On the Inevitability of the Camp Hand Job

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She was Russian, older, breasted. I was a boy sitting on the picnic table near the coolers filled with ice water. It was important to stay hydrated. She was, like me, a camper — an older one — and her face, like the faces of many Russians, was already grandmotherly, but not in an unattractive way. She wore a sports bra and leggings and smelled of body odor. She could she kiss. She could do more than kiss.

Our camp, located in a small town in Western Maine, named its cabins after small liberal arts colleges. So, after receiving my first hand job, I ran down the hill from the dining hall towards Bowdoin. I caromed over pine roots and slipped on needles, ecstatic. That this could be done by the hand of another and that someone—in this case, this sweet Slavic lady in a sports bra from St. Petersburg—would do it to me (to me!) was a truly mind-blowing moment. Life as a young teenage weirdo, such as I was, wasn’t always easy. But, until that feeling faded a few hours later as I buried my Tommy Hilfiger boxer briefs in the laundry pile, the world was brilliant with possibility. I was in the woods. I was in heaven. I had been hand-jobbed. It was great. It was, in short, camp.

cabin in the woods

Hand jobs almost certainly happened or will happen here. flickr / wonderweiss

School is almost out and that means camp season is upon us. For some reason, we as a society have decided — at least since the early 20th century and the rise of the summer camp — that it would be a good idea to ship our horny, hormone-shook teens away for the summer to poorly supervised camps. There are many benefits to sending a child to sleep-away summer camp. The friendships formed there tend to be as strong and enduring as a gimp bracelet. But let us not fool ourselves: If you send your child to camp—and by child, I mean early teen—he or she will very likely either give or receive a hand job.

Who among us, those who went to summer camp or who were otherwise ever teenagers, does not remember the endless scholarly discussions of what exactly constituted  “the bases”? Rounding them, that is performing acts of ever increasing sexual intimacy, has been the obsession of teens since the invention of baseball. (And before that, the invention of whatever metaphor predated it.) Perhaps it was just my camp, though I doubt it, but these discussions, held on porches and in bunks after lights out, took on an almost Talmudic quality. “Hooking up” was the entire point of summer camp. It was what we thought about in pottery, during water skiing, and on hikes through the White Mountains. How, we wondered collectively and individually, do we get a woman to like us enough to do stuff to us?

Being a sex-obsessed camper is easy. But talking to your sex-obsessed camper about HJs is another thing entirely. If, in a decade or so, I find myself in a vastly better financial position and the world hasn’t ended, I will be in the unenviable position of sending my sons into HJ terrain. Should I plan to discuss such matters? Or should I silently look on and let it ride? Fathers of daughters, what are you meant to say? Should you sternly discourage, gently admonish, or let it ride?

The hand job, in and of itself, is perhaps the most benign of all erotic manual-genital interactions. Hands, after all, do so many jobs. It seems problematic mostly in the constellation of values, chatter, and judgment that might follow. It isn’t the hand job per se that bespoils the minds of youth, but the notion that sex is something to be listicled. It’s the pressure for ever-forward motion around the bases, the peer-pressure penalties for delay of game. As with all things, perhaps, the best advice when it comes to summer camp with its rampant hand jobs, is to treat the jobber and the jobbed with respect. Trust they’ll be sane.

It’s not as if, as my babuschka fondled my schmeckle, I was thinking, “Gee, I wish my father had discussed this with me.” I only thought exclamation points!!!! And if he had limned what might happen, handjob-wise, the enjoyment of the thing itself would be tainted by his words. It’s like the “Previously On” montage at the beginning of Homeland or The Americans which fills one with both apprehension of both what’s to come and that what’s coming is already spoiled. I have no idea what my father could have said that would have been helpful, salient, or germane but not creepy, patriarchal and gross. I suppose, there might have been some non-verbal hand job wisdom communicated when my father hugged me in the camp parking lot but I could not yet savvy its meaning. Anyway, some experiences are beyond words.

I, for instance, haven’t told anyone about that time with the Russian near the cooler for 20 years. It was too magical even to mention to my bunkmates. I myself could hardly believe that it happened. How could I expect anyone else to? But I’ve kept it there, in my brain, hallowed, handsied, and bathed in the golden light of summer.

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