April 2nd, 2010

APRoberts

Pretending

The campfire crackles, sending sparks into the night air. I glare as flames eat away at the logs.

I hate this place.

I would say it can't get any worse than it is, but some of the counsellors have brought their guitars. I just know they are going to start singing soon. I hate singing.

I can hear the first few strums of guitar. The other kids are laughing and the counsellors are trying to get everyone's attention.

When they realize that they aren't going to get silence, the counsellors start singing. Soon the other campers start in. I mouth some of the words, hoping they don't notice I'm not actually singing.

No such luck. Kristy, the head counsellor, comes over to sit by me.

"Barbara, why aren't you singin'? You should be joinin' in and havin' fun with the rest of them."

I look at her. She has got to be kidding me. I was dragged here against my will. She knows I don't want to be here. My parents  had a brief conference with her when they dropped me off this morning.

"I'm tone deaf." I try to keep my voice as neutral as possible so that she doesn't know I'm lying. The truth is that I can actually sing quite well. I just don't like other people hearing me sing.

Kristy smiles and leans closer to me, as if to share a secret. "It doesn't matter if you can't sing. Half the songs are actually meant to be shouted."

I roll my eyes. I am not going to sing let alone shout. "I don't want to sing. I don't even want to be here."

"Barbara, if you don't at least join in, you aren't going to have any fun here." She's talking to me as if I'm a little kid. As if, I don't know what I enjoy doing and what I don't enjoy doing.

"I don't enjoy singing. I don't enjoy shouting. I would much prefer to be back at the cabin, in my bunk, reading a book." I look her in the eyes, daring her to contradict me.

Kristy shakes her head. "You're quite the kid. You know that? You talk like your in your thirties or something and you'd rather be alone than havin' fun with kids your own age. But, if you really don't want to join in tonight, I won't force you."

The night goes just as I imagined it would. Singing and more singing then back to the cabin.

I wish I had a cabin to myself. All I can hear as I'm trying to sleep are the other girls. They keep talking about the guys and which one is the cutest. They are all playing "best friends forever" as if they've known each other for years instead of hours.

I roll towards the wall, trying to block them out of my mind. Think happy thoughts. Think Jane Austin. Think Orsen Wells. Think JRR Tolkien. Think CS Lewis. Think books.

I fall asleep to the sounds of girls giggling and thoughts of my favourite authors.

The next day, each cabin has their own set of activities. Some of the activities we are to do with other cabins but most of them are on our own.

The only activities I actually liked were the meals and free time. I had to put up with the rest of my cabin for the other activities.

Don't get me wrong, most other people would have enjoyed themselves. However, I don't like forcing myself to smile when the other girls tell me a joke that isn't funny. I don't enjoy talking about guys and clothes and celebrities. I don't like playing sports or getting my hands dirty during arts and crafts. That is not what I enjoy. That is not who I am.

It only takes the girls in my cabin one day before they start to make fun of me. At first it's just in the way they stop talking when I join them. The laughter that follows me when I leave.

Soon enough, they move onto mocking me when I am there in front of them.

They ask me who my boyfriend is. When I tell them I don't have one, they make fun of that. They say things like "Barb thinks she's above the boys here. She's too good for us."

They taunt me when I sit on the beach reading. "Oh  look, it's Geeky McGeek with her nose stuck in a book. She'd join us in the water, but then her book might get wet."

My parents come to pick me up at the end of the week. They give me a talking to the entire drive home. "If you would have stayed the full two weeks, you would have gotten a lot more out of the experience. You would have bonded more with your cabin mates. You might have even gotten yourself a boyfriend."

They don't know that I've gotten enough out of the experience. I am through trying to be friends with people who will only ever see me as "Geeky McGeek" or "Brainy Barbara". I am through pretending to enjoy myself when all I want to do is curl up in bed and cry. I am through with summer camp.