The Awkward Stage is a chance to read about the errors, flubs, and downright embarrassing moments of other people. It’s a chance to laugh and cringe with them and realize that you are not alone in living through (or in) “the awkward phase.”
Skyhorse Publishing has provided an excerpt for us to share with you. Scroll down and find out about Irene Marquette’s awkward phase.
“When Nature Strikes”
When I was in elementary school, my parents sent me to day camp for a few weeks every summer. It was fun. I liked it. I made friends, picked up new skills, saw neat things, and drank orange juice out of little plastic tubs with foil tops. But I wanted more. And I wasn’t afraid to beg for it.
Finally, the summer after sixth grade, my parents sent me to Rancho del Chaparral Girl Scout Camp in New Mexico. A couple girls from my troop were going as well, and I was over the moon anticipat¬ing what summer had in store for us. Friendships, secrets, archery, horseback riding, mess halls, a little harmless adventure. Maybe my breasts would grow. I’d get my period if I was lucky. I’d have God’s-eyes a’plenty to hand out to my family when they came to collect me at the end. Oh, I couldn’t wait to be the hero of my very own summer camp movie.
But I made my first misstep the very first night around the campfire. We were learning great songs like “One Tin Soldier” and “Barges.” I had my little campfire song booklet I bought at the general store and was furiously flipping through it trying to keep up. These girls were so much older, cooler, and wiser than me! Finally, I found my time to shine when they said they’d be singing “Desperado.” GREAT, I thought, surely they will want a performance of this classic! I stood and launched into a soulful rendition of the Eagles song only to open my eyes and see everyone laughing at me.
“I don’t know what you’re singing, but that’s not ‘Desperado,’” they said as they snapped their gum and tossed their hair. And then they sang their version. “What a big tall man, was this Desperado / from Cripple Creek way out in Colorado! And he horsed around just like a big tornado / And everywhere he went, he gave a WOO HOO.” I couldn’t hate them! They were so sophisticated, miming galloping on a horse and then spinning like a tor-nah-do. I swal¬lowed my pride and got on board.
This was the first of a series of small humiliations I experienced while I was there. Some of them were the result of teasing from the other girls and some of them I brought upon myself. Like my deci¬sion to mimic an infomercial and vacuum-pack all my clothes in freezer bags before I arrived. And my desire to wear only a giant polka-dot shirt and black polka-dot leggings every day. The worst offense of all was that I decided early on that I wasn’t going to poop for the entire week.
Maybe it was a fear of doing it in a place away from my home (at this point in my life, I was a bit neurotic about “doing it” at school or other foreign places), or it came from not wanting the other girls to SMELL IT, or maybe it’s that slightly dehumanizing way we fantasize about our own lives as though we are characters in someone else’s work. Young camping ladies in movies do not excuse themselves to drop a turd. So, I didn’t. I just refused. I held it in day after day without much trouble until about Wednesday, when I changed my mind and realized that I couldn’t “do it.” I had willed myself into extreme constipation.
That night, I stayed awake imagining the damage I had done to my body. Surely, I was irrevocably poisoned by my own filth. My bunk¬mates would find me in the morning and from that day forward I would forever be the girl who died from choosing not to poop. I didn’t want to be that kind of ghost! My stomach started to hurt. Before breakfast, I went and tried. Oh, how I tried. Nothing came out, and I started to panic. I ran to my best friend and told her what I had done (checking “secrets” off the old camp to-do list!), or not done, as it were. She was appalled, confused, and went to get our counselor, who was probably seventeen and cared not for a neurotic prepubescent non-pooper. What a summer SHE must have been having.
It wasn’t long before everyone knew. There was an outright summit between my counselor, the nurse, and the girls in my cabin convening just outside the latrine. Why did she do it? What is wrong with her? YOU OKAY IN THERE? And the whole time I’m just trying to squeeze this entire situation away. The nurse gave me some anti-constipation medicine and had me go lie down in my cabin until things “worked themselves out.” I was supposed to gently mas¬sage my stomach and roll my legs up to help get “things moving.” When I was absent from group activities that afternoon, everyone knew why.
I wish I could say that was the last time I had to learn the lesson that the things you actively try to ignore have a habit of rearing up and making you deal with them. These days, I try to face my problems head-on and don’t care so much about where I am when nature strikes.
The Awkward Phase came out on February 16, 2016. To order, click the link in the title.