What your enjoyment of sleep-away camp, or lack of same, says about your character.

Previously published Slate articles made new.
July 23 2010 4:54 PM

You Are How You Camped

What your enjoyment of sleep-away camp, or lack of same, says about your character.

(Continued from Page 1)
Illustration by Nina Finkel. Click image to expand.

The final category is people who really, really, really enjoy camp. These are the camp cultists. You probably expect me to say that these campers grow up to be utterly incapable of functioning in a noncamp environment, and end up sleeping on the streets in cardboard boxes. In fact, the opposite is true. Camp cultists grow up to be chief executive officers of major corporations, name partners in Wall Street banking firms, Cabinet secretaries, governors, and presidents of prestigious foundations. Their universities invite them to serve on their boards. Their home towns name schools after them. They are the Establishment. Longtime Disney CEO Michael Eisner is a camp cultist, having published, in 2005, Camp, a memoir of his bygone days at Vermont's Keewaydin Canoe Camp, which bills itself as the nation's oldest continually operating summer camp (it was founded in 1893), and whose Web site invites alumni to donate securities to something called the Keewaydin Foundation. I haven't read Eisner's book, but according to Amazon.com, its "statistically improbable phrases" include "winds ceremony" and "Indian circle."

Advertisement

For camp cultists, summer camp is an experience that lasts a lifetime. When they're too old to be campers, they come back as counselors. When they're too old to be counselors, they send their children in their stead. When their children eventually succeed (on the third or fourth try) in getting themselves thrown out of Camp Weecheewachee, for infractions too ghastly to contemplate, camp cultists send money. Lots and lots of money. If it weren't for camp cultists, half the summer camps in the United States would be forced to close their doors, depriving today's campers of this essential early exercise in psychological sorting.

Or perhaps not. Montana Miller, a folklorist who teaches a class called "Summer Camp Ethnography" at Ohio's Bowling Green State University, insists that even children who don't attend summer camp subject themselves to the same psychological sorting process by imagining that they did. In an e-mail to me, she elaborated:

There have been so many movies and books and TV shows—not to mention the stories told by friends who return from camp—that kids internalize whether or not they went to camp themselves. … I had [my students] do an in-class writing assignment in which they recounted an anecdote from camp—presenting it as a personal-experience narrative, but not necessarily real. It could be fictional or something that happened to someone they knew. They read their anecdotes out loud to the class and we tried to guess whether these were real experiences they had had themselves, or constructions from their imaginations and their pop culture educations. You know what? In almost every case, it was impossible to tell.

The summer-camp ink blot, then, is universal. You are how you camped, even if you never camped at all.

Like  Slate on Facebook. Follow us  on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?
Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
  Business
Buy a Small Business
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 PM Inking the Deal Why tattoo parlors are a great small-business bet.
  Life
Outward
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?