Written by me, published in Womanzine 07: Camp(ing) Issue
Growing up, I was never much for the outdoors. I was too afraid to ride my bike down a big hill for fear of crashing, terrified of running around in the field because of my potential bee allergy and unable to hang out at the river since I (still) can’t swim. Summer was never my jam. I’ve always been a restless, anxious mess if I don’t have a schedule, resulting in me being that weird kid who missed the structure of a school day. It would be hot outside and I would roll around in my parents’ bed, crying until my mom yelled at me to go outside and do something with my day. It was the summer of seventh grade. Reality television wasn’t a thing yet and the Disney Channel was still a special novelty that I couldn’t believe we had. Raised on a diet of Hamburger Helper, we were never able to afford the Disney Channel until it was miraculously added to our cable package.
Bug Juice aired in 1998. It followed a group of kids at Camp Waziyatah in Maine, bringing their summer camp experiences to me. I was obsessed. I had huge crushes on Andy (the good boy) and Connor (the boy with the slightly checkered past), an unfortunate romantic dichotomy that at 27, I have yet to grow out of. Bug Juice represented everything I wanted out of summer—meeting new people outside my tiny California hometown, getting away from home, being good at the outdoors, starlit kisses and a structured day for my control freak brain. I spent that summer, glued to the television, living vicariously through their outdoor activities and romantic entanglements.
Years and years later, I found myself in a similar situation.
After finishing my Master’s degree, my life was completely uncertain. For the first time in my life, I would not have the reassurance of going back to school in the fall—had no idea where I would live or if I could find gainful employment. As I felt that restless, anxious girl rolling around in the sheets of her parents’ bed, creeping back in, as an adult woman I tried to keep it together. That meant going to my telefund job during the day and drinking heavily with my grad school friends at night, enjoying the brief time before we all scattered across the country at the end of the summer.
One night over beers, my close friend Doug and I discovered our shared affinity for Bug Juice, discussing our shared crushes on Andy and Connor. One drunken YouTube search later and we rediscovered every episode. Doug and I began a summer ritual, getting high and watching multiple episodes of Bug Juice every night after going to the bar or creating excuses to leave the bar early. We cringed over the awkward 14 year old summer romances and felt pervy watching these boys who in our pubescence had held so much appeal to us. But we couldn’t stop watching.
That summer, for the second time in my life, I lived vicariously through the kids of Camp Waziyatah, while waiting for my own life to start.