As it turns out, this is more or less when I figured out that there were different economic classes of people in America. I show up, longish hair, probably some kind of t-shirt, Carharrts (sic?), and all the kids there are from like East Lansing, Haslett, Okemos, Grand Ledge and other wealthy Lansing suburbs and their parents are all MSU faculty. I figure all this out on the first day when we're introducing ourselves, and I also figure out that I'm a fucking space alien to these kids. My whole speech pattern, mannerisms, and of course my answers when they ask where I go to school, what my parents do, what I do for fun on weekends, the whole deal. It was almost like I was in the wrong room or some shit like that. This was eventually compounded by the inevitable moment in which the conversation turned to something I was interested in or the moment in which I decided against my better judgement to actually answer a question. From that point onward it was pretty much a given that I'd be kicking it with the other "weird kids." Being that we were already at a genius camp in the first place, I'm sure you can imagine how it feels to be relegated to that status. I'm not going to touch on the issues I had with the adults at these places, but needless to say it entailed a couple awkward conversations with my moms about my "home environment", "social group", "parental involvement", and all that. Basically:
FUCK YALL KRAMERS DOING SENDING YOUR BROKE ASS BRICKLAYER LOOKING KID HERE! THIS IS MOTHERFUCKING KINAWA MIDDLE SCHOOL! WE ONLY LIKE NICE CLEAN MIDDLE CLASS WHITE AND ASIAN KIDS FROM NICE FAMILIES WHO COME PICK THEM UP IN SUBARUS! FUCKOUTTAHEAH WITH THIS GETTING OFF THE CATA BUS AND WALKING HALF A MILE FROM THE NEAREST STOP BULLSHIT! THIS AIN'T JUVIE HALL PLAYBOY THIS IS MOTHERFUCKING SMART KID CAMP! SHIT!
And god forbid some kid would say some sideways shit to me and I'd reply in the vernacular of a young man of my stature. That's when I get a stern lecture about problem solving and communication and shit. So basically I ended up with the message at the end of the day that in our society if you're a young man from a working class background, you better not even think about being smart. And if you're smart, the only way to redeem yourself other than being the best damn gas station manager of all time is to completely remake yourself in the image of kids named Caden who reside in Whitehills Lakes and have a private tutor for mathematics. In short, there is no room for literacy, culture, or articulatedness (sic, muhfucka) in your identity. Choose one or the other.
And in a lot of ways it got to the point where these issues would actually manifest themselves physically. What I mean by that is that in come cases my detachment from the traditional student at these programs would actually, like, fuck my shit up. A clear example of this is in the case where I had to fill out a form to evaluate the program, but to ensure anonymity I could leave off my name and just put my school district. Ha. I'm probably still the only person other than my little brother to come from said district (Dansville bitchflake, act like you know), so obviously if I put that shit on there they're gonna know it's me. As if the "I often feel that my enthusiasm for No Limit Records alienates me from my peers" wouldn't already do the trick.
And so, the last one that I attended (because I went to Europe the following summer and then after that I was in high school, so, heh) was down at the MSU campus, which wasn't much of a stretch given the fact that I was down there most of the time anyway. It's the third day, and we're at the MSU planetarium standing around in the lobby waiting to be let in to peep a show at said planetarium. Cliques have been formed, violins chilling with violins, chess with chess, model railroad enthusiasts beefing with the model airplanes, but mainly all the white and asian kids are standing in an amorphous suburban mass in one half of the room. I'm in the corner.
A couple dudes were themselves standing in the other corner, and I ended up kicking it with them. Once you figure out exactly why they were in the corner, you'll understand why I identify myself the way I do culturally.