Girl Scout badge? What Girl Scout badge?
When I was in fifth grade, I was a member of what may well have been the crappiest Girl Scout troop since 1912, when founder Juliette Gordon Low decided that boys weren’t the only ones who could have a swell time rubbing two sticks together and starting a fire.
For starters, we didn’t have a regular leader, since two of our parish’s GS leaders were at the moment dying of lung cancer. I’m sure my mother would have jumped in to lead our troop, but she’d just had a baby. Plus, while she would have been excellent at the craft and domestic arts end of Girl Scouting, and pretty good at the game-playing, she would have been a miserable and abject failure at anything to do with the outdoors. Not that there was going to be anything out-doorsy about a Girl Scout troop in Main South Worcester, but my mother (a Chicago girl) may well have been scared off by the nature aspects of the job. And then there was the just-had-a-baby excuse to fall back on. Come to think of it, the two Scout leaders who were dying of lung cancer were also having babies about the same time as my sister Trish appeared on our scene. No wonder we didn’t have a real leader. Instead, we had to make do with a revolving- door series of high school girls dragooned into running our troop on a one-and-done basis.
We met once a week after school and, basically, did nothing. (We didn’t even wear the uniform. We already had green jumpers on. Who needed official Girl Scout garb?)
We had put away the childish things we did in Brownies, so we couldn’t very well sing “Way Down Yonder in the Paw-Paw Patch” while pretending to be pickin’ up paw-paws – whatever they were – and put them in our pockets. (Paw-paws? Paw-paws! We would have gotten a lot more mileage out of the urban version, which would have featured picking up empty cigarette packets.) And a craft project that entailed Elmer’s Glue-ing cotton batting hair onto construction paper angels – a task that had enthralled us as Brownies – seemed just a tad too little kid.
Our meeting place was the Our Lady of the Angels “portable school”, a wooden building containing two classrooms that had been in use while they were building the real school. Once the permanent structure was finished, the portable became a meeting hall.
The most exciting part of our Girl Scout meetings occurred while we were just gathering. That’s when we would swoop into the boys’ room – something we never would have dared in our real school – to look at the urinals. Eek! Yuck! Ugh! Thinking about it was bad enough, but actually looking at them. Eek! Yuck! Ugh!
The other thing we did regularly was sit around and talk about boys – Eek! Yuck! Ugh! – and our sadistic and miserable teacher, Sister Saint Wilhelmina.
One other thing I recall from my year as a Girl Scout was personal, not communal. It was while sitting on a folding chair in the portable school that I realized I had body odor. I spent most of the meeting furtively dropping my head in the direction of my armpit so I could get a good whiff of whatever strange thing it was. Eke! Yuck! Ugh! After that, I started using my mother’s Mum, a cream deodorant that you slathered on with your fingertips.
At the end of the school year, our troop voted to disband and get our dues – which must have been all of a dime a month- refunded to us. The price of disbanding was being forced to buy a World Pin, which is the blue-and-gold enamel number shown to the right. At the time, I thought that this was some exit rule gotcha handed down by Girl Scout HQ, but now I think that someone must have already ordered and paid for those pins.
Anyway, it should come as no surprise that no one in my Girl Scout troop ever earned a badge. What would we have gotten a badge for? Urinal Inspection? Gripe and Gossip? BO Discovery?
In contrast to my lame-o,dysfunctional, and faux troop, my sister Kathleen was part of a real Girl Scout troop, wearing real uniforms, going to real Girl Scout camp, and earning real badges like the ones shown on this authentic badge sash of our era. Even though I was the last one to lay eyes and hands on Kath’s Girl Scout badge sash, I don’t remember all the badges she earned. Reading, Housekeeping, Art, Cooking, Sewing, and something to do with plants – come to mind. Her badge sash, alas, disappeared during The Great Emmanuel College Strike of 1970, of which I was a leader and enough of a guerrilla theater-ista that I actually wore Kath’s badge sash during rallies. (To the Emma who swiped the sash: I’d still like it back.)
Despite my grim experience as a Girl Scout, I harbor no hard feelings toward them, and hold the organization in far higher esteem than I do the Boy Scouts. Unlike the Boy Scouts, it doesn’t seem to have that aura of creepy, rigid, authoritarian, militaristic, homophobia about it. And I don’t imagine that there have been many/any G.S. leaders associated with pedophilia, either. Plus there’s those wonderful cookies….
So, Girl Scouts Forever (that is our song).
Perhaps because of my still-rued badge-less state, I read a recent article about the updated, more relevant, 21st century Girl Scout badges with interest. (Source: Boston.com.)
…some of the 136 badges sound more like topics trending on Twitter than something a fresh-faced girl would pin on her sash.
There’s a Good Credit badge and a Money Manager badge, Locavore, Website Designer, and Netiquette badges, a Science of Happiness badge, and, as a component of a cookie-badge program that has been expanded, a Customer Loyalty badge.
Locavore. Got to love that one.
Even the old badges have been updated. The evergreen First Aid badge now entails learning “about sports-related head injuries and drug and alcohol abuse.”
Anyway, the article piqued my interest – is there a Curiosity badge? – so I went to the Girl Scout mother ship site to see what other skills they’re promoting these days.
Well, you can still be an Artist and a Cook, and learn First Aid. but you can also earn Financial Literacy Badges as a Philanthropist (????), a Savvy Shopper, a Comparison Shopper, and a Business Owner. You can take up Digital Photography and Digital Movie Making, Entertainment Technology, Product Design. Write a Business Plan, earn a Marketing badge. (If only I’d known, I might have been able to save a bundle on B-School.)
There’s a Social Butterfly badge – whatever that means – and one for Geocaching, which I had to look up. (GPS treasure hunt.) A badge for Night Owls, and one for Eating for Beauty.
No Blogging badge, and none (yet) for Facebook and Tweeting.
But there are badges for Truth Seeker, for Novelist, for the Science of Happiness, for Traveler. Damn! I wanna be a Girl Scout!
This post is dedicated to my sister Kath. Sorry about that badge sash.
And by the way, while I never earned a badge, the year after the collapse of our Girl Scout troop, I helped cheat my brother Tom through his Cub Scout Webelo requirements by doing his leaf-identification project for him. So I did manage to get some of the nature stuff in.
Labels: growing up