attack … now watch your eyes!”
5. How to Spit Game at a Girl a Head Taller Than You
Remember that awkward period from like fifth grade to seventh grade when half the girls in your class looked like Amazonia, at least relative to you and your scrawny, falsetto-voiced friends? I remember the shortest dude in my class used to pull double the tail of any of us; it wasn’t until years later that I finally realized this was probably because they had planned on eating him at some point. Anyway, this is probably a skill that you’ve fallen out of touch with in recent years, unless you’re a WNBA groupie.
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6. How to Unsnap a Bra
Before there were Rubik’s cubes, there were bras. Nowadays I can basically remove them using The Force, but I remember the first time I encountered a bra like it was yesterday: fumbling behind her back for ten minutes with both hands, braces clanging against each other and splitting lips open until, finally, out of sympathy, she reached behind her back and did it herself. And did so instantly — as if by magic! She even conjured two lumps of toilet paper out of thin air! Incredible.
7. How to Play Lawn Games
Nobody wants to be the guy who elicits groans when he asks someone to partner with him in horseshoes, beer pong, cornhole, ladderball, etc. That’s like a degree or two from getting picked last at the Special Olympics.
You know what that guy didn’t do as a kid? Attend summer camp. Otherwise he would have learned that entire family of games, all of which depend on a very similar tactical approach, attention to detail, deft hand-eye coordination and fluid release.
8. How to Hit the Communal Showers Without Seeing Your Buddy’s Cash and Prizes, or Vice Versa
Damn, you really gotta tread lightly with communal shower jokes these days. Add the following to the list of reasons you hate Jerry Sandusky: he ruined pedophilia humor for the rest of us.
9. How to Dance With a Girl While Popping a Huge Stiffy
Ah, the end-of-camp dance. So many first loves gone awry. Hormones hanging over the room in a tangible mass the way secondhand smoke does on a Vegas casino floor. And enough wood on hand to build a log cabin.
The moment you sink your fingers into her blossoming tush, homeboy downstairs goes six-to-midnight STAT. He’s so eager to get out of his cage that even the trusty waistband tuck isn’t always a sufficient safeguard. You start doing weird hip gyrations and sticking your ass out to avoid poking her.
But in hindsight, let’s be real: that sh*t had her straight soaking through her floral print panties and training bra. I guess the real lesson here is this: when you’re grinding on a honey and something pops up, let it rock, son, let it rock.
10. How to Run a F*cking Campus and Generally Be a Boss
Let’s be real: summer camp – especially when hosted by a university – is like a dry run for freshman year of college. You sleep in the dorms, eat in the cafeteria, objectify every girl who passes by and snag handfuls of free condoms every time you walk by the on-campus Planned Parenthood kiosk (for the inevitable impromptu water balloon fights, of course). The only thing missing are the kegs. Young men arrive at summer camp every year as boys, and they leave as, well, boys who are slightly more diabetic and may or may not have the sweet residual aroma of vagina lingering on their forefingers. Because everyone knows you don’t shower for at least a week after your first fingerbang – after all, you need proof for all your incredulous friends when you get back home.