By Simon Rich
Simon Rich is a 29-year-old humorist and the second youngest writer ever for Saturday Night Live. He is the author of Elliot Allagash, What in God’s Name, and most recently, The Last Girlfriend on Earth, a collection of short stories about love. He attended Camp Winnebago in Fayette.
1. Short-sheet a kid’s bed, so he can’t get in it!
2. Draw a mustache on a kid while he’s sleeping and see how long it takes for him to notice it the next day!
3. Send a kid to live among strangers in the freezing wilds of Maine, for two whole months, without any kind of explanation.
4. Send a kid on a five-day canoe trip with no adult supervision except for a visibly stoned 16-year-old who has never canoed.
5. Send a 13-year-old kid to a “social” with a girls camp, at the height of adolescence, when his body is at its most physically repellent. Stage the event in a brightly lit cafeteria so that all of his acne is visible. Play hip-hop and R&B music at incredible volumes. Pressure the kid to slow dance with girls, or, if the song is up-tempo, to “grind” against them, with his smelly, putrid body. Keep him inside of the room for three straight hours. Don’t allow him to leave the room.
6. Schedule a kid’s bar mitzvah for the end of the summer, so that he has no choice but to practice Hebrew chanting in his bunk. Give the kid a Torah portion with a lot of high-pitched passages, which draw attention to his changing voice. Hire a rabbi from Augusta to drive to the camp once a week and scream at the kid, in front of his bunkmates, while he prays out loud, to an unforgiving God, in a language he doesn’t understand.
7. Call a kid’s camp director several times a day and make him describe the day’s meals. Complain about the nutritional value of the food. Push things to a point where the director has no choice but to serve the kid special lunches, with extra fiber, “to make sure he’s staying regular.” Instill such fear in the camp director that he feels compelled to visit the kid each day and inquire directly about his bowel movements, in front of his hysterically laughing bunkmates. Make it so that the kid is known at camp as the “bowel movement kid” — that it becomes his entire identity for the summer.
8. On visiting day, tell a kid’s bunkmates about his love of musical theater. When the kid denies his passion for show tunes, ignore all social cues and press the issue. Tell everyone within earshot that the kid is a “superstar in training.” When the kid tries to change the subject, request that he perform his “favorite number” from Evita. Say, “Wouldn’t everybody like to hear that? A song from Evita?” Get all the other parents to cheer. Create a nightmare situation where the kid has no choice but to sing Evita, in front of everyone, with his weird, changing voice.
9. Later on visiting day, ask your kid how his bar mitzvah training is going, because you’ve heard a “mixed report” from the rabbi from Augusta. When the kid is evasive, demand that he perform an excerpt from his Torah portion. Round up all the parents who saw him do Evita by shouting, “Encore! Encore! There’s going to be an encore!” When the kid refuses to chant Torah, accuse him of being ungrateful. Remind him of all the tribulations Jews have suffered over the centuries, just so he could have the luxury of one-on-one religious training from a top-notch Augustan rabbi. Speak in whispers about genocide. Have this be the note that visiting day ends on.
10. Raise a kid to believe that the world is a safe and accepting place. Teach him that mankind is essentially “good” and that everything happens for a reason. Then, at the height of puberty, send him to a boys camp where everyone showers in one room.
Photo Courtesy of Camp Modin