About recent columns...

TARRING YOUNG PEOPLE WITH TOO BROAD A BRUSH: That's what Elizabeth Stamper of Lusby, Md., thinks I did on June 12. In that day's column, I described a call made to a Virginia woman by a male with a "youngish" voice. He told the woman that her husband's AIDS test had come back positive. It turned out to be a hoax, but the woman was plenty upset for a few hours. I told the "kid" who had called to go soak his head.

Elizabeth Stamper is a 17-year-old high school student. She was quick to teach me a lesson in the social sciences.

"Anyone who is childish and immature could have pulled a prank such as this," she wrote. " . . . . I, for one, am sick of 'kids' getting blamed for the mayhem which goes on in this world. I am tired of adults assuming that we have nothing better to do with our time than ruin other people's lives. That is an unfair, and largely unfounded, misconception."

It certainly is, Elizabeth, and I apologize to all people your age who took offense. The point of the AIDS phone call story was that no one should play such a mean-spirited trick on anyone else. The age of the perpetrator wasn't really important -- and wasn't absolutely proveable.

SENIOR WEEK AT OCEAN CITY: In my June 22 column, I lamented the T-shirts that this unofficial annual "festival" induces. The shirts sport four-letter words. They feature appallingly direct (and detailed) sexual invitations. They make light of drug-taking and drunken driving. I urged Ocean City's T-shirt retailers to stop selling the shirts voluntarily, even though I knew there wasn't much chance they'd listen.

Terry Chaconas of Brinklow, Md., thinks the problem is the graduates who buy the shirts, not the stores along the boardwalk that sell them.

"At the risk of sounding like a 34-year-old fuddy-duddy, I think a lot of the kids today . . . . are suffering from a system that hasn't taught them values and manners," Terry writes. Therefore, she thinks, some June grads will wear anything that shocks, and it's that willingness that's the problem, not the businessmen who respond to it.

Lot of truth in that point, Terry. But even so, why do Ocean City's T-shirt sellers insist on pandering to the worst qualities in young people? Why can't they sell french fries instead? Graduates with bad values buy those, too. But so do grads with good values.

Linda A. McGraw of Springfield added that lots of Senior Weekers are not the hell-raising thrill-seekers I portrayed.

Linda's daughter, Amy, went to Ocean City for Senior Week 1990 along with 14 high school classmates. The graduates went so they could have "one last time" together "before they go on to another chapter of their life," Linda wrote.

"These are the kids who were on the yearbook staff, the kids who excelled in sports and academia, who sang in the choir and acted in the school plays," Linda noted. As for sex, drugs and rock and roll, "most of them are so tired after a day in the sun that they go back and watch cable TV."

To you, Linda, and especially to Amy and her classmates, my regrets for seeming to suggest that all Senior Weekers are out of their heads (as well as too readily out of their clothes). May good, clean fun in the sun never go out of style, during Senior Week or any other time.


This is the time of year when the haters help the lovers. Diana Smith of Northwest is the latest to fill this apparently contradictory bill. She writes:

"Just because I hate sun (I burn easily), can't swim, am allergic to poison ivy and have minor heart attacks at the sight of snakes and spiders doesn't mean I should deprive others."

So Diana sent $50 to our annual campaign. With the stroke of a pen, a camp-hater thus helped a kid she doesn't know become a camp-lover.

How about a few strokes of your pen? Our 1990 Send a Kid to Camp drive is in its final month. As you can see below, we have a long way still to go.

As always, we hope to send more than 1,100 underprivileged local kids to camp this summer. These are kids whose family situations are often a mess, who may have been in trouble with the law and whose futures are murky, to say the least. Two weeks in the Virginia countryside might do wonders for their attitudes, as it has for kids throughout the 43 years of the program.

Snakes and spiders may not thrill you, either. But they've been thrilling our campers for a long time. Let's help the thrill go on.


Make a check or money order payable to Send a Kid to Camp, and mail it to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., 20071.

In hand as of July 6: $141,032.44.

Our goal (as of Aug. 10): $275,000.