Yes, it is true, I am a little nervous about the big weekend reunion. I’d be lying if I said that my ego wasn’t involved. I don’t look like I did, not really close. I don’t look bad, but I am a little softer in the middle and the hair on my head has been shifting to other places on my body.
Does any of it really matter? Not that much, but enough that it bothers me a little, at least enough to notice.
My introduction to camp was back in the ’70s as part of a Hebrew school weekend when I was around 10 or 11. I was supposed to attend in ’81, but I was “waitlisted” and didn’t actually start going for a full session until 1982. I was 13.
I remember much of that Summer. I wore a cowboy hat on the bus. It wasn’t a hat that I normally wore and I can’t say now why I did it, but I did. It was one of the first things that the other guys noticed about me. Someone asked if I was from Oklahoma.
Since I was the last guy to walk into the tent I got the last available bed, it was a single bed in the middle of the tent. As opposed to the others who had either a top or bottom bunk bed. Just one more thing that made me stand out from the others. Some of the guys took this and the hat as a sign that I might be worth teasing, and they did.
For a while I reacted to it and it continued, things escalated a little. They took my bed and stuck it in the rafters, poked at me with all sorts of remarks and did the junior high things that many of you remember. It was hard, I tried to ignore it, tried to block it out but at 13 I wasn’t very good at it.
It was a four week session and I had been there for about a week and had mixed feelings. I was enjoying much of it, but the teasing was getting to me. It finally culminated in a night in which I woke up because I felt something rubbing against my face. One of the other boys was rubbing his penis against my face.
I jumped out of bed in a rage. He took one look at my face and ran out of the tent, naked. I was right behind him screaming obscenities and a promise that the broom I carried with me would not be used for sweeping.
He was saved by a couple of counselors who grabbed me and prevented me from beating him silly. But, I made it clear that night that the teasing would end. When we were taken back to the tent it wasn’t more than 10 minutes before the giggling began. I jumped out of bed and pulled him out of his top bunk and dragged his face through the dirt.
A friend of his from home jumped on my back, but I was so angry that it didn’t matter. I threw him off of me and resumed pummelling the jerk who had been the instigator. As you can imagine it wasn’t long before “adult” intervention tried to insert itself. A 17 year-old counselor came and tried to restrain me, I smacked him in the mouth and nose before he got help from someone else.
Had it not been for the honesty of some of the other guys in that tent I might have been kicked out, but when they explained what had happened I was given a pass. And from that night on no one in that tent did anything to press my buttons.
It was a hard lesson, but that is when I really started to learn how to develop a thick skin. It wasn’t liked I hadn’t been picked on before that, I had. But I had never had an experience like that. I learned a lot from it.