Monday, January 16, 2012

The Girl Scout

When I was about 8 years old, I joined Girl Scouts. My parents thought it would be a rewarding experience, an opportunity to grow and participate with other girls my age, and a way to get me the fuck out of their house for a couple hours a week. I didn't want to join, mostly because even at eight years old I wasn't a huge people person. I found friendships with other little girls my age both tedious and mundane, and when I say 'tedious and mundane', I mean I had detention during recess almost every single day and thus zero opportunity to socialize.

The Girl Scouts met after school twice a week, and the second I walked through the doors I knew I was in trouble. The girls were the front-of-the-classroom types- the kind that brought the teacher gifts every Friday, had a perfect attendance and great test scores. Today, these women are probably extremely rich CEOs of billion-dollar companies, but in second grade they were just irritating.

"OK girls!" Our troop leader, an over-bright women of about 37 years (when you're 8, 37 is ancient) clapped her hands together gaily. "I'm Debra! Your troop leader!"
"Hiiiiii Debra!" The other girls shouted happily, and I tried not to dry heave.
"Welcome to the Girl Scouts! This is going to be an exciting year for you! Here are your pins!" She handed out these gold pins in the shape of a female head, and to this day that remains my first and only piece of jewelry I didn't have to make out with anybody for.
"Wear them with PRIDE!" Debra shouted, as we affixed them to our sweaters. We all introduced ourselves (this was 1985, and every body's name was either Jennifer, Amy, or Sara) and then sat in a little circle while our troop leader talked about volunteering, selling cookies, and how to get badges on our sashes. Today girls get badges for things like technology, finance, and business strategy, but in the mid-80s you got badges for doing laundry and being pretty. Thank god for progress.

One of our first activities was- surprise, surprise- arts and crafts. It was February, and we were instructed to paint little valentine-themed shoe boxes to hold 'all the cards and goodies' we would get for Valentine's Day. I found a corner by myself and started painting my stupid shoe box.
"What have we here?" Debra asked, stopping by my table. I was painting the shoe box black and gray, with pictures of little knives on it. Even back then, I was pretty dark.
"Um..." I looked at my shoe box. "It's a shoe box," I said.
"Those aren't valentine colors," Debra said, perplexed. "Wouldn't you rather use pink and red?"
"Well..." I scrunched up my face, because I was super annoyed with the whole project in the first place, and was missing my favorite after-school cartoon, Jem and the Holograms, to even be there. "If everybody else is painting their shoe boxes pink and red," I reasoned innocently, "isn't it nice to do something different?" It was a manipulation ploy, because I knew Debra was big on 'being yourself', and by making me paint in pink and red she was basically contradicting herself. The truth is that Debra was probably worried that I was going to shank a fellow Girl Scout.
"Er...carry on," Debra said, awkwardly, and walked away. As I painted a little blood coming off one of the knives I had drawn (see, I used red!) I knew I would never be our troop leader's favorite.

"You lost your pin?" Debra said, horrified, a few weeks later. My sister and I had played 'treasure hunt' in the backyard that weekend, and we had buried it in the dirt somewhere, and then forgot where we buried it.
"I don't know where it went," I said, faking a concerned look. "I think maybe one of the other Girl Scouts stole it," I continued, lies rolling off my tongue like water.
"Who?" Debra said, too naive to know that 8-year-old girls lie.
"I think it was Jennifer #3," I said, gravely. "She's real shady," I continued, "and sometimes she doesn't have the nicest things to say about you, if I'm honest."
Debra blinked back tears. "Why would she say mean things about me?!" She whispered harshly. "Doesn't she know I spent 14 hours this weekend sponge-painting matching canvas bags for you girls?"
"Some people are just evil," I soothed, patting Debra's hand.

About six weeks in, all the other girls had roughly 6-10 badges on their sashes, and I had zero. One of the bright stars of the Girl Scouts, Amy #2, sauntered up to me.
"Where are your badges?" She asked me. She had long shiny hair, about 15 badges, and a lot of attitude. I suspected her parents were afraid of her.
"I don't have any."
"You don't have ANY?" Amy #2 stared in horror.
"Nope."
"Why not?"
"I'm real busy," I said, sighing like an over-worked single mother.
"Doing what?"
I leaned in. "Don't tell anybody, but I actually have a freakishly high IQ, and I'm writing a book about what it's like to be really smart and trapped in a school with mediocre students."
Amy #2 frowned in confusion, and I could tell she was deciding if I insulted her or not.
"Now," I continued, "you must know what it's like, being one of the smarter ones." Amy #2 was quite powerful, and I needed to get her on my good side.
"Oh- right," she said nonchalantly. "Totally." She sniffed and walked away, and I wondered if I could get a badge for manipulation, or being an excellent liar.

I told my parents that Debra our troop leader died in a fire, and Girl Scouts was over. I could no longer pretend to enjoy crafts, making friends, or helping others. I went back to Jem and the Holograms and burying shit in the backyard with my sister. I draped the badgeless sash off a knob on my dresser, and occasionally I'd point it out and say, "I used to be a Girl Scout".

Debra would be so proud.

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