I was intrigued by a recent article I read in the New York Times about a rural New York farming camp that has a specific “no body talk” policy at camp. In other words, they want to take the emphasis so prevalent in our society concerning appearance off the table, and deal with who people are on the inside.
I totally applaud this. I mean, don’t we all need a break from the incessant judging, expectations, evaluations, and social standards set mostly by people who are, quite frankly, trying to sell us something by manipulating our insecurities?
Sadly, all that marketing filters out into the larger society and no longer remains solely in the realm of ads, but instead is found in everything from mean girls to our own self-loathing.
But, as much as I support Camp Eden’s intentions and efforts, I’m not sure I’d ever want to make that an explicit policy at Camp Alleghany. I say this somewhat sheepishly — or rather proudly perhaps —because one thing we’ve found is that…we don’t have to make it an explicit policy.
A century of girls
Sometimes I think the magic of Camp Alleghany is due in large part to its long tenure — we’re nearly 100 years old. That’s a century of a girls-only camp where we laugh, and run, and write plays and sing songs and get muddy and shoot guns and arrows and make art and cry and giggle and loaf around without the pressure of — men and boys! And without the pressure of what we all look like to each other because we’re all make-up free and in our most relaxed clothes and concentrating on who we are and what we’re doing, not on being dolled up or even on how we size up.
We’re not trying to be pretty, or outdo each other’s looks — and that’s beautiful!
There’s no “I” in team
Of course we do have our No Gossip Policy (NGP), which itself covers the process of making anyone else the object of our scrutiny, whether for appearance or for anything else. And we hold this sacred. What it’s designed to do is not just keep us from nitpicking our neighbor’s looks, but also nitpicking their being. But more than that it asks us to respect and honor all the friends who make up the circle of our camp.
I’m not saying our way is more on target than Camp Eden’s — far from it. I think their camp looks wonderful and their aim is deeply worthwhile.
But what I am saying is that all camps have an opportunity to be more than just lodging and play spaces for kids away from home. They have an opportunity to bring a mission into their camp culture.
That approach to mission is something we hold dear, as stated in ours:
Our mission is to ensure we are always working towards naturally inspiring growth through honor, loyalty and friendship. (You can read more about it by following the link above.)
Everywhere today we need more than places that give us a reprieve from the artificial pressures of an unrealistic culture. We need a transformation of that culture itself!
That starts with all of us seeing each other as full human beings, whatever guise we’re in and with whatever quirks we have.
We’re proud to be part of a camp tradition that does just that.
–Elizabeth Dawson Shreckhise, Assistant Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls