Jennifer MacNeil / QSL

Valentines Day in July

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Camp Atwood: a little day camp tucked away in a small, wealthy town in Massachusetts—home of heartbreak, tears, and Olympic-sized swimming pools. I spent six summers of my life there. There, I learned how to braid hair, had my first experience with lipgloss, and found out what a handjob was.

Throughout the summer, Atwood had special theme weeks like 70s week, Olympics week, and the highly questionable, incredibly racist Cowboys & Indians week. I was nine years old when we had Holiday week. Tuesday was “Valentines Day In July” and I wanted Dylan Rann to be my valentine.

Dylan Rann was, according to my diary, the cutest boy at camp. He had a nice face, I think he might have been good at soccer, and he wore the shit out of a khaki-colored pair of cargo shorts. My friends encouraged me to pursue him, insisting that if I both looked like Hilary Duff and sang like Hilary Duff, I would then become Hilary Duff. There was no way he could resist.

In arts and crafts that day, I did what any young romantic would and I made him a card (written fully in cursive). It read something alone the lines of:

“Dear Dylan,

You are my love and my passion and my dear. I like you. Will you be my valentine? Please write back.

Love, Jennifer Lee Macneil.”

I walked across the basketball courts, through all of the inferior camp hunks, to give Dylan the valentine. I handed him the pink piece of construction paper with a meek “Happy Valentines Day, Dylan” and waited for him to embrace me with his love.

“No thanks. This is a really weird note.”

Dylan Rann returned the valentine to me, turned to his friends, and headed toward the frog pond to see if they could catch Bubba, the legendary camp bullfrog.

I went home that afternoon—heartbroken, numb, heavy with the realization that I would never be Hilary Duff—and wrote in my diary about how Dylan Rann’s search for Bubba paralleled my search for love. I knew though, that Dylan’s rejection could not get me down forever.

“There are plenty of boys at camp,” I wrote. “After all, it’s Hunk City and I’m not missing out on this city gathering!”

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