Summer camp crush. The kind of innocent fling that happened before lonely humans learned how to right swipe on Tinder.
I was 10 years old. I weighed 55 pounds. I was at Riverway Ranch Camp in Central California.
I had one goal at camp that summer: to kiss a girl for the very first time in my life.
If I went home without a kiss, the entire summer would have been a failure. I needed to enter 5th grade with a kiss to my name.
To find my first kiss, I developed a very simple strategy.
I wore a different No Fear t-shirt each morning at camp (12 total shirts) and signed up for archery lessons to impress girls.
The first week ended, and I really hadn’t met a single girl at camp, despite finishing 3rd in Archery Championships for Beginners.
What could be wrong?!
Was it the No Fears t-shirts? Absolutely not. No Fear was the shit. All the girls knew that!
What about my 3rd place archery medal? Archery worked for Kevin Costner in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
How was the entire camp not comparing me to Robin Hood by now?! Something wasn’t right. But I couldn’t figure it out.
The Final Night of Camp
It was the final night of camp, the “end of summer” dance — and I was completely striking out.
The hits were playing — Naughty By Nature, Warren G, Guns N’ Roses — and none of my dance moves were working.
I could sense that the night would be ending soon, and a few minutes later, the DJ who wore Oakley’s announced “this will be our last song!”
Very quickly, I walked up to a brown haired girl in denim shorts and asked her for a dance.
Her name was Lauren, I already knew this. I had fallen in love with Lauren the first day of camp, but she didn’t know that.
“I should probably introduce myself, seeing that I’m asking you to dance,” I said, as I shook her hand for 5 total seconds without saying my name.
“I’m Jeff from Cabin 23.” (Why the fuck did I give her my cabin number?! I remember thinking about this decision for several years.)
“I’m Lauren.” (She didn’t give me her cabin number. Why would she? She had social grace. I didn’t. )
“Hey Lauren. So yeah. Do you want to dance?”
Lauren said yes and grabbed my hand. She definitely wanted to dance.
As the DJ started playing our first and last song, I remember hoping for Boyz II Men.
I could sing their entire catalog —this would impress Lauren. Boys II Men also meant we would have an opportunity for body contact.
The final song came on. I will remember those lyrics forever.
“When I wake up, well, I know I’m gonna be… I’m gonna be the man who wakes up next to you…”
“I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” started playing —and I immediate realized this DJ had fucked me over. Who picks The Proclaimers on the last dance?! I could never make out to this.
Lauren and I kept dancing despite the song. I asked her if she liked archery. She said no.
I asked where she lived. She said Los Angeles. I told her that I had never been. Things were clearly going great.
We had absolutely nothing in common, but Lauren my summer camp crush, and that’s the only thing that matters when you’re 10 years old.
As the song ended, the DJ thanked all the campers for coming and told us to go back to our cabins.
And I just stood there, holding Lauren’s hand, not wanting to let go.
As we held each others hands, I stared into her eyes, trying to look as grown up as a 55-pound, 10 year old can possibly look.
I knew I needed to do something. And so I did it.
I kissed Lauren. She kissed me back. It lasted 2-3 seconds and it was over — holy shit, I kissed a girl.
Camp ended the next day and Lauren told me she needed to return home to Los Angeles — and I needed to go back to Palo Alto.
I guess that makes sense when you’re 10 years old.
Right before she boarded her bus, I asked if she had ever seen The Graduate.
Like every other question I asked during our dance together, Lauren had absolutely no idea what I was talking about.
I told Lauren that if she had seen The Graduate, I was going to jokingly ask if she wanted to run away with me — but she hadn’t seen the movie, so I couldn’t tell her the joke.
That was our final conversation. Small talk about a movie Lauren had never seen.
I watched Lauren board the bus and felt disappointed that we didn’t kiss again. But we promised to keep in touch.
After returning home to Northern California, I asked my Mom if I was allowed to make a long distance phone call.
Mom asked who I needed to call — and I told her everything I knew about Lauren based on our 3 minute and 34 second dance.
After my proclamation of love, Mom gave me permission to call Lauren once a week for 10 minutes, which seemed very reasonable to me.
When I called Lauren that night, her parents picked up. They asked who I was and I explained that I danced with Lauren at camp.
They gave Lauren the phone, who was surprised that I called. We had one awkward conversation. She dumped me later that week.
Our summer camp love didn’t last, but I will always be proud to say that my first kiss didn’t require the internet or OkCupid or Tinder.
All it required was a song about walking an absurd distance — 500 miles to be exact, picked by a DJ wearing Oakley sunglasses.
The Proclaimers did the trick.
Written by Jeffrey Morris Jr., who recommends listening to this song if you want to make out with someone tonight.
He also wants you to write about your first kiss in the comments section — or to share this story with that special person.
Who knows. You might find your Lauren again.