Recently, I packed my daughter off to summer camp for the ninth year in a row. This year she’s a junior counselor-in-training, which means instead of having the pleasure of paying the camp roughly the price of a brand-new Ford Fiesta for eight weeks of cheese sandwiches and bug juice, she gets paid the princely sum of $300! But no matter the economics of the whole enterprise, it’s worth every penny. As my daughter always tells me when the stress of standardized tests, college applications, and general teen drama (multiplied a thousand times by social media) threaten to overwhelm her, those eight weeks of summer-camp bliss make the rest of the year tolerable.
So where are my eight weeks of bliss? Just because I’m in the second half-century of life, why shouldn’t I get to run around in the sweet-smelling grass, hugging my sun-freckled friends, and flirting with boys who seem to have grown six inches since last year?
I know sleepaway camp isn’t for everyone—my younger daughter tried it for a couple of summers and found the whole experience meh. But I was one of those kids who loved it. First of all, I could reinvent myself with a whole new crop of friends. One summer, having impressed my bunkmates with a couple of gymnastics moves, I became known as “the jock,” rather amazing for a pipsqueak who, if not quite picked last in gym class, was certainly considered second-or third-string. It was also where I learned to shave my legs, kiss a boy, juggle, tap dance, and sing Stephen Sondheim songs (those last three were in theater camp).
Unlike my school-age kids, unfortunately, I can’t take off the entire summer to frolic in the sun (my daughter’s $300 CIT salary, unfortunately, won’t pay our mortgage). But I can take a long weekend to attend one of the plethora of new “adult camps,” designed for nostalgic former campers like me.
These are some of my options:
Wine camp: No joke. Four days and three nights of wine tastings, classes, “al fresco lunches in the vineyards,” fancy dinners, wine tastings, wine tastings, and more wine tastings, on the North Fork of Long Island. Now just try to remember all the lyrics to “Cats in the Cradle” when you’re face-down in a plate of brie after your sixth glass of merlot.
Adult band camp: The prestigious Interlochen Center for the Arts allows grown-ups to elbow aside all the pre-teen music prodigies for a five-day Adult Band Camp. Because this is a website for sophisticated adults, I will forego the American Pie jokes; if I could only I could actually play the French horn or tenor sax, this might be fun.
Zombie survival camp: A weekend in New Jersey learning knife-throwing and crossbow skills so you can survive the Zombie Apocalypse. Ugh, I think I’ll pass on that. I mean, come on, New Jersey?
John Waters camp: Putting the “camp” in camp, the legendary pencil-mustachioed director of Hairspray and Pink Flamingos hosts a weekend-long debauchery at a camp in Connecticut, including movie marathons, costume contests, and a bedtime story read by the auteur himself. Already got your credit card out and salivating to sign up? The cabins are completely sold out, but if you want to rough it with a sleeping bag and a pup tent, you’re in luck!
Regular, old-fashioned camp: If you’re looking to actually re-create your childhood summer camp experience, places like Club Getaway combine swimming, kickball, canoeing and Color War with over-21 activities, such as Beer Pong, Bloody Mary Bingo, and presumably a lot of young singles sneaking into each other’s cabins for some lights-out nookie. I’ll leave this one for the Millennials who can crawl into work on Monday after a three-day bender and still do whatever SEO/data analytics/social media consulting they’re so good at.
When I think about what I would really love from a summer camp experience, now that I’m in my 50s, it’s all about good food, good friends, singalongs, and one good glass of wine. Though I’d love to relive my camp glory days, I realize I’m way too old to sleep in a mosquito-infested bunk on a thin mattress with a dozen girls snoring around me. So I’m checking out Airbnb to find a fabulous house for a girlfriend getaway where I can enjoy the smell of campfires, fresh grass, and trees, but sleep at night on 400-count cotton sheets on a deluxe mattress in air-conditioned comfort.
Who wants to join me?