What Happened at Camp Man Repeller (ICYMI)

On Sunday morning, I was laying in the grass at Echo Lake, one hand holding Yvonne’s, another petting Amelia’s head, which was resting in my lap. The sun was shining on our dusty boots and bandanas and we’d wave cheerily when campers — fellow members of the Man Repeller community — walked by on their way to and from the Mess Hall. It was oh so very camp. New York City practically didn’t exist.

On Monday I woke up in Brooklyn with a heavy heart, the sounds of the weekend still ringing in my head. The slam of the swinging cabin door behind me, the clatter of camp dishes being dropped into soapy plastic bins, the stupid-cheerful chirping birds in the swishing trees and the murmurs and laughter of women becoming friends. I missed Echo Lake and all the incredible women (plus Matt, always Matt) that arrived on Friday, transforming it from the nothing-if-not-perfectly-cliché campground that it is into a familiar-feeling oasis. It’s hard not to be cheesy about something so heartwarming. I was almost sad to wash the dirt off my ankles.

I can get cynical about reality’s ability to live up to our idea of it, but Camp Man Repeller broke the fourth wall of my imagination and gave my cranky brain a hug. It started as a little seed of an idea: Could we host a Man Repeller community event out of town? For a whole weekend? It seemed so fun in theory, but soon we realized the reality would be an intense labor of love. Matt, Jasmin, Emily and other members of the MR team spent months thinking through and planning every detail. And what emerged was a dreamy, perfect weekend for which I owe them my left pinky.

Colorful CampMR brochures, maps and customized schedules — outlining when yoga, mediation, Shibori, rock-climbing and ropes course activities would take place — were pushed into our hands within minutes of arrival. Swag-filled CampMR-branded duffels hung on bed posts greeted us as we stumbled into our animal-themed cabin assignments. Our cozy common space, The Watering Hole, lovingly decorated by Emily with incredible Structube furniture, sat ready and waiting to be filled with chilled out, Man Repeller polo-clad campers. (Who knew polos were so camp-critical? Shout out Mira Mikati for making ours.)

The weekend passed like the best kind of movie montage, but not too fast. Maybe it was the wine and s’more-fueled bonfire; the rowdy camp-wide relay race, A.K.A. Field Day, planned by Shari and Yvonne; or the Saturday night talent show, hosted by me and Amelia, which we cold-opened with a spirited rendition of “Summer Lovin’” (I was Danny, she was Sandy), peppered with plenty of bad Camp Counselor jokes (plus rambling monologues for which I’m sorry) and closed out with an everyone’s-invited dance party on stage to Spice Girls. We’re nothing if not unapologetic for being lame. Did I mention the talent!? There was singing, dancing, stand-up comedy, tricks, slam poetry. People are so cool.

More than anything, all of it served as a picturesque backdrop for the real purpose of the weekend, which was to find a safe and cozy place to be ourselves together. The web of connections that sprouted are still humming. We all keep scrolling through the #campMR hashtag for a sentimental hit. What is it about sleepaway camp that makes us so mushy? CampMR was a dream come true in the most honest sense. I’d do it all over again if I could. Thank you to everyone who came and made the digital-to-IRL transition feel so seamless and warm.

The Camp Man Repeller Talent Show

The untold story of the Camp Man Repeller Talent Show
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Posted by Man Repeller on Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Photos by Seher Sikandar; check out her website here and follow her on Instagram @rehes.

Haley Nahman

Haley Nahman

Haley Nahman is the Features Director at Man Repeller.

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