I’ve written before that I grew up spending at least one week a summer at Lylewood Christian Camp. A mainstay of all summer camps (and a highlight of the session) is skit night. I always enjoyed skit night. I liked creating a skit with my cabin and also watching other cabin’s efforts. That changed once I was old enough to attend the high school sessions and I learned of the existence of Couple Skits.
Couple Skits rank with Valentine’s Day as an infuriating way for people in relationships to be that much more cute (and annoying) while also serving to remind those not in relationships that they were not, uh, in a relationship. For anyone in the latter category, Couple Skits were something to be disliked. I loathed them.
I did have “camp girlfriends” occasionally, but for some reason we never made it the full week until skit night (camp had a way of accelerating relationships, or in my case, imploding them). When skit night rolled around, I would sit envious in the audience as the latest Couple Skit played out, doomed to be only a spectator.
On some level, wanting to be involved with a Couple Skit could be considered abnormal. Couple Skits usually involved embarrassing one half of the couple. If it was that type of Couple Skit, it was always the male half that was ridiculed. I guess I wanted to participate mainly because it would mean I was a part of a couple. More than that, I would publicly be proven to be in a couple. This was heady motivation.
I watched Couple Skits for two years thinking I would never have the opportunity to participate. That all changed the summer between my junior and senior year. The funny thing was, at the beginning of summer, I knew I wouldn’t get to be in a Couple Skit that year because I was actually part of a couple. I started dating a girl at the end of the school year and our relationship continued in to the summer. I invited her to camp, but she declined. I still thought we’d be together through the summer, so I figured no Couple Skit for me (only it didn’t bother me).
Of course, that relationship did not last even through part of the summer. She soon left me for a guy who washed windows because “he had more potential.” I again knew I wouldn’t be in a Couple Skit (which now very much bothered me).
My normal reaction to getting dumped was to wallow in self-pity for a bit an assume I’d never be happy again. For some reason, I took the opposite track that time and determined that I would get over it and move on. A few weeks later on the first day of camp, I discovered I had. I saw a girl arrive and, completely out of character (and believability), turned to my friend and said “She and I will be together before the end of the week.”
“That girl over there,” I answered as I pointed her out.
“Who is she? What’s her name?”
“I have no idea.”
My bold statement apparently gave me more confidence that I was used to because, oddly enough, we were together by mid-week. We sat next to each other and held hands during all the meeting times and everything. I was ridiculously happy.
Friday night arrived. Skit night. I had difficulty thinking as my cabin performed our skit and I barely paid attention during the others. I was hoping for one thing. Couple Skits. I hoped and wished that the counselors would stage one. This night would be different. I was in the audience holding hands with my girlfriend (as she referred to herself). I got my wish.
The moment came and one of the counselors was picking couples to participate. I could tell from the “props” that this skit would include blindfolding both people and giving them each a rolled newspaper with which to hit one another. The trick to this skit was that the blindfold would be removed from the girl only. Hilarity would ensue as the hapless guy wondering why he was taking so many shots when he could barely get one in. I didn’t care that I would be the one still in the blindfold. It was a Couple Skit and I was in a couple. That’s all I wanted.
My heart hammered as the counselor scanned the audience. His eyes landed on me and he said, “How about Leighton and the young lady next to him?”
Everyone applauded as I jumped up, ready to head to the stage. Something was wrong, though. My hand which had been holding hers was now empty. I looked back and she was still seated with a look of horror on her face.
“Come on,” I said, “we’ve been picked.”
Then, in a louder voice than necessary, she said, “I’m not going up there with you!”
The world froze as every eye turned toward me. I felt very exposed and alone as I stood in the aisle. A cricket chirped (this part could at least be attributed to being way out in the country). The moment stretched on until I slunk back to my seat.
She took my hand again, but I didn’t feel part of a couple any more. I sat miserably and watched the Couple Skit. Every time one of the guys was hit with newspaper and the crowd laugh, I couldn’t help but think, that could have been me up there.
On Saturday as we left camp, she gave me a small leather bracelet she wore all week. It was blue and printed with whales. She tied it on and made me promise not to take it off so I would always think of her. We both promised to write (which I did, twice with no reply).
I wore the bracelet throughout my senior year and in to my freshman year at college. It eventually fell apart much as the relationship did. It just took a lot longer. While I did think about her when I considered it, the bracelet came to mean much more to me. It was less about her and more about a moment of possibility. It was a reminder of the night I almost made it in to a Couple Skit. I split second of getting exactly what I hoped for. I chose to remember the good of that night, even though the moment was all too brief.
This may be one of the easiest to empathize with. I can’t say with certainty, but, I’m willing to bet everyone has looked at other couples while they were single and thought “Why not me?”
Though, I can’t imagine having gone back to hold her hand when she added that “with you” to the end of her statement. It seems so unnecessarily harsh. And I couldn’t imagine it felt any nicer than being turned down by a girl you like.