I spent the first fifteen summers of my life at overnight kids’ camps in Maine. My parents had been long-time camp counselors before I was born, continued to be involved with camps during my childhood and eventually owned and ran one of their own.
I’ve been a staff brat, a camper and a camp counselor. I even wrote a whole novel inspired by my childhood camp experiences. So you could say I’m pretty passionate about camp, and the value I think it brings to young people’s lives: the chance to gain independence, try new things, cast off the expectations and assumptions of peers and family, and be a part of a small, close-knit community.
Camp is also a chance — and an opportunity — to get by without some of the comforts of home, including the way you normally dress and look. Camp means flip-flops and t-shirts and beloved sweatshirts and damp bathing suits. It means less-than-perfect hair because you went straight from the lake to dinner and didn’t have time to dry it, or because there are 10 other girls waiting to use the bathroom. Sure, on dance nights you take the time to doll yourself up so you can snag a slow dance or two with that boy you’ve had your eye on. But the rest of the time, it’s about coming as you are. In fact, that’s part of the point.
At least, that’s what I think. And what I was brought up to believe. So I was dismayed (and a little apeshit) to read this recent article in the Times about girls as young as 12 getting their legs waxed, eyebrows plucked and hair straightened before heading off to camp. An excerpt: