Back in my day, Stake Girls Camp* consisted of a week spent in uber-rural Idaho, sleeping in a floorless Army tent, digging latrines, torrential downpour, the constant fear of rattle snakes and Giardia, and the knowledge that if I started my period I would instantly become bear bait (rumor had it they could smell blood from 50 miles away and delighted in teenage menstruation). It also meant endless rounds of camp songs about scab sandwiches and four days without a shower. It was pretty much an 1800's work camp with a cheesy theme that was somehow suppose to bring me closer to God and increase my testimony*.
Fortunately, my down-to-earth and somewhat rebellious mother was in charge of the Annis Ward* during my first year of Girls Camp. The theme that year was "Bring the World His Truth" and every ward* was assigned a country as their mascot. We were Germany (West Germany to be exact because this was during the pre post-wall era). This was a dream come true for my mother, whose maiden name is Pabst. She spent weeks constructing a four foot wind chime out of empty beer cans and teaching us her favorite German beer drinking song (because that's appropriate for a camp sponsored by the Mormons). Needless to say, that was the last year they left my mother in charge.
My Minnesota bestie, Miss Natalie, was somehow suckered into being an Assistant Stake Camp Director; meaning she's spent the last 6 months in ridiculously long meetings planning Girls Camp for over 100 teenage Mormon girls and their "we hate to camp" leaders. Natalie is also a social leper...a really smart and successful business oriented social leper, who leads million dollar projects for a major US corporation but is obviously unqualified to be a successful Girls Camp leader because she has never pushed a kid out of her vag or been a stay-at-home mom...the two most important things a Mormon woman can have on her resume. What a nightmare.
So I really couldn't say no when Natalie asked me to come to camp as the "Assistant Craft Leader" when the reality was she didn't want to face a week of belittlement alone. So off to camp I went...
Girls Camp in Minnesota was like Camp Beverly Hills. There were no latrines to dig (because they had real flushing toilets), no rattlesnakes, no bears, no Giardia and someone did most of the cooking! The girls had professionally made tshirts, hiked on a paved trail, had craft and free time every day, and earned rewards for showing up on time (and we wonder what is wrong with the world). And sure enough I saw first hand the belittling of Natalie by the other leaders.
What the camp didn't skip was the supposed faith-inspiring theme: "Live Like You Believe", round after round after round of irritating camp songs (not a single cool Turkey Vomit song in the bunch), and my favorite part, the nightly gathering for faith promoting lectures and skits.
The highlight of my week, other than stealing a canoe and taking it for a spin long after official camp hours, was the night the girls had do to a skit about "virtue". Wowza. If I thought we were setting our youth up for a life of judgmental failure before, I can wholeheartedly testify that there is a HUGE difference between educating and encouraging religious rules and principles and totally warping and instilling a completely bogus reality. Case in point:
One ward* had 1/2 of their girls dressed up as "hoodlums" a.k.a. dressed all in black (that color has been stereotyped to death) and the other 1/2 of the girls in their modest camp capris and "Live Like You Believe" shirts. Then there was one impressionable soul who was bantering back and forth between the two. The plot evolved around the impressionable being convinced to drink some coffee...and then murder someone in the next scene.
It was at that point that I started giggling and received an onslaught of visual daggers from the leaders around me.
I turned to Natalie and said, "Whoa! That's a huge stretch. Coffee is NOT a gateway to murder", pause..."I mean, everyone knows it's the gateway to prostitution".
Natalie laughed out loud...which produced a whole new round of visual daggers.
I'm pretty sure it's my lack of children and stay-at-home-mom skills that totally clouds my ability to see the connection between the world's favorite caffeinated beverage and a life of crime; just like lack of children and stay-at-home-mom skills is the cause of Natalie's camp leader incompetence.
I fear for the future of our youth. My heart aches that they are being set up to live a life of miss-judgements and assumptions just like I was. I thank God on a daily basis I was blessed to be raised by a mother who attempted to bring some grey into a culture lived on a black and white spectrum...one beer can at camp at a time.
I'm praying they ask me to be the Assistant Stake Girl's Camp Director next year...so I can suggest that the theme be, "Don't be a Pretentious Ass Hole", preach alternative lifestyles (a.k.a. how to be single in the LDS church and still be valued as an equal), and teach those girls who to dig a latrine...because if you're going to survive in the LDS culture ya' gotta' know where to put all of the crap.