Tag Archives: Camp

Happy Anniversary: We Embarrass Ourselves In Song

Did you guys know that today is our blog anniversary?

Well, not today, specifically, but around this time. Ok fine, it was last week and we missed it. We forgot. We’re sorry. We’re busy people!

Anyway, to celebrate one year of sharing all of our embarrassments in this public forum (which, by the way, has meant a great deal to us), here are more embarrassments for you, the public, to consume.

Jana: As a high schooler, I took voice lessons. I took them SERIOUSLY, too, because I believed that I was a talented singer, as evidenced by the accolades I’d received for my starring role in “Peter Pan” in eighth grade, if not by the fact that I’d never been given a solo or been admitted into any select singing groups since entering high school (not because I didn’t audition, guys). This, I believed, was a great injustice; my cross to bear. My parents and voice teacher agreed with me.

My voice teacher was (and is) a wonderful woman who gave voice and piano lessons in her living room. Once a week, I stood there and sang various scales and “On My Own” from Les Mis and felt like – NO ONE KNOWS, but I am Very Talented. Sometimes the kid who had a lesson after me would overhear the end of whatever I was singing, and tell me I had “a nice voice!” as I exited the house. I lived for those moments.

Once a year, in the spring, my teacher held a recital. I participated in all of them, but the one that I want to talk about occurred in the spring of my final year as a voice student, and as a high school student, and as a legal child. That’s right: I was eighteen. A full five to ten years older than every other recital participant, whose ages ranged from about six to about sixth grade. I WAS THE OLDEST ONE.

My teacher’s son, who was in maaaybe 5th grade, had put together a band for this recital, and they had all learned to play Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated,” which was a big hit that year. Would I be the vocalist? My teacher asked me. YES, I SAID. I said yes. I have no idea why I said yes to this. I just said yes, and went to one rehearsal, and then showed up at the UU church on a Saturday afternoon to sing lead vocals to Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated” against a backing band of fifth graders.

And, I invited friends.

That’s right, two of my best friends were there. They heard me belt out “why you gotta go and make things so complicated? I see the way you actin like you’re somebody else gets me frustrated…” while wearing a floor length black skirt and a purple cardigan from Weathervane. Listen: they saw me. People saw me. I WAS EIGHTEEN YEARS OLD.

That’s all. Happy Anniversary! Here’s to another full year’s worth of horrible memories.

We hate ourselves.

Catherine: I love this. I obviously just fucking love this. And you idiots are lucky I let Jana post that picture of us. It’s a real doozy.

Dear readers, I am going to share with you a brief tale from my own singing misadventures. As you may recall I went to Catholic Lithuanian Heritage Camp (if you’re just joining us… that happened.) Every year there was a Talent Night that people would be all shy about being into, but then be really into it, but not like, SHOW that they were into it. There were a lot of repressed feelings is what I’m saying.

One year I had sang “Somewhere Out There” for the “audition” (nobody got turned down, ever, so it was just a rouse) and afterwards I was bullied by the camp bully to SING IT FOR HER. She had heard someone say I sang well and she THREATENED ME TO SING in a VERY SCARY WAY outside by the fire pit during free time before swimming. Terrified, I obliged. This was the same bully who later stole my disposable camera. When I told a counselor about it, she was confronted, at which point she claimed that the last name written on the camera in Sharpie – my distinctive Lithuanian last name – was her cousin’s last name and they had given her the camera. These were lies, people, and when I developed my film there were about five pictures she took of herself, selfies. I digress.

Flash forward a year, I had come to camp prepared. I had spent hours on AOL searching for the song lyrics to all my favorite songs – Alanis, Natalie Imbruglia, Jewel – the ladies of the 90s. This was all in preparation for that year’s talent night, because I was an artist, and that meant having my act together. Feeling wise beyond my years at 15, I settled on singing a Belle and Sebastian song, because I was different, see. I wasn’t going to sing “On My Own” (as someone always did, out of tune, and with a little bit too much fervor.) I was going to sing a song that spoke to me, that expressed my deep, deep feelings, and my immense  maturity. I was going to sing, “Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying.” So sing I did, a capella, to a crowd of people who DIDN’T KNOW THE FUCK WAS GOING ON. As I started the refrain – I shit you not – an immense thunderstorm started and the lights went out for a moment. Should I keep singing? Everyone was suddenly chattering to themselves, startled, and looking out the windows. I powered through because I was an ARTIST and this song was REALLY IMPORTANT. I fell asleep in my cabin that night with my discman on, listening to Miss Saigon, thinking about how nobody understood me (this wasn’t in fact a particularly unique truth, but it was certainly the case.)

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Adventures in Summer Misery

Jana: How’s everyone’s summer going? Good, yeah? Does everyone love summer?

That’s so great. Unfortunately, I really hate summer. Summer has always scared me because A) I’m anxious all the time, so the anxiety doubles when there’s no structure in my life and B) I’m not an adventurous, fun person, which becomes much more obvious to those around me during the summer. Any other time of year, it’s fine to suggest activities like going to the movies, reading next to each other at coffee shops, or staying inside to eat. But in the summer, people want to be outside! Every person in the facebook universe has spent the weekend at the beach! Everyone is tan and happy, while I am pale, scared, and sad. It’s a nightmare.

This is true now, but it was also true in my childhood. As a child, summer signified the coming of thunderstorms (definitely a sign from god that something terrible is about to happen, and yes I know most people find them cool and exciting), the end of sitting in class and feeling useful and interesting, and, of course, CAMPS. Ohhhh day camps. Ohhh you miserable organizations reeking of suntan lotion, spilled juice, and tears. Ohh god meeting new people. No no no no no. Please don’t make me go.

But, I did have to go. And sometimes I went to theater camps, which was ok. But one summer, for some reason that I CANNOT FATHOM, my parents signed me up for something called “Adventure Camp,” hosted by our town’s rec department. Why I agreed to this in the first place I really and truly cannot say. Why I did not start screaming at the mention of “adventure” makes absolutely no sense to me now. But, somehow, I was enrolled, and I attended. And it was hell.

I went with my best friend at the time, a similarly non-adventurous and awkward kid. Obviously, we were outcasts from the start. My main memory of this is arriving late, having almost forgotten my lunch or something, and desperately running across hot pavement in order to stand in line while attendance was called, all the while terrified that I’d forget my name or forget how to say “here” or that I’d just drop dead from all the pressure. Once I survived that, it was on to trust falls, in order to build up the group dynamic. This was, obviously, terrible. Nothing is worse than trust falls with a bunch of kids who definitely think you are very weird.

The two-week ordeal consisted of more trust falls, various physical drills, and then a full-on ropes course, including a zip line. I hated and feared every minute of it. But there was one redeeming factor: a sweet, cute, male counselor who took pity on me and joked around with me, making me feel like less of a total loser. One day, during lunch, this awesome counselor was getting everyone all riled up over some mind-game riddle thing he’d told us. It was one of those things where he was like, “I’m going on a trip, and I’m gonna bring a tree but not a forest,” and everyone had to be like, “well can you bring a monkey?” and he’d be like, “not a monkey but I will bring a carp,” and everyone was  like “WHATTTT!” and he was like, figure it out. So, I could not figure it out, but I was having fun participating, which was rare. I got really into badgering him to tell me the secret answer, and he finally did on the condition that I promised not to tell anyone else. WE WERE BUDDIES. It was great.

After lunch, I told my one and only friend the secret riddle solution. And then, she must have told someone else! I don’t know what happened! All I know is that my buddy friend counselor cornered me later and was like, jokingly, “I thought I could trust you, kid!” And I thought: Oh My God, my life is over. I was mortified, and tried desperately to explain that I had really, really, really meant to keep the secret. In my desperation I believe that I almost cried, or potentially that I did actually cry.

Looking back, I can see that this counselor obviously did not give a fuck about this situation. But at the time, it felt very monumentally disappointing and upsetting and embarrassing.

Somehow, the weeks continued. I zip-lined and ropes-coursed and hated it, went to sleep in fear, and then woke up and did it again, until the damn camp was over. I don’t remember how I left things with counselor friend buddy, but I can assume that our relationship was very compromised by my severe overreaction to the weird game thing.

So there you have it. I do not like summer, or adventure, and I cry at inappropriate times. If anyone wants to do something fun, it would be best not to call.

Catherine: Poor, poor Jana. Jana, who hates the beach, but who cannot deny that she actually has fun while she is there as long as she is huddled beneath an umbrella with a beer and a book, and an equally pale me by her side.

SEE HOW HAPPY YOU WERE??!

SEE HOW HAPPY YOU WERE??!

Summer has been hard for you for awhile, it seems? Tragic. I can see that this particular camp played perfectly to your weaknesses and probably caused damage that we continue to see the effects of. I wish I could go back in time to your scared Janaself and tell you to CHILL OUT, but I imagine your Janaself  would just blink in confusion and try to give me a bobby pin.

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A Friendship Without Benefit

Jana: As a kid, I did have some good friends – other kids who’d known me forever and didn’t even notice my dirty tapered jeans. But as a kid in new social situations, like musical theater-based summer camps, I didn’t make friends so easily. I WANTED to, of course, but I was terrified. What I’d usually do is find a girl I knew I wanted to be friends with, develop a crush-like obsession with her, and then be unable to speak in her presence. Sometimes, by the second-to-last day of camp, I’d have forged a mini friendship with her, which was incredibly elating! But then camp was over, and with it, the future I’d imagined for us.

There was one such situation, though, that stood out from the others because it LASTED past the usually depressing final day of camp. This was a friendship that, against all odds, went on for at least a couple of post-camp months. It was like this: I met Arianna at musical theater camp (ok fine, it was OPERA camp. I’ll get into it later). We discovered that we had the same birthday, which I was glad that she also recognized as being AMAZING and OH MY GOD! and a sign that we were destined for friendship. We started to hang out at camp, and then the day of the performance I remember being really nervous and excited because she had her mom talk to my mom and set up a play date! This was really going somewhere.

This is what I looked like on the day of the performance. Which offers no answers as to why I had any friends, anywhere. 

But then, we actually had to HAVE the play dates. My memory of these “dates” is that they were just really frightening. I lost all sense of what I might say when I was with her. When I did start to talk, I was so nervous that my throat would close up and I’d start coughing instead. I remember being in her room, awkwardly standing while she sat at her desk, deafening silence surrounding us as I racked my brain for something to say. I never thought of anything.

This friendship was also where I developed my deep fear of repeating a story I’d already told. One time, we were walking through the town center and passed a toy store. I had a thing to say! I told her, haltingly, that I really wanted a personal mini bubble gum machine (WHY did I want this? I DO NOT KNOW). But about halfway through this “story”, I realized that I had ALREADY told her about it! It was one of the things I’d coughed out in her room earlier! It was terrible. She smiled, but I knew I’d made a big mistake.

STILL, she wanted to keep hanging out. Again, WHY she wanted this, when I clearly could offer NOTHING of any value and was obsessed with useless objects, was always a mystery to me. But I kept dreading it and then going to hang out with her. I even went to her birthday party, where all of her friends danced to the Spice Girls and I stood in the corner, not dancing or talking to anyone, wearing a sweatshirt which was decorated with the words “I’m Not Listening” and a picture of a guy sticking his fingers in his ears (one of my staple outfits).

Eventually, the friendship must have faded, which was a huge relief. Recently, my mom and I re-hashed it over dinner. “I remember, I know, that was so weird,” she said. “Dad and I also couldn’t figure out why she kept wanting to hang out with you! But then when you were in high school – oh my god, yes! Now I remember. I read something about her in the paper – that she was advocating for the gay-straight alliance or something as an out lesbian at her school. It made so much sense to me when I read that – THAT was it, that’s definitely why she kept wanting you around. She thought you were gay too, because you looked like such a little lesbian!”

Ah. Mystery solved.

Catherine: I want us to come out with a book only so I can use the title I didn’t realize would be a best-seller till just now – Jana: The Little Lesbian. Bestseller. Stores won’t be able to keep it in stock. Little lesbians everywhere will be crushed when in chapter 13 you finally reveal you like boys, even though it is a complete mystery why they like you. I will play the winning sidekick, coaxing you away from that (actually really awesome) sweatshirt, taming those weird hairs of yours that always stick up. In the climatic final scene (set at the prom), a teacher will ask you to leave, assuming you are from the middle school. I will stick up for you and it will go alright at best, while someone  probably laughs at us and calls us fat before throwing a cake onto our pastel satin gowns. I don’t know. I’m still working out the ending.

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