One of the reasons many vets give for choosing their profession is, “I like animals better than people.” It’s not a good reason, mind you, and those with misanthropic tendencies learn to cover it up pretty quickly or else have a rotten career, but I will tell you from experience that well, it’s true.
I’ve been working on it. I actually get along pretty well with people, as far as I can tell. But every once in a while I experience one of those penultimate human experiences that I’m supposed to relish, and all I can do is run away screaming and bury my face in the dog and not want to talk to another person for at least eight hours, possibly ten. I had one of those this week.
In an attempt to raise a good citizen, I enrolled my daughter in Girl Scouts. I did it when I was a kid. I tried to find my picture of me in my Brownies uniform to prove it, but I think it’s in the storage facility somewhere, at least that is my excuse. Anyway, as far as I could recall, it was fun: we made some ribbon barrettes, colored, got to wear those badass brown sashes to school and strut around every Tuesday, and I think one time I sold some Thin Mints. It was low key.
And I look around at the second graders these days dressing like Miley Cyrus and singing all the words to “I’m Sexy and I Know It”, and I realized something with horror: I’m apparently an old school prude. And I’m really not, but compared to what’s out there, I kind of am. And I had two main choices for after school activities for my daughter: Girl Scouts or the local dance studio, and if you saw what the eight year olds were wearing at the last recital you would understand why I went with the scouts.
Because the Scouts are the answer to all the things we bemoan about being a woman today, right? It’s about teamwork and solidarity. It’s about empowerment. Equality. Buoying your fellow woman instead of throwing her under the bus. Girl power and all of that, embrace your brain, etc.
As January approached, word came down that Girl Scout Cookie season was fast approaching, and which Mandatory Cookie Meeting would we like to attend. Our troop’s Cookie Magistrate dutifully went on the troop’s behalf, and came back with a 500 page Rule Book detailing the intricate and mythic tome that outlined cookie sale parameters. There are major rules here, people. Deadlines and requirements and set in stone dates and Craigslist bans and everything.
But no matter. My daughter, a bit more outgoing than I ever was, was happy to grab our mobile unit- we got rid of our wagon when the kids were little so we were stuck with a rolling Tumi bag like a displaced commuter, or maybe a street hawker from Manhattan selling pirated goods- and head down the street in search of some sales.
How hard could that be, right? Everyone loves Thin Mints. Plus it’s a cute kid in a brownie uniform and she was walking an also-cute Golden retriever, and it was the first day you could legally sell cookies so no one had the “Oh, I bought some already” excuse.
Fifteen houses later, not one neighbor even bothered to answer the door to reject us to our faces. Dejected, we returned home. And ate some cookies.
The next day, my friend and I had the bright idea to go walk around the neighborhood down by the library. The library is right across the street from the local junior high, and we timed it just as the 13 year olds were pouring out of the school in search of carbs. It was awesome. The girls opened up their little suitcase and held court like the brilliant hucksters they were. It was glorious.
And the next day, we found out someone ratted us out.
There are Cookie Spies, you see. And they called whatever 1-800 number exists for Reporting Illegal Sales of Cookies on us. Because if there’s one thing a Girl Scout loves more than supporting her fellow scouts, it’s winning “big prizes.” Like T-shirts and pillow pets. And as much as the idea of fundraising for the greater good may appeal to one’s sense of community, when it all boils down to it, in this cutthroat world, it’s each scout for herself. We weren’t trying to be sneaky. We weren’t trying to pull one over on The Man, or in this case The Girl. I just wanted my daughter to sell at least one box of cookies so she’d stop looking so sad and I wouldn’t have 96 boxes of Thin Mints sitting on my dining room table calling to me.
As we were to learn, buried somewhere in the rules and regulations that state you can walk on the sidewalk in a mobile unit prior to said date, somehow stopping on the sidewalk is not ok. Like, I guess you need to continually stay in motion until booth sales start this upcoming weekend. (Trolling private residences is ok, though.)
I tried to picture how this might work, me driving slowly around the block while my daughter hung out the back trying to count out change, and my head started to hurt. So I went to Joann’s to get some stickers for something or another, and every person in there was a Girl Scout mom trying to come up with the fanciest poster for their kid’s wagon. And then my head hurt even more. Because so help me God, I think those women were enjoying this. They were plotting the best street corners to walk on. I never thought I would hear a bunch of middle aged women in a fabric store having this conversation.
I’ve learned some lessons about solidarity, community and leadership over the last month. Yes I have. More than anything, I learned that if this is what sisterhood is about, well, I guess I made the right choice being the weirdo who hangs out with her dogs all day, because it’s way easier that way.
And if anyone asks, my name is Jennifer Bagelsong and my troop is number 666 from San Dimas.