There will be body odor and ticks, greasy hair and flatulence, and unflattering color-coordinating t-shirts designating our ranks and unit numbers. There will be circles around the campfire with lilting choruses of “Sinner Man,” “A Woonie Koonie,” “Cannibal King,” and “Mormon Boy.” For four days Twilight Woods eau de toilette will be traded for bug spray and iPhones turned off, the better to compose with pen and paper spiritually uplifting, warm, fuzzy love notes to friends. This is what I expected from my very first Girls Camp, the elaborate LDS ritual of bonding, bonding, and more bonding for female youth ages 12-18. And I was not disappointed! Except maybe in the musical department; the camp songs were not nearly as stupid.
We set up camp in Tabiona, UT; a.k.a, somewhere on a mountain in the middle of nowhere. Except for the pavilion covering the picnic tables with their red and white checked table cloths, the kitchen from which steaming Dutch oven delicacies were served, the flushing toilets with cupboards neatly stocked with a year’s supply of toilet paper, and YW leaders who brought their spray on tans and a different pair of ginormous dangly earrings to wear every day, the camping might have been authentic. I obviously missed the “Look-Cute-at-Camp” memo because I was in the Caribbean getting a real tan, so I just wore the same shirt every day.
Here’s what happens when you deprive 16 girls of Facebook and text messaging for an extended period of time: They entertain themselves with “the cup game,” an intricate series of coordinated hand movements that involve banging a cup upside down on the table, tapping it with your palms, and flipping it over, tapping and banging some more, and passing the cup to the left in an assembly line while the series of banging, flipping, and tapping gets progressively faster until someone in the line throws the whole operation off course because she can’t keep up. They wield glue guns and pieces of scrap fabric to make cute headbands and necklaces and hairpins that look like merchandise you'd find in on an online boutique. They write camp-themed skits (the theme was “Put on the Armor of God”) and design and construct their own props. One group wrote a “musical” with a medley of parodies of popular songs rewritten to suit the theme—one of their songs was a new and improved version of Rebecca Black’s Friday song: “Sunday, Sunday, wanna go to church on Sunday…Laurels in the front seat, Mia Maids in the back seat, Beehives in the trunk…”
All the girls were united in the spirit of dispensing warm fuzzies. Each sister and YW leader was given an award. My award was for being an “Eskimo Princess named after Rosarita Refried Beans.” One of the girls made me my very own boondoggle during craft time. And, everyone also had a “secret sister” she stealthily delivered gifts and notes to daily before the appointed meeting during which we all revealed ourselves to each other. Before camp we were given information about our secret sister’s hobbies, favorite movies/books/music, etc. and during the unveiling, one girl suggested we each get up in front of everyone and say something we admired about our sister. I had my whole speech planned out—how I thought it was really cool that my 12-year-old loved 80s movies and a memoir called The Glass Castle (that I later found out was about a girl who grew up with an alcoholic father and an abusive uncle), and that her favorite hobby was gardening. My secret sister had such mature tastes for being so young! But then something went wrong during revelation process. Someone else got up and announced that they’d been giving gifts to my sister. Somebody had obviously screwed up!
I soon realized that it was me. I’d given gifts to the wrong person! Obviously, I misread the name on my paper. My sister’s name was MINDY, not MISSY. How awkward would it be to have to explain this in front of everyone, and then tell Missy that those gifts weren’t actually for her and could I please have them back and I’m really sorry? Luckily (but still embarrassingly) for me, Mindy, who came to help cook, is Missy’s mom. Ha. Ha. Ha.
There’s something about leaving mascara and deodorant at home and going for days without showering that draws the girls closer to each other. That, and the testimony meeting held just before sunset that lasts into the late hours of the night while the campfire burns down and the stars slowly blink into focus. During testimony meeting, I was the keeper of the Kleenex box, charged with the duty of passing tissue to those (including myself) whose tear ducts are directly connected to the Spirit that moves people to stand up and explain how they’ve come to know the truth of the gospel and Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation.
During testimony meeting I shared too much information, including a deeply private anxiety that I’ve had since coming to YW. My anxiety is that I can’t get over feeling that I will never fit in with the “cool” leaders for several reasons: a) I don’t watch TV; b) I don’t have a baby the girls clamor to coddle during the YW lesson; c) I don’t tell embarrassing stories about my husband that make everyone laugh; d) I’m not a masseuse, like the most recent addition to the YW leader group, who saw, nay, spoke to Ryan Reynolds at her Park City gym/spa one day when he walked by the front desk to ask her where the nearest exit was; e) I am not this same masseuse who has also met Reese Witherspoon; f) too many other reasons to mention.
The gist of my testimony was that I still haven’t figured out why I’m in YW. What those three days of camp reminded me of though, is I’ve been placed in a circle of exceptional girls. One of the miracles of camp was that we witnessed no petty girl drama whatsoever. I have never seen girls braver and kinder, and more considerate of their fellow human beings (given that they're teenagers). I know that if I’d had friends like them growing up, my life would have been so different. Which led to my other point: while I don’t totally know why I’ve been called to YW, I know what I’ve experienced so far is a result of our Savior’s love. Calling me to YW is one way of showing me how much I’ve missed, and how I can be part of something so vitally important as helping to strengthen the testimonies of his choice daughters.
I walked around camp in a mental fog, tired of feeling inadequate. So, without further ado, I’m going to find out who the Hemsworth brothers are. I’m going to raid the public libraries within a 20-mile radius of Murray for all the girlie movies I can find; when Jesse comes home from work and finds me watching movies like She’s the Man, I'll say, “See, the universe hasn’t imploded yet because I brought chick flicks into the house,” and “Look, I’m magnifying my calling.” I’m going to take up Ashley’s offer and let her loan me her baby on Sundays. I’ll talk a lot more about Jesse, even though I don’t have embarrassing stories to tell about him because he’s too sensible to run on the treadmill in only a jockstrap to cheer me up when I’ve had a bad day—true story, but alas, or maybe thankfully, not mine. And maybe I’ll quit teaching and seek out Taylor Swift, get her autograph, and learn the art of Brazilian honey waxing. But until then, I’ll do a lot of praying and just be grateful for what I’ve been given.
*For lack of a better tile, this post is called "But Camp" because the camp t-shirts we had to wear were supposed to say "Boot Camp." The leaders were trying for the effect Google creates when it changes its letters to little pictograms or appropriate holiday graphics. Except the Os in "Boot Camp" are two clunky little boots with socks and legs sticking out of the top. The ink on the shirts smeared the boots together so they look like one big "U," hence "But Camp," like Butt, misspelled. Ha ha ha--of course I had to point this out to everyone because I'm a middle school teacher well versed in the vagaries of potty humor... Okay, I'm stopping now. Good night.