You are Manny Alvarez. You like playing baseball, playing bass, and not getting pantsed.
You grew up in Washington Heights, it’s 2003, and Carlos Santana’s Supernatural album was a major event for your family. Even Shaman was pretty big.
Last year at camp, Matt Reichmann pantsed you seven times for, as he put it, “standing like a wiener.” It’s only your second year at summer camp, and if you get pantsed again this year, that will be your legacy forever.
You cannot get pantsed. If you get pantsed again, your life is over.
Don’t get pantsed.
You get out of your mom’s beat up station wagon and breath in the heady country air. It smells like cut grass and oxygen. Kids swarm center meadow, the younger ones meeting their camp friends in chaotic bursts of screamed half-sentences, the older ones slouching against the flag pole, having found a perfect equilibrium with each other, seemingly telepathically.
You just stand there.
You spot Dylan Cizinski, an alarmingly optimistic kid who didn’t try to pants you last year. You wave and smile, walking over. Dylan juts out his chin.
“Hey,” he says.
“Hey,” you reply, matching his chin move.
You go for the low five, but you only make partial contact, and the sound is disappointing.
“Wait, let’s try again,” you say.
“Nahhh, it is what it is.”
Over the course of a year, Dylan became a fatalist.
You both just stand there, nodding, hands in pockets, looking out at the crowd of other kids.
You get shoved from behind.
“Look who it is!”
It’s Matt Reichmann, his girlfriend Becky, and a bunch of other older kids.
“Hi there Stripper Manny. Can’t wait to see your show later. I heard it’s all nude.”
The older kids are laughing.
You set your jaw and stare Matt straight in the glazed eye, then turn and run as fast as you can.
“You chicken shit!” Matt yells after you. You have a moment of panic as you hear him following you, before WHAM! Matt tackles you and rips your pants down.
“Don’t run, you’re a stripper.” He drums an unearned “ba-doom-pish” rim shot on your ass, then wanders away with his friends.
Every kid around you is crying laughing.
Your life is over. 💀
“You’re not pantsing me again, dick head!” You yell. The older boys laugh and hoot.
“Who said anything about pantsing? You’re the one who strips!” More laughter.
Becky pushes Matt. “Oh my God, you’re so immature.”
Matt fains hurt. “Me? Immature? How dare you?” He lets out a low belch.
“Ugh, you’re disgusting,” Becky yells, pushing him again. But she’s laughing. Everyone is laughing. They move on.
“I’m not getting pantsed,” you mutter, angry.
“Nahhh, you’re getting pantsed,” Dylan yawns. More fatalism.
Your pants are on.
You sign up for baseball, and while you’re picked second to last, you still make the cut. You’re in.
The camp isn’t big enough to separate by age too much, so you’re in the locker room with all these big kids who not only fully hit puberty, but hit back. Most are horsing around. Josh, a tall kid with a dirt lip snaps a towel at a howling lump of muscle passing for a kid. They called him “Crunch.”
Another kid motions you over, the half-way sensitive Phillipe.
“Your locker’s over there, new kid,” he says, pointing to a corner.
“My name’s Manny,” you say.
“Not yet it isn’t, new kid.” Phillipe pretends to drop a mic, makes an explosion sound, and backs away. He cuts himself off with a grin, slumping casually.
“I’m just playing, Manny. Come on, get changed. Just a joke.”
You’ll have to get used to jock “jokes” again.
The locker room roils with untethered masculinity. You hold your bag.
Rookie mistake, you just pantsed yourself! All the boys make homophobic jokes about your dong. Your life is over. 💀
You take your bag into the bathroom. Almost instantly, the boys figure out what you’re doing, and start jeering.
“Oooh, new kid is shyyyy,” wails Josh, in the sing-song tone reserved only for the most devastating taunts.
You shut the bathroom door quickly and change as fast as you can. Your ears burn hot. By the time you force yourself to come out of the bathroom, everyone seems to have moved on, and no one cares.
They all file out onto the field. You’re confused and humiliated. Your pants are on.
It’s a slow game. You stand around in left field, and once catch a pop fly. Your team wins, but it doesn’t feel like a big deal. You go straight back to your cabin to shower instead of braving the locker room again, and decide not to go back.
The next day you take the nature hike. You remember from last year that the hike was mostly full of neo-hippies and kids who didn’t know what else to do. Perfect.
You walk out to the starting spot in the meadow near the trees. You see a few groups of kids milling around. You walk towards the cluster who seems most likely to know what hemp is. You talk to a lanky white kid with blond dreads.
“Hey, is this the group for the nature hike?” You ask.
“Sure thing, brother. You’ve come to the right place.” He laughs from the chest, like something really funny happened. Did you miss something?
“Cool. I’m Manny, by the way.” You extend your hand.
He holds your hand lightly with both of his, nods, then releases.
“What’s your name?” You ask.
“Werd, werd, werd.”
His grin stays fixed in place. You’re now convinced he’s completely genuine, and that doesn’t comfort you. You both nod and wait for the hike to start.
Other kids gather. Jerry, the most enthusiastic counselor at camp, leads the hike.
“Alright, guys, let’s conquer this mountain!” Jerry screams.
Alton, a known pervert, nudges you.
“That’s what she said.”
He was one of the kids who didn’t know what else to do.
You zone out as the group winds along the trail, letting your mind wander amidst the bird song and smell of mulching leaves. The trail’s incline is getting steeper. You reach a rocky section that seems to go straight up.
“Everyone get in single file, and go slowly,” Jerry warns. “If the dirt slips out from under you, just drop into cat stance like we practiced, okay?”
Cat stance? You don’t remember anything about a cat stance. This was practiced?
You nudge Alton. “Hey, what’s cat stance?”
“It’s how I fuck your mom,” he says triumphantly, extending his hand for a high-five.
“I’m not high-fiving that, jackass” you inform him.
Alton pushes past you.
You try to get ahead of him, but trying to shove on a steep hill proves too much; the dirt slips from under you.
You flail as you slide back, on the edge of wiping out.
“Cat stance! Cat stance!” You hear screamed at you from all directions.
Your speed increases. Your body tilts back. You twist around and time stops:
She’s very short, curvy, with toffee skin, ice-blue eyes, short hair dyed purple, a silver nose ring and kind dimples. You’re in love. You know you’re meant for each other. You can see how this moment will be a romantic story to tell your grandkids someday.
She’s perfect. She’s right in your path. You flail.
“What’s the use? Dylan’s right about life,” You think as you crash headlong into the only girl you’ll ever love, knocking you both over.
Your fall is tragically broken by her body.
As you try to get up to help her, you step on your pant leg and you stand up out of your pants.
You find out that the love of your life’s name is Mia, but only because the medics keep asking her her name to keep her awake.
Your life is over. 💀
You throw yourself off the path, and tumble into a thorn bush. You’re covered in scratches and bruises, and you wail pathetically as Sun Child helps you get untangled from the thorns. Many people are concerned for your well-being, but many more think you’re an immature jackass for racing up a mountain and spacing out about cat stance.
You find out your love’s name is Mia, and that she is very firmly in the latter group.
You heart breaks every time she rolls her eyes.
Your pants are still on.
It’s an hour after lights out, and you’re trying to fall asleep, but the damage you sustained on the trail is making it difficult. You hear a whisper from the bottom bunk.
“Psst, hey kid.” It sounds like Markus still doesn’t know your name.
“What?” You ask, acting groggy; if he’s going to start talking about his B.M.I. again you want to be able to fain falling asleep.
“We’re sneaking out to the girl’s cabin to play strip poker. You in?”
Strip poker? You’re excited and terrified.
“Think like a cat! Think like a cat!” You think, like a human.
You have no idea what cat stance is, but you know if you’re going to have a prayer of pulling this off, you’ll need to fully commit.
You bend your knees and squat, arching your back. Your pants hook on a sharp rock, you spin as you fall, ripping your pants in half at the crotch.
You crash onto your back, sliding with a dirt avalanche right to your love’s feet. Your pant rip provides a bulbous view of half a testicle.
You’re finally thinking like a cat; you hiss and paw the air.
Your life is over. 💀
“Uhh, you know, yeah, I’d love to, and normally I would totally be there, but I’m just really tired, and I gotta wake up early for…chores. You know how that is.” You fake a yawn.
“Are you serious?” Markus asks. You can hear his arched eyebrow. “You’re tired?”
“Yeah, man. Just need some real shut eye.”
Markus snorts. “Alright, man, your loss.”
The next day, the camp is full of new relationships and gossip you’re not part of. Markus spreads a rumor that you chickened out because you have a weird dick. It’s like you’ve been pantsed, but worse, because if you’d been really pantsed everyone would see that your dick’s not that weird (right?)
Your life is over. 💀
“Uhh, yeah, yeah, sounds…sounds cool.”
You throw on your clothes, and add a sweater and jacket even though it’s not at all cold.
It’s you, Markus, Alex Yani, Adalfo Gonzalez, and Phillipe from baseball.
“Hey, where were you yesterday? You off the team?” He asks.
“Uhh, yeah, I’m just…yeah. Whatever, you know?”
“Yeah, alright, whatever.”
Everyone hunches, keeping low, staying away from porch lights, hushing each other louder than feels reasonable. You make a gun with your fingers and hold it next to you as you sneak. Alex looks at you like he’s watching a dung beetle roll a turd, and you put your hand in your pocket.
You’re at the girl’s cabin. All you hear is your heart thump. Everyone goes around back, and Markus knocks on the window. Jess Buono opens it, stubbing her finger in the jam.
“Shit,” she says, shaking her hand, her hoop bracelets jangling.
“Yo, quiet, your RA is gonna hear,” Markus hisses.
“Oh, grow up, Janet takes an Ambien every night. Why do you think we’re having it here?” She sucks her bruised finger. “Come in.”
You all climb in the window and drop into the cleanest room you’ve ever been in. Lit candles are arranged in a circle.
“Where’d you get the candles?” Asks Adalfo.
“A lady never tells,” says Kimberly Tan, smirking and raising an eyebrow.
“Girl, you trippin’,” laughs Adalfo.
Crap, you think. These kids already have some secret flirting language. They’re so mature, it’s like they’re another form of life.
You’re terrified. Everyone seems super casual about the impending ritualized nudity. Wasn’t showing your junk the worst thing that could happen to you?
“Alright, everyone sit in a circle behind the candles, so it’s boy girl boy girl,” says Shaunte Williams. You sit between Phillipe and Jess.
“We’re short one girl,” gripes Phillipe, edging away from you.
“Omagod, we gotta Math wiz over here,” says Shaunte, “Becky be out in a minute.”
Becky? Matt Reichmann’s girlfriend Becky? The heartbeat-away-from-a-pantsing Becky?
A toilet flushes, and sure enough, Becky Rosen walks in. If she recognizes you, she doesn’t let on.
You glance around, afraid you overlooked Matt Reichmann himself somehow. Yet Matt remains not there, and no one comments on it, as if Matt and Becky never even met.
Becky sits in the open “girl” spot between you and Phillipe.
“Anybody got any booze?” she asks. No one does. “Yeah, whatever.” She looks at you. “Why are you so quiet?”
Everyone else stops talking, looks at you.
“I-I don’t know.” You stammer.
“Oh my gawd, are you a perv?” She asks, sounding deeply concerned.
“What? No, I-I-I…”
Becky clicks her tongue, shakes her head, dismissing the situation. You crawl deep inside your head, trying to escape. As if to further drive home how over it she is, Becky bounces up and down in her seat.
“Alright, let’s do this!”
Isa Hernandez deals, rounds are played, clothes are lost. You are not good at poker, and lose an article of clothing almost every round. Your extra layers give you some buffer, but the future doesn’t look good.
Everyone is half naked.
Your shirt is next, and you feel the dread rise as the cards are slapped down. Some of the other guys lost their shirts, but they all had muscles to flex when they did, so you have no usable model for how to do it.
Somehow, Becky loses the round. Everyone “Oooh’s.” She’s in her bra. She wiggles performatively, hands behind her back as she unhooks the claps, then throws her bra in a big “ta da” motion. She laughs uncontrollably while everyone else cheers.
“Oh my gawd, I can’t believe I did that.”
Her breasts are out. They stay out. You flush hot. She turns to you. You haven’t said anything all game. She narrows her eyes. Her look says, “Are you a God damn creep?”
Panicked, you decide you can only end this horrible moment by being nice. You need to think of a compliment, but currently your mind only has room for imagining your own death. You blurt out the first positive thing you think of.
“Nice boobs,” you say, you’re voice cracking.
Becky scrunches her face like she’s just been offered a slice of road kill.
“Ew, creep,” she says, crossing her arms self consciously over her chest.
Everyone gives you dirty looks. You’ve been labeled a creep, a metaphorical pantsing. Your life is over. 💀
Your mind is blank. You stare in wide-eyed terror; you’re best chance of making it out of the situation is to say nothing, don’t move a muscle, hold your breath, and hope the danger passes.
It doesn’t work.
“Oh my gawd, he’s such a little perv!”
She makes a frantic motion with her arms that telegraphs warding away a sewer-based evil.
You’ve been branded a perv, a virtual pantsing. Your life is over. 💀
“Uhh…” you say, feeling trapped, not knowing what else to say. Alex laughs.
“He don’t know what ta do!”
Now everyone’s laughing. Becky rolls her eyes, shakes her head.
“So corny,” she intones.
You’ve outed yourself as a clueless neophyte who can’t speak properly when called upon. Your pants are still on. Success! 💯
The game continues, and you are exceptionally not good. The others, who all seem to know each other, are able to weave play into effortless flirting opportunities, while still avoiding the full Monty.
You, on the other hand, unceremoniously lose cloths at an alarming rate.
Even though you started out with more clothing, somehow you’re down to your tighty whities.
You lose the hand.
There’s a collective cringe. It’s clear from how everyone shifts uncomfortably that no one wanted you to be the first person to get fully nude. You would be insulted, but you’re too busy agreeing with them.
“Alright, man,” says Kimberly, “you’re up.”
The stage is yours.
Even though it wasn’t for the whole shebang, every other guy removed articles of clothing either casual-quick, like they didn’t care, or slow and sexy, like they didn’t care.
Figuring that slower is safer, you decide to try and copy the slow and sexy approach. Fake it ‘till you make it, right?
You stand up and begin peeling down your underpants. You see people wince. Trying to fill the silence, you tunelessly hum a brassy instrumental you associate with strip teases. Your underwear drops. Jess nods.
“Alright, then. Who’s turn is it?”
You sit down. Your pants are off. Your life is over. 💀
You’re best and only hope to get out of this alive (socially), is to make a joke out of the situation.
You stick out your tongue and gyrate sarcastically.
“They call me Magic Manny. I’m like Magic Mike, but Mannier,” you say.
No one laughs. You drop your drawers. The fabric hitting the floor is audible. Silence.
“That was fuckin’ weird, bro,” says Yani.
“His dance or his dick?” screams Adalfo, going for the high-five. Everyone laughs.
You’re pants are gone. Your life is over. 💀
There is no way you can go through with this. You have to bail. Better take the high road.
“I don’t do full nudity, it’s against my religion,” you say piously.
“Then why are you here?” Becky says, accusing.
“Say it with me, everyone: pervert!”
No one else says “pervert” with her, but your life is still over. 💀
You’re in over your head, and you know it. Not yet a big kid, no longer a little kid, you’re stuck right in the middle: a wiener kid. You have nothing to add here.
To escape, you lean on the presumed safety of your prior little kid self, and his knowledge of Saturday morning cartoons.
You jump up and point at the door.
“Oh my God, look, it’s what’s her face, you know…your RA!”
Jess looks puzzled.
“You mean Janet?”
It’s barely a distraction, but you take it. You run for the window, but Jess had locked it. You fumble for a moment.
Markus, “What are you doing, bro?”
You give up, turn.
“I can’t do this! I don’t…I don’t…”
Horrifyingly, your words are punctured by an escaped sob.
There’s a stunned silence, then:
“Aww, man,” Philippe gets up, “Manny’s right, he’s too young for this.”
“No, no, I-I just…”
“It’s okay, if you’re not ready you’re not ready.”
“Ugh, I feel horrible,” says Amy. “I’m sorry, Manny. Please don’t cry.”
You frantically wipe a tear.
“How old are you?” Asks Shaunte, gentle.
“T-twelve,” you manage. She shakes her head.
“What a difference a year makes,” she says, a sage.
“Hey, c’mon, don’t feel bad, man,” Philippe again, “When you’re thirteen, you’ll have all of this on lock. I promise.”
You nod, grateful for the pep talk, even if Philippe is lying.
“Yeah,” Amy says, “You can come back next year and play with us, right?” She looks expectantly around the room. The group makes noises in the affirmative.
The pity isn’t the greatest feeling, but everyone’s being nice, and being honest is a lot better than posturing.
Becky says, “It’s okay. We didn’t want to see your jailbait dick, anyway.”
Your pants are on. Success! 💯
Thankfully, you’re misadventure isn’t the running gossip from the strip poker night. Instead, the main story is that Becky was there, and Matt Reichmann wasn’t, with fevered speculation about why.
But you’re honestly not paying much attention. You have other concerns. This is the last full day of camp, and tonight is the night of the big talent show, and you’re performing.
You agreed to play bass with a group doing a U2 cover.
You’re waiting “backstage”, cramped behind a curtain stretched across the back of a barn, the smell of hay thick in your nose, and the sounds of Cypress Parker lip-syncing Monty Python on stage thin in your nose.
Your band spent more time deciding on a name than practicing. The problem was that you, Erik, and Gina were into punk rock, and Kelsey, Bonnie, and Seamus were into Irish folk. Half wanted a name that reflected tradition, the other half wanted a name to subverted that.
In an attempt at democracy, everyone decided the band name should combine both elements, but when mashing together a traditional name with a subversive one, the effect was always subversive.
This fundamental block was eventually resolved by the traditionalists conceding that the band name, by nature, would have to be punk, but in recompense, they would get more weight in deciding the song.
Everyone at camp is seated out there. Your secret fantasy is that Mia will see your performance, forgive everything, and fall madly in love with you. Your stomach is curled in roiling knots. Your band’s lack of practice isn’t helping. You hear councilor Dina call your group up.
“Please welcome to the stage, ‘Peter, Paul, and Blood’!”
You all run out on stage, and start playing whatever the hell the name of the U2 song you’re covering was.
The music happens. It’s fine. You miss a few notes, but so has everyone else.
You relax a bit, and look out at the crowd.
People are bobbing their heads. Not bad. You see Sun Child shaking his dreads.
“Werd up, brother!” he yells. You’re not sure if that’s directed at you; Sun Child says “Werd” in response to almost everything.
Next to him is Alton, the pervert.
“You’re mom’s hot!” he yells, accusing. You’re pretty sure that was directed at you.
You keep your eyes moving. There’s Becky and her posse. She is not looking at you.
And there she is, Mia, staring right at you. You miss a whole musical phrase, and need to stare down at your bass to get back in time.
When you look up, Mia is no longer looking at you, or the stage at all. She’s looking into the crowd. You follow her gaze: Matt Reichmann barrelling towards you.
“You wanna strip with my girlfriend, huh Manny?” He doesn’t pause to let you answer the question. “Then why don’t you strip right now!”
Before you have time to react, he’s leapt on the stage and yanked your pants down, underwear and all. His foot tangles in a wire, the aggression of his pantsing throwing him off balance, and he pitches off the stage, crashing in a painful, tangled heap as quickly as he appeared. A loud thunk as his head hits the ground announces he’s out cold.
There is a collective gasp from the audience.
The music has stopped. The crowd’s shock is starting to molt into comprehension. You can feel their gaze moving from Matt, back to you.
Your balls are hanging over your bass.
This is worse than your worst nightmare; in your worst nightmare, you had still played a Minor Threat song.
Escape is your only option.
You bolt for the back door, but your bass is still plugged in, yanking you backwards. You spin, trying to keep from falling, your junk jiggling problematically. You lose control, plopping on the floor, ass poking up, facing the audience.
“I knew it,” you hear Dylan Cizinski say from the crowd.
You’ve somehow made an impossibly horrible situation even more horrible.
Your life is over. 💀
You know the audience about to burst into derisive laughter. Your only hope to stem the tide is to get your pants back up as quickly as possible.
You bend down and grab your jeans. Behind you, Gina, the drummer, makes a scared noise, rasping something about your butt hole.
You yank your pants up, but move too fast, jamming the waistband into your junk.
It makes your balls look like cartoon eyes bugging out.
The room explodes in laughter.
Your life is over. 💀
You are cornered: in every direction there’s opportunities to make everything even worse. Your only way out is to acknowledge the situation.
You play a long, slide bass note, like someone just made a dirty joke on a talk show.
The world seems to hold still, frozen in state. Then, the entire room bursts out laughing.
You look around, beyond humiliated. Then, you hear a few shouts of, “Hell yeah, Manny!” and “Take the power back!”
It’s not everyone, and you’re not sure how long it will last, but at least some of the people in the crowd are laughing with you. You’ll take it.
Plus, Matt Reichmann is unconscious.
You win! 💯 🎸