First Heartbreak, circa Summer 1993

The first year I went to sleep-away camp, I turned eight on the very first day. This made me the youngest camper in the whole camp, which was made up of both boys and girls who were mostly from Pennsylvania and New York and ranged in age from eight to fourteen. Campers could attend one or two two-week sessions, and I remember being sorely disappointed at the end of every summer break. Camp life was always much easier and more magical than real life. I spent seven summers there, turning fourteen before my graduating year.

I don’t remember which year I met Dave (and yes, I totally remember his name and pretty much exactly what he looked like as a 14-year-old), but I do remember that I developed a very sudden and very intense crush on him. Oh my God, he was so cute. I couldn’t have been older than 10, but somehow, I became the pet of his co-ed friend group, hanging out in the gazebo, where they would spend the free periods locking lips and breathing into each other’s lungs. What they were doing wasn’t exactly kissing, but it was definitely…something. I never participated, just watched with fascination and slight unease. I was like a puppy that sits quietly in the corner while the humans did their weird human thing.

Every session, there was a dance on Saturday night of the themed weekends. Dances where we would pile into the dining hall, where the long tables and benches where we ate French toast sticks, bug juice, sloppy joes, and chicken nuggets three times a day would be pushed against the walls.

One day, Dave must have said something like, “I’ll see you at the dance.” My brooding, 10-year-old brain interpreted that as an invitation to go to the dance with him. Like, as his date. I must have mentioned this thrilling fact to one of his female friends who, I believe, out of a combination of pity and territoriality, decided to clear up this misunderstanding. Dave, very earnestly and sweetly, broke it to me that he didn’t want to take me as his date but that he did promise me one slow dance. This wasn’t enough, and I literally ran back to my tent and sobbed into my pillow, totally broken-hearted and shocked by how quickly things had changed.

I couldn’t believe that I had misinterpreted him so royally. How embarrassing and how disappointing. I’m sure I refused to go to the dance, positive that I couldn’t show my face at an event where I had already been rejected.

I don’t remember gathering myself up to get ready to go, but I do remember that Dave and I did share a slow dance. He even spent the song shuffling back and forth on his knees, so I could reach my hands around his neck and look into his eyes.