A-Camp May 2013 Recamp #2: Nothing Compares 2 U At Camp

Welcome to the second of four fantastic recaps of our experience at A-Camp 3.0, which took place 2.5 hours outside of Los Angeles at Alpine Meadows Camp atop a mountain in Angelus Oaks, California, from May 23rd-27th, 2013. These recamps serve to ease our collective separation anxiety, enable us to wax nostalgic over times gone by and provide prospective campers with a brilliant glimpse into the A-Camp Experience.

A-Camp May 2013

A-Camp was the genesis of an idea Riese had at 3AM in July 2010: the concept was to take the spirit of the website into three glorious dimensions and create an affordable vacation for queers for whom other lesbian-marketed vacations aren’t a perfect fit.  In April 2012, we did it for the first time— along with 160 campers and 35 staff members, we rented out a summer camp in its off-season and enjoyed a transformative weekend of fun, friendship, panels, workshops, classes, sports, entertainment, events and so forth. It was probably the most awesome experience of our life and we knew from there it would only get bigger and better — and it did, in September 2012!


Which brings us to May 2013, when our largest-ever group of campers arrived on the mountain, and were greeted by dedicated counselors and treated to four days of kickass programming. Swagger 101! Comedy Improv! Yoga! DIY Body Scrubs! Hop-Hop Dance! Kink Panel! Know Your Whiskey Tasting! Recess Games! Drag King Workshop! Femme Luncheon! Lilith Fair! Julie Goldman & Brandy Howard! DeAnne Smith! Somer Bingham! The cast of Unicorn Plan-It! Calendar Girls! Team Autostraddle! Most importantly: EACH OTHER! And So. Much. More.

A-Camp May 20131

In the past, these recamps have been exhaustive recollections of every minute of A-Camp, but this time we’re tightening it up a bit. See, A-Camp is whatever you want it to be — and it’s something different for everybody. You all have your own stories in your hearts and brains and cameras and in the notebook paper pieces in your back pockets and this is our story of what goes on behind-the-scenes and also in the front of our brains to make this whole she-bang come together with relative grace. Are you ready? I don’t think you’re ready. (Also, we miss you!)

A-Camp May 2013 Recamp #2: Day Two


Friday, May 24th: Day Two of A-Camp

Our first full day of A-Camp was jam-packed with Big Panels and concluded with an Evening of Feelings-Related Entertainment.

Photo by Cee

Photo by Cee

Friday Morning

Block A: The Truth About Cats & Dogs (Mary & Jill) // Gay Movie Trivia (Brittani, Kate & Carly) // What Makes Queer Family Queer? Panel (Laneia, Carrie, Riese, Whitney, Somer & Robin) // T-Shirt Cutting/Stenciling (Carmen & Medd) // The Care and Keeping of Plants (Kristen & Cara)

Block B: DIY Projects: Car Repair (Jill) // Introvert Meetup (Crystal & Whitney) // Non-Monogamy Discussion (Daniela, Jen F, Stef, Kay M) // Comedy Improv Workshop (Brittani) // Bloody Hell: A Menstruation Feelings Atrium (Laneia, Rachel, Lizz, Ali)

(photo by vanessa)

(photo by vanessa)

Cee, Technical Director & Golden Girls Counselor: I woke up at 6am Friday morning and dragged Jill over to see the trash can and look for bear prints.

Kristen, Contributing Editor & Scissor Sisters Counselor: I kept waking up at 6.30 even though official things didn’t happen until 8.30. But I met a bunch of weirdos with equally fucked up sleeping patterns and fresh brewed coffee to boot. So while everyone else was working off their hangovers I met up with the Breakfast Club and traded gummy Vitamin B12 for paper cups of French press coffee. I’d like to thank Melisa, Meredith, Stephany, Naomi, Crystal and everyone else for introducing me to Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter, TimTams and 4,000 Femme and Not-So-Femme Feelings.

Gabby, Writer & Foxfire Counselor: I was so so sick! I was burning up with fever and feeling like I was going to faint! Holy crap, could I please just take a moment to thank Megan for everything she said/did on the mountain and in the way she had my back and giving me Tylenol and Gatorade and hugs? Literally, every time we bumped into each other, Megan asked me if I was ok, if I needed help, handed me some type of hydration, huggation – literally she even sat with me for a moment when I felt dizzy and wanted to cry.

What Makes A Queer Family Queer Panel (photo by katie o)

What Makes A Queer Family Queer Panel (photo by katie o)

Mary, Calendar Girl & Little Rascals Counselor: Leading The Truth About Cats and Dogs discussion with Jill is always a highlight. Listening to her talk about anything makes me feel like all is right in the world.

Cara, Contributing Editor & Bombshells Counselor: The Care and Keeping Of Plants was the only workshop I helped lead and I was SO NERVOUS about it. Luckily A-Campers are so smart and awesome that every activity ends up a crowdsourced cabinet of wonders. The picnic tables were soon as smorgasbord of glitter paint, artful twigs, homemade seed envelopes, and really great advice about keeping green things alive in the New Mexico desert.

Crystal, Music Editor & Toros Counselor: The Introvert Meet-Ups are always a really chill time. Whitney and I broke everyone into two groups and we sat around getting to know each other via a series of conversation-starter style questions about our hopes and dreams and worst first dates. It was really great to see all the campers hanging out together once the event was over, that was the best part.

swingers (photo by christina b)

swingers (photo by christina b)

Sophia, Inferno Counselor: I learned a lot from Jill’s Car Repair I mean, I don’t know how to drive but I did really enjoy watching that butch action in in the sunshine, just gotta say.

Stef, Contributor & Bombshells Counselor: I asked to be on the Non-Monogamy Panel this camp ’cause I actually have a ton of experience despite not really identifying as a polyamorous person, and I’ve never really talked about it in public before. It was really cool to sit on a panel with four super knowledgeable babes and share our experiences. Like so many activities at camp, we talked a lot about communication. Communication! You should do it.

Daniela, Intern & Starjammers Counselor:  Stef and I sat along with three campers and told a chunk of camp about our experiences, knowledge and understanding of relationships outside of monogamy -we each had an approach that illustrated just how different non-monogamy is for each person. I loved hearing experiences from the audience and being there to validate one another over the challenges we face as people in non-monogamous set-ups. More than anything though, I really liked how the take away was you do you because you’re doing it well as long as it feels right.

Brittani, Contributing Editor & Hellcats Counselor: Going into the Improv Workshop, I was afraid people would be hesitant to participate and everyone would get shy and then there would be no workshop, it would just be me standing in the ampitheater by myself laughing nervously. I was especially worried because improv games can be very similar to ice breakers and I HATE ice breakers. I suspect I’m not the only one that holds this opinion so when everyone was on board and didn’t look like they wanted to kick me in the shins, it was a huge load off. I got a lot of good laughs as the hilarious campers talked about their pet peeves, smacked each other with imaginary frying pans, and argued about fixie bikes.


Comedy Improv class (photo by rachel w)

Rachel, Senior Editor & Slayers Counselor: The period panel (Bloody Hell: A Menstruation Feelings Atrium) was something that we had talked about as camp approached, but I think I had sort of always thought “nah, we can’t actually do that. No one else wants to just talk about bleeding for an hour, do they?”

Riese, Editor-in-Chief & Runaways Counselor: Personally, I did not want to talk about bleeding for an hour. It is a constant source of tension between my sister wife Laneia and I that she always wants to talk about periods and I never do. Except when I want to complain about cramps.

Rachel: BUT APPARENTLY PEOPLE DID. The group that attended this workshop was so incredible – I learned new things about reusable pads and PCOS and our weirdo bodies, and everyone was super hilarious while doing so.

Ali, Contributing Editor & Outlaws Counselor: We really had no idea what to expect, since all of us individually could talk about our period feelings for an hour apiece, and then we had to condense our collective feelings into an hour.

A-Camp May 20132

bloody hell

Rachel: Liz and I performed some Very Educational roleplaying about how you can talk to your partner about period sex, which we had practiced extensively. Also a male campgrounds employee may have walked in while I was explicitly propositioning Liz for [hypothetical] period sex, which I sort of regret, but also maybe he learned something!

Ali:  Liz taught me all about Leptin and hormones and such and I got to draw a Diva cup on a large piece of poster paper. Basically my life was complete after I drew the cup for a room full of queers.

Riese: This was the first camp where I wasn’t scrambling to plan for my next activity every free minute I got, so on my off-blocks I could go to other people’s things! DeAnne Smith & I hit up the Non-Monogamy Discussion and then I ducked out to catch some of Bloody Hell. Non-Monogamy and Periods are two things I generally fail at but wish I was cooler about, but isn’t that what camp is all about? EXPANDING YOUR MIND? Whenever I had free time to go to other activities I would sit there and think, “damn this is a really good camp.”

t-shirt cutting & stenciling

t-shirt cutting & stenciling

Next: Quinoa. Just kidding! Um, the rest of the day. That’s what’s next, duh!

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  1. So, I didn’t even go to A-Camp, and I squealed when I saw this went up. It just seems like the very very most ultimate best.

    I can’t wait until I can go some day!

  2. Recamps make me love you all but also completely make me bummed about the real world. A-Commune! I’m just gonna hold on to that dream.

  3. I cried so hard during Whitney’s reading that my cabinmate had to give me her (polyester!) bandana. It was mostly ineffective but very much welcomed. I love you weirdoes and all your weird feelings.

        • Katrina and I speculate often about how like, Whitney orders a burrito bowl at chipotle and everyone starts sobbing at her beautiful, beautiful truth. Whitney, you’re amazing <3

    • Pretty much my only critique of A-Camp is those bandannas need to be 100% cotton next time, to mop up the feelings.

      • By Sunday, I think, I was sticking one of my own bandanas in my pocket not for hanky code purposes, but for feelings purposes.

        I mean I guess multitasking is a thing too.

    • I’m pretty sure we spent most of Whitney’s reading holding on to each other. Feelings bonding, y’all.

      Also, for real Whitney, I still choke up a bit when I remember your reading. It was beautiful and summed so much of my fears before coming out to my parents. Thank you.

  4. MARNI! I didn’t realize you were also dealing gummi vitamins. Fuck, I thought I had the market cornered.

  5. Was really glad that Deanne was throwing boyshorts at the stage so I could keep my underwear on for the entire duration of Lilith Flair. I was fangirling so hard I nearly fainted.

    • i seriously stopped at a drugstore on the way back from airport duty to buy some men’s underwear to have campers throw at marni during her solo song but THEY FUCKED IT UP and threw all the underwear during the opening number so… i have big dreams for october. i can’t say anything more.

  6. Somer, you overheard the flogging with a mop bit when Kristen was drawing pictures for the sex Q and A outside of wolf lodge.

    I wrote down one quote from the entire trip. It was this:

    “Once you make out with a girl the road is wide open. Once you make out with a girl you could be an astronaut!”
    – Laneia, Family Panel

    • omg i remember when laneia said that

      also sidenote doesn’t laneia have the perfect voice?

      like i could listen to laneia speak all day, saying anything at all


  7. i ate so many of marni’s gummi vitamins and i am only realizing just now as i read this recap that they are probably not vegan. THE HORROR.

  8. Daniela made my life with that comment at the WOC panel. I say that to myself at least once a day.

  9. My favorite part of day one was at Jill’s Car Thing when Anna asked Jill how to tell whether it was diesel or unleaded you needed to put in the car, and then Jill looked at Anna for a good 5 seconds, trying to figure out whether or not Anna was fucking with her, and then when it became evident that Anna was SO FUCKING SERIOUS, she very kindly explained it ever so patiently.

    Also, she taught me that I’ve been trying to explode my car while jumping it for YEARS.

    And then my amazing plant that made me feel SO ACCOMPLISHED

    Day 2 was the day I started to feel like I actually belonged there, admittedly, and it was so amazing. I love y’all. *WARM FEELINGS*

    • Hmm. I don’t know this. What *is* the difference? I just use whatever fuel is the cheapest.

      • HUGE difference. Unleaded is the cheapest, here, at least, and it’s what the vast majority of cars use. The only cars what use diesel are mostly dualie trucks and some fancy cars do too now I guess? But the only ones I know of around here are trucks.

      • Diesel should only be used with diesel engines. The main difference is when fuel is injected into the engine. Diesel is injected into already compressed air, while regular gas is injected in to the air and the whole mixture is compressed.
        The main structural difference is that diesel engines don’t have spark plugs because the fuel air mixture ignites because of compression.

    • Haha funny, I don’t remember what scientific words I used to describe the difference to Anna, I just remember doing an improv impression of what a gas engine vs a Diesel engine sounds and feels like. It was probably a delightful sensory experience for all campers.

    • Have you made “Call me pretty, touch my butt” underwear yet? Because I’m pretty sure that idea was gold.

  10. I was feeling kind of homesick and overwhelmed on the first full day but I went to bed happy that night because of Lilith Flair. DeAnne’s riff on how it was in the ’90s was spot on and the music was Totally. Fucking. Amazing. and exactly what I needed after a day of so many intense feelings. I actually went to Lilith Fair in 1998 and 99 and holy shit you guys! Well done.

    Also, We Belong might have come up on my iPod in the car a couple of days ago, and I might have sung it at the top of my lungs all the way down the interstate. Like 5 times in a row. I’m just sayin’.

  11. i loved all the panels, hearing everyone’s experiences and stories is super interesting and important and affirming (also pretty intense). god there were so many great activities that day, it was hard to choose, i’m still sad i missed bloody hell and nerdcraft – so these just will have to happen again next camp!

    also, this was maybe my favourite evening program! the staff reading is like the website come alive, and more. everyone is so talented, and it was a good mix of funny and personal, really touching pieces. and then the staff music performance, that was amazing, too. especially stef’s “not an addict” (guys, stef is really talented!), and marni’s “nothing compares”, and somer and ok did i mention how much i loved this evening?!


    • omg thank you, i was really nervous about doing a thing by myself because i am not a strong singer but a camp makes that seem to not matter so much somehow? prob the altitude.

  12. You guys, I’m going to say it…

    The staff reading ALONE is worth the price of camp.

    That shit is a game changer.

    I really didn’t expect it to be my thing, but it was the most beautiful, eye-opening, heart-warming mixture of love and joy and pain and triumph that I have possibly ever experienced.

    So, to everyone who bravely got up and read your stories so that we may laugh and cry and feel… thank you! <3

  13. I cannot wait until the day I can finally make it to camp. It’s like everything I could ever dream of. Also, does anyone else think these recamps make it like impossible to not have a crush on at least one AS staff member or all of them?

  14. So sad that I couldn’t make it to camp this time :( You all are such wonderful, inspirational people and this community is so special. I can’t wait to come back some day! LOVE YOU GUYS!

  15. Good thing I am front and center in a picture from the WOC panel getting my day drink on. I wouldn’t want anyone to forget that it is a thing I do at camp. And in life. For forever. And always.

  16. i was doing so well not crying as i read this recap and then i got to the part where riese talked about workshopping my essay with me back in april 2012 when i was a teeny tiny baby camper and not even writing for autostraddle yet and i just started feeling all these feelings and GREAT NOW I’M WEEPING IN MY BEDROOM ALONE AT 2:40AM IT’S FINE NO REALLY I AM FINE.

    sigh. i just love you all SO much. do i say it enough? i love you all so much.

    …is it october yet??


  17. i wrote down exactly one overheard at camp, which i think might have been pj and mareika but i’m not sure:

    “we’ll just have a pack of ten dogs and live in the woods.”
    “and one cow.”
    “why a cow? i don’t eat dairy.”
    “TO PET IT.”

  18. “We’ll talk more about Klub Deer in the next recamp”

    I don’t think you guys understand how excited I am for this

  19. I’m kind of wondering what an FBI profiler would say about Taylor’s collection and use of human hair in all those notes.

  20. Oh man, I can’t wait until I can go to A-Camp. Please promise you’ll be doing it for like, the next 20 years.

  21. * Just learned what the fuck a perler bead is and am assuming they stick together by the power of lesbian magic

    *I love QWOC as an acronym, partially because QWOCs are awesome, and partially because I say it in my head like “guac” (as in “-amole”) and it sounds cool.

    *I propose the following activities for next camp:

    — Belted High A’s Make My Panties Drop: Lesbians with Musical Theatre Feelings panel
    — I Can’t Believe I Left My Cat at Home kitty cuddle session
    — Let’s All Check Our Tumblrs in the Same Room
    — Artisan Sandwich Making
    — What the Fuck is a Perler Bead?: Absolutely Necessary Queer Crafting Vocabulary
    — Trim That Shit: The Care and Keeping of Your Bangs
    — Who Killed Jenny? Mock Trial
    — Sneakers: A Retrospective

  22. 1) the staff reading makes me fall in love with everyone over and over. it’s one of my favorite parts of camp
    2) i had been to every single actual lillith fair, so i was really excited about the performances. guys, they were better than actual lillith fair. also, the fact that i had been to every lilith fair is one of those big “HEY YOU GAY” red flags of my past.
    3) i’m pretty sure that i was the one that said the “overheard at camp” comment about daniela. heeeyyy girl.

    • Can we have a moment regarding all of our feelings for Daniellas and Crystals accents.

      • i vote we all group skype and swoon together. also add some raspy gabby and carmen in there.

  23. Friday night basically turned me into a big gooey mess of love, admiration, and fan kid, for the AS Staff and Co. I mean, seriously. If you could see the rubble of my heart after falling in love with everyone….

  24. When do we start talking about the real magic of A-camp: Kadeanne?

    But really, the fister spit was better than I could have ever imagined. SO MANY FEELINGS. And Lilith Flair was way better than I expected and I am so happy I went and got to sit right in front with the rest of the Blackhearts and Runaways and sing along to every song.

  25. I am eating cookie butter with a spoon and have camp feelings right now, love and miss everyone so much!

  26. I am legitimately planning on coming to A Camp to celebrate passing my comp exams next spring with a friend who is also taking her comps and has never been to the West Coast (she’s originally from China). Which is to say: please tell me there will be a camp next late spring/early summer?

  27. These posts just make me so excited for next year when I’m finally old enough to attend (and hopefully not completely broke). There’s just something about seeing such a happy welcoming environment that can warm any baby lesbian’s heart.

  28. Fister Spit remains one of my favorite aspects of camp because it was the moment when I stopped being an occasional Autostraddle lurker and became a full-fledged community member. I’ve been checking in on Autostraddle for the last couple years, but never followed it that closely because I always felt really out of the loop and like maybe everyone already knew each other and there were always references to other posts I hadn’t read and I just wasn’t part of the club and didn’t even know whether I wanted to be or not because maybe I wasn’t cool enough.

    But the staff readings totally changed that and now I can put faces and voices to authors of posts/columns and I feel like I can actually be part of the club and even though the reading in general caused so many feelings I had to leave and sit on the other side of Eagle because I don’t cry in public and Riese’s piece really, really got me, I’m really glad I went.

    And then I’m really glad Lilith Flair was afterward and it was wayyyyyy better than the Lilith Fair I attended in 2010, and also the night could not have wrapped up in a better way. Indigo Girls 5ever.

    p.s. that was totally my jar of nutella.

  29. “That accent… it’s a panty-dropper, essentially.” Who DIDN’T say that about Daniela at least once during camp?

  30. I knew Lilith Flair would be good in the same way you know a chocolate chip cookie will be good — like how could this possibly go wrong — but then Lilith Flair was motherfucking amazing? In the same way that a chocolate chip cookie wrapped in a pot brownie that’s being hand-delivered by Bjork while she’s singing “Hyperballad” from the inside of a technicolor bubble just before she sucks you into that bubble and you both float into outerspace on your way to a planet where raindrops are glittery and unicorns tell you the secrets of the universe is amazing? Like that? Just like that.

  31. These posts make me want to go to A-Camp soooo much!!!

    Also, I’m irrationally happy to see Pine Knob referenced in Autostraddle and to know that Riese also still calls it Pine Knob.

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