Gabi Conti
July 13, 2013 10:00 am

It feels weird that it’s summer and I’m not at sleepaway camp.

Yes, I’m in my 20s. And yes, I know it’s “strange” or “creepy” that I still talk about summer camp as if it were yesterday, even though it was over ten years ago.

I started going to Camp Vega for Girls in Kents Hill, Maine when I was nine. I was a super awkward, the only CDs I owned were Broadway soundtracks and my only friend was my Tamagotchi (until its battery died and I had to make actual friends).

While I learned a lot at camp, like how to water ski, throw a pot in pottery and straighten my hair, there’s something I didn’t learn. Something I struggle with to this day: my life is not a musical.

And it all started with my first camp crush.

I went to an all girls camp so we’d have dances with the local boys camp called “socials.”  Socials were the ONE time we saw boys our age. You better believe this was like prom. We went all out.  The year was 2000 and we were brats, so we’d spend hours picking out the perfect Juicy matching cardigan set, painting our nails with Hard Candy polish (sushi was my favorite color), straightening our hair, layering our lips with Stila lip gloss and bathing ourselves in Cucumber-Melon Bath & Body Works body midst. I still get nostalgic from the roar of blow dryers and smell of burnt hair.

I wasn’t a fan of socials. To me, socials were a waste of my valuable time that I could’ve been using to rehearse for the camp play. I was REALLY into theatre at camp. I was in ALL of the plays. Basically anything to get out of physical activity.

Back home, I never got any of the leads in the school plays because I was a bigger kid. But at camp I was able to capitalize on my size by playing the male leads (again: all girls camp). My roles ranged from Mr. Snow in Carousel to Bill Pullman’s character in Newsies.

At age 13, at the peak of my awkwardness, I fell IN LOVE at a social.  And looking back after reading He’s Just Not That Into You, I’m pretty sure this love was unrequited (I learned that word from Frank Sinatra!).

The dances would take place in “the lodge” or the camp’s theater. The walls were covered with these plaques that showed the cast list for every camp play ever. So I felt right at home. I’d sit there with my arms crossed, memorizing my lines, hoping someone would read one of the plaques and come up to me and say, “Wow, you played Mr. Snow in Carousel? I’m a huge Roger and Hammerstein buff!” Which explains why my “type” can best be described as “probably gay.”

Until one social when I saw him.

The only guy that was *gasp* taller than me. He was gorgeous. Tan. Sparkling Eyes. A captivating smile. We got to talking and it turns out he was Italian like me. But like actually Italian, like from Italy. Not like how I’m Italian because I talk with my hands.  He had this great accent (accents really do make the heart grow fonder). At least that’s what I remember. I probably romanticized this entire encounter in my head because I just watched Passport to Paris.

For some strange reason, he asked me to dance. I can only image it was bet. Kind of like a She’s All That situation, pre-makeover, minus the overall and plus rainbow colored braces.

We bonded over how we were the only two Italians in our camps. And probably some other dumb things such as “liking music.” We spent the whole dance talking. But we never kissed. In my dramatic head, this felt like something out of a musical. I had never been in love, but I was pretty sure this was it.

Looking back, I didn’t really know what love is, and I often wonder if I do today. But as a theater obsessed kid, I assumed falling in love meant that moment in a musical, right before the main character breaks out into song and a perfectly choreographed dance routine.

After belting out my tenth off key rendition of Grease‘s ‘Hopelessly Devoted to You’ in the shower house. My friends had enough.  They were sick of hearing me pine over “the one that got away” or really “the only one I ever danced with.” So finally they told me to “write him a letter.” “Tell him how you feel.” “Leave your screen name.” “Use an Ann Geddes.”

Yeah, because nothing says, “I’m into you” like a card covered with naked babies dressed like flowers.

I don’t remember the letter. But I’m sure knowing me it probably sounded something like this:

Dear Italian Stallion,

I had such a great time with you at our social. I know this may sound crazy, but I think we’re soulmates. And I have a crush on you.

Keep in touch: DramaQueenGC

Love,

Me

Actually, pretty sure it was more wordy and awkward than that. Something I learned: if you’re going to start a sentence with “this may sound crazy,” then yes, it DOES. Put down the pen or shut your mouth and walk away.

Also, soulmates? What does a 13-year-old know about soulmates? Damn you, Corey and Topanga!

Shockingly, I never received a letter back. Lucky me, though, I went to school with a kid who went to camp with the Stallion who informed me that not only did the Stallion receive my letter, he also hung it up on his wall like a trophy.

I cried for days.

I believe it was Kelly Clarkson who said, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” This was my first of many heartbreaks. And all because if I like someone, I go all musical theatre on him.

I wish I could say I grew from this experience. I wish I could tell you that I have finally learned that my life is not a musical. But I have not. I am only into guys who want nothing to do with me. I disagree with Sinatra. Unrequited love is not a bore. It’s thrilling. But I wish I could be better at playing it cool instead of wanting to sing about it.

What are some of your favorite camp memories? How do you deal with your summer camp nostalgia? And do people think you’re crazy when you still talk about camp and you in your 20s? Am I the only one who thinks my life is a musical?

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