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Date archive for: May 2011

I Want Camp

Considering the mess on my desk, and the muddle in my head, you’d think we were applying to college. My checkbook cowers beneath too many glossy brochures. My brain stews in conflicting data: dates, deadlines, and deposits, reputations and recommendations …

But it’s not college-application time — it’s summer-camp scheduling season. When I was a kid, that meant two choices: cot-sleeping at overnight camp or handball-playing at day camp. The most I learned at either was how to treat sunburn and skeeter bites.

Starshine Roshell

Times have changed. The summer-camp industry has exploded like a red ant hill under the trouncing cleats of World Cup Soccer Camp. Or like a failed soufflé at Kids Cook! Culinary Camp. Or like a rocket ship at Destination Science Camp.

These days you need a spreadsheet to sort out your kids’ endless options. Summer camps are a $12-billion-per-year industry, according to the American Camp Association (ACA), and there are more than 12,000 camps in the U.S. Unlike the offerings of my youth, today’s camps seem exceedingly specialized and impossibly — even unreasonably — fun.

Determined to cultivate kids’ hard-won confidence and spark their blossoming imaginations (or at least hell-bent on convincing the paying parents that’s what they’re doing), camps cover every conceivable interest under the searing summer sun. The ACA boasts camps for caving and clowning, fencing and farming, rafting and riflery. There’s rock rappelling, tap dancing, and “lamp working” (really?). There’s even a Secret Agent Camp, where mini wanna-Bonds learn stealth tactics, martial arts, and code-deciphering. All of which are invaluable in middle school.

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Better Blind Than Fat?!

One in seven women would rather be blind than obese. That’s what researchers at Arizona State University (ASU) found when, in a study of how “obesity spreads socially,” they asked 100 women to choose — hypothetically — between obesity and other socially stigmatized conditions like alcoholism and herpes.

One in four would rather suffer from depression. Severe depression. It’s a sick question, really. But the responses say a lot about our culture — and the ways in which we’re unfathomably stupid.

It’s interesting that it comes down to a comparison between body proportions and eyesight, when it’s our society’s fixation on looks that fuels the great Fear of Fatness. And it’s funny to me that these imaginary scenarios, if rendered real, would leave us obese but not depressed about it, or svelte but unable to admire ourselves in a mirror.

Let’s remember that “obese” doesn’t necessarily mean “Biggest Loser”-sized. A full third of adult Americans fit the definition; many are your friends and family members. You may fit it yourself: 5’4″ and 174 pounds, 5’9″ and 203. Six feet, 221. Sound familiar?

Obese people are not starring in big-screen rom-coms, not modeling Victoria’s Secret’s new Sexy Little Things Supersmooth Cheekinis (yes, they’re real). But they’re everywhere else. And they’re doing just fine.

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Online Grades

The house is finally quiet, the kids gone. She pours her coffee and slides in front of the computer. Pulse quickening, she grabs the mouse, clicks the bookmarked page, clacks out her password — and steels herself for what she’ll see.

“I actually get this adrenaline rush as it’s loading,” said the mother of two. “It’s like you’re watching the stock market. I’m almost holding my breath going, ‘Is it going to be good?'”

She’s peering at her kids’ grades via an online gradebook, where today’s students — and their hand-wringing parents — can monitor scores for every assignment, in every class. More and more middle schools and high schools across the nation are adopting these grade-reporting systems. And it’s churning up anxiety among parents I know.

“I checked obsessively when I first had access to it and cursed those teachers who didn’t update regularly,” confessed a friend on the school board. “Then I realized the system administrator could see which parents were accessing their child’s grades morning, mid morning, noon, afternoon, evening, midnight, and at 2 a.m. — and I backed off in shame.”

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Men Who Stare at Melons

Call it the hooter hoax. There’s a story going around the Internet — and even on TV news stations, though not good ones — that staring at women’s breasts is beneficial to men’s health.

Yeah. Take a minute to chuckle. It’s worth it.

My husband sent me an article claiming that scientists instructed 500 men to ogle women’s chests daily, and found these fellas had lower blood pressure and healthier hearts than those who were asked to refrain from gazonga-gazing. The pretense of his sending this article: “It might inspire a fun column!” The subtext: “Don’t interrupt me the next time I’m fixated on another female’s funbags. Your passive reproach is slowly killing me.”

Naturally, I called hooey. When a legit study can prove that sucking chilled Duncan Hines frosting from a tablespoon prevents cellulite, then I’ll believe that nature wants us to be happy. Until then, guys can keep denying their shameful urges like the rest of us. Or at least satisfying them on the sly.

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